Say "Bugatti" to a car
and there is reverential silence, followed by a torrent of laudatory
comments. For anyone that loves legendary cars, Bugattis will
be amongst the choice offerings at Christie's "Exceptional
Motor Cars" sale on Sunday June 3rd, to be held at one of
North America's most elegant venues - Greenwich's "Concourse
d'Elegance, at Roger Sherman Baldwin Park, located on a peninsula
at the head of Greenwich Harbor in Connecticut.
At a glance through the
will be offering "choice" cars designed and manufactured
by Bugatti, Jaguar, Rolls Royce, Chrysler, Chevrolet, Ford, Mercedes,
Porsche, as well as several post-war trucks in superb condition,
amongst other legendary car manufacturers.
Having had the appetite whetted
by Steve McQueen,
"the king of cool's" sublime Ferrarri on display in
the lobby of Christie's Rockefeller Center showrooms in New York,
during their blockbuster Post-War and Contemporary Art Sale to
be offered in the Monterey sale in August, it was hard to imagine
anything that could top such a glorious car, but the catalog was
extremely inspiring, and the Greenwich sale is bound to generate
a great deal of interest.
Leading the sale will be two
one of them a genuine "barn find," from the collection
of Mr. John W. Strauss, Lot 39, a 1938 Bugatti Type 57C Atlante
Coupe, covered in the dust of ages, untouched in the garage in
which it has been parked since 1962. It has been there for 45
years, when it was only 24 years old, which is quite remarkable
in a country where one can turn a familiar corner and find the
old neighborhood deli replaced by a chic gourmet food store overnight.
This dust-smothered gem is a
of mobile sculpture, created in 1938 by the legendary Jean Bugatti,
himself a superb, hands-on body maker who perfectly complemented
a legendary engineer father in a family of famous racing car creators.
Christie's catalog is extremely informative, but there is also
the magic in the commentary that great cars inspire:
"At least as brilliant and
gifted as his
precocious and talented father, descended from a line of opinionated,
creative, driven individuals, Jean Bugatti had already at the
young age of thirty, established himself as capable, indeed as
destined, to build a new generation of Bugatti automobiles on
the legacy of his father, the legendary Ettore. Jean Bugatti grew
up surrounded by the fastest and most beautiful cars of their
era and counted among his acquaintances their most accomplished
and fearless drivers."
Jean Bugatti was also fearless,
and died while
test-driving a Type 57 Tank Body Bugatti that had just won at
Le Mans, when he lost control of the car not far from the factory
in Duppigheim. He was only 30 years old. It can only be imagined
what he might have achieved in car design if he had lived a normal
life span. This car is bound to generate considerable interest
and is estimated at $300,000 to $400,000.
This was the day of
the Bugattis with Lot
39, the 1938 "barn find," finally selling to a determined
phone bidder after an intense bidding war with a gentleman in
the room - or rather elegant white tent, strategically positioned
on the peninsula offering a scenic view of Greenwich Harbor dotted
At one point the
auctioneer said wittily:
"Ah, a proper bid," at
mark, drawing lots of applause, but it kept going until it reached
a staggering $825,500 including the buyer's premium as do all
results mentioned in this article.
I was fortunate enough
to spend some time
next to this wonderful car, all the more endearing for its unrestored
appearance, and holding its own besides Steve McQueen's superb
Ferrarri parked right next to it, which will be auctioned in Christie's
flagship sale in Monterey in August. Nearby were Lot 6, an un-restored
E-Type Jaguar, which passed at $3,850, Lot 4, an Indian motorcycle,
which sold for $2,090, and Lot 5, a superb 1949 Jaguar Mark V,
which sold for $11,000, all identified by their dusty appearance
as coming from the same barn as the Bugatti, the collection of
Also in this sale is Lot 20, a
supremely elegant French blue and black 1931 Bugatti Type 49 Two
Door Sports Coupe, with coachwork by Bugatti to Jean Bugatti design,
illustrated on the cover of the Christie's catalog and at the
top of this article. The coachwork was designed by a young Jean
Bugatti for the Berlin Motor Show, where it appeared on the Bugatti
stand. In immaculate condition and an absolutely show stopper,
this Bugatti is also estimated at $300,000 to $400,000. It
sold for $396,000. Seeing it "in the flesh" was a reminder
how sleek and modern the Jean Bugatti design must have been when
it was created. The bodywork was by his father, Ettore and the
car has been exquisitely restored.
The auction, which
was also an excellent sale for Porsches.
There are four Porsches in the
sale that illustrate
how one of the longest running and most successful car designs
in motoring history has attained, and retained, its formidable
reputation - a 1964 Porsche 356SC Cabriolet with hard top, Lot
38, estimated at $35,000 to $55,000; Lot 10, a 1965 Porsche 911,
estimated at $25,000 to $35,000; Lot 24, a 1970 Porsche 911 E,
estimated at $20,000 to $30,000, and Lot 28, an edgy silver 1974
Porsche 914 2.0, estimated at a modest $14,000 to $18,000, which
does not have the sinewy lines of the classic Porsche, but which
is gets the pulse going.
Lot 10, the green 1965
Porsche 911 sold
for $71,500. Lot 28, the 1974 Porsche 914 2.0 sold for 24,200,
and a winsome white 1964 Porsche 356SC Cabriolet with hardtop
sold for $56,100.
At the end of the sale
I observed the buyer
of the 1964 model, a middle aged man, with his new "toy." His
excitement was reminiscent of a young boy with his first
bicycle, or puppy, a moving reminder of the thrill and passion
that goes with car collecting, a magical, priceless emotion far
deeper than the buzz of investments or money - although clearly
money helps and is absolutely necessary.
"Tudor cottage on wheels" was
I once heard a car described that had any part of it created from
wood, which could easily fit the description of the 1937 Ford
Model 78 Deluxe Station Wagon, estimated at $120,000 to $160,000
offered at Christie's sale. Called a "Ford Woodie Wagon,"
this wonderful vehicle was in an exhibit at the Captain Paul House
Model A Museum in Union, Connecticut until the museum was disbanded
in the 1970s.
The personality packed
1937 Model 78 Deluxe
Station Wagon or "Tudor cottage on wheels" did well
with a crowd that had an obvious fondness for pre-war trucks and
wagons. This stunningly well-preserved model sold for a hefty
The Post-War trucks are
straight out of a Norman
Rockwell illustration, in pristine condition, lovingly restored,
a nostalgic flashback to an America with few cars, and almost
no roads compared with the densely packed highways of today.
An even closer relative to the
truck is a green, 1955 Chevrolet First Series 3100 Pickup Truck,
Lot 23, fully restored, it is in full working order and estimated
at $35,000-45,000. It sold for $77,000.
If I could choose one car to
drive home from
this auction it would be the stunning Venetian Red with red interior
1957 Chevrolet Corvette Fuel Injected Roadster, estimated at
and it would be necessary to purchase a private road to go with
its magnificent V-8 engine. Its greatest competition was Ford's
legendary "T Bird" but this "Fuelie" is accurately
described in Christie's catalogue as a "rare and wonderful
car," and it will be interesting to see how much more than
its estimate it fetches.
The 1957 Chevy Corvette, Lot 29, exceeded its high estimate
significantly, selling for $199,000, which is to be expected with
such a stunning car, one that would look perfect in a Hitchcock
or Bond Movie.
The innovative, streamlined
is more dramatic when compared with a beautiful black 1960 Jaguar
XK 150 Drop Head Coupe, estimated at $80,000 to $120,000, which
is absolutely magnificent but looks like it is from a different
era. One of the classiest cars in the sale is another Jaguar,
this time a racy black 1959 X K 150 3.4 Litre "S" Roadster.
In immaculate condition, with red leather interior and sand top,
this car, Lot 19, is fit for the movies, and is estimated at $150,000
to $175,000.Lot 19, the black Jaguar, passed at $140,000.
Lot 5 is a 1949 Jaguar Mark V
from the collection of John W. Straus, who also owned Lot 39,
the 1938 Bugatti Type 57C Atalante Coupe. The catalogue notes
that the Jaguar Mark V "enjoys the distinction of being the
first new model to bear the "Jaguar" name exclusively,"
adding that it "represented an important evolution from pre-war
design." "The Mark V's new coachwork," it continued,
"featured headlights faired into the front fenders, a more
gracefully raked windshield and smaller wheels." The lot
has an estimate of $6,000 to $12,000. It sold for $11,000.
The Rolls Royces on offer at
this sale are
so mouthwatering it is hard to choose which one to describe, let
alone illustrate. A magnificent white limited edition 1911 "Silver
Ghost" Roi Des Belges Tourer is the most photogenic, fit
for kings and queens, but in fact its first owner was a Mr. G.
F. Smith of Southport, England, near Blackpool, a down-to-earth
soul who specified that his car have a long chassis, with seating
for "an average of 5" and a maximum of 7. It is comforting
to think of this regal motor car stuffed to the gunnels with a
family comprising many children and possibly a couple of dogs,
taking a drive through the English countryside on a summer afternoon.
They must have made quite a picture! The car is a masterpiece
of design and engineering, in flawless condition, and with the
highest estimate of any car in the sale: $600,000 to $700,000.
It was commemorated in a limited edition model by the Franklin
The wonderful white
Rolls Royce passed at
$580,000, just short of its reserve price of $600,000, which was
a disappointment because it was the most physically gorgeous car
in the sale.
Lot 26, an elegantly bourgeois
Town and Country Convertible with "Tudor Cottage" or
"woodie" detailing, estimated at $90,000 to $140,000.
Surprisingly, it failed to sell and was passed at $70,000.
A wonderful Royal Blue 1909
Touring, Lot 31, is the earliest car in the show, estimated at
$40,000 to $60,000, and one of many superb American models spanning
several decades. It sold for $38,500.
The 40s are well represented,
with three 1940s
"mega" cars that belong in film noir movies, peppered
with gangsters and fur-clad molls in high stilettos: Lot 7, a
1949 Hudson Commodore 8 Convertible Brougham, estimated at $40,000
to $50,000, that was featured in the movie, "The Two Jakes".
It sold for $41,800.
Lot 33, a show stopper, a 1949
Cabriolet, with coachwork by Antem, estimated at $200,000 to $260,000,
failed to sell.
There are several highly
desirable cars with
reasonable estimates, which will undoubtedly be the "collectibles"
of the future, including a luscious red 1959 Mercedes Benz 190
SL Roadster, Lot 12, estimated at $55,000 to $65,000; and Lot
14, a 1954, mint condition Austen Healey 100 BN 1 in natty spruce
green, a color not frequently seen today, estimated at $60,000
to $80,000. Lot 12 sold for $60,500. Lot 14 sold for $66,000.
Two 1966 Chevrolet Corvairs, Lot 21, a 500 coupe, estimated $8,000
to $12,000; the other a convertible, Lot 36, estimated at $10,000
to $20,000, are a nostalgic reminder of how American cars used
to be built, how wonderful it was not to have to think about the
quantity of gas they guzzled, or that parking them required half
a city block. Those were the days, and they were not so long ago.
Lot 21 sold for $4,620. Lot 36 sold for $17,600.
The magnificent dusty Bugatti
padded out the
sale total, more than compensating for cars that failed to reach
their reserve. The cars that stood out from the elegant pack
were undoubtedly the Bugattis, the Porsches, the post-war trucks,
and the car with the "all- American" attitude, the Fuel
Injecting Chevrolet Corvette, just longing for Route 66.
The sale also includes an
historic 1941 Indian
Model 741 Scout Junior in olive drab, also from the collection
of Mr. John W. Strauss, estimated at a modest $2,000-4,000, but
should go for much more. It sold for $2,090. In
the midst of World War II, the United States military began to
gather up arms to join the fight, initially supplying the British,
French and Commonwealth forces, inevitably preparing for its own
involvement in a rapidly escalating war. Motorcycles were hot
commodities, as the Germans proved only too well, so the US Army
Quartermaster Corps asked motorcycle manufacturers to build bikes
that were simple, lightweight, and agile enough to ford small
streams and not be too demanding on the gas tank. The result was
the 741 Scout Military, which today is more commonly found outside
Christopher Sanger, Head of Car
"With an emphasis on quality
over quantity, Christie's International Motor Cars is dedicated
to offering collectors well-curated and focused sales that represent
the history of the automobile, and reflect the wide taste of the
international collecting market."
Also of interest to buyers is
flat rate buyer's premium of 10% on all sales of Exceptional Motor
Cars in the United States that reduces the final cost of a car
Christie's Monterey Flagship
Cars Sale will take place on August 14th at the Monterey Jet Center.
The star lot in that sale will be Steve McQueen's 1963 Ferrari
250GT Lusso. There will probably be even more glittering Ferrarris
and other world- class cars in that parking lot than there were
in Greenwich, which is hard to imagine.
The Christie's auction was a
complemented by tented "showrooms" featuring the latest
brand name models in the auto industry - Hummer, Audi, Porsche,
Mercedes, Dodge, Chrysler, Cadillac, to name a few - and gorgeous
cars from bygone eras with proud owners eagerly describing their
restoration. There were beautifully restored show pieces from
the not so distant past, like a row of 1960s Porsches in pristine
condition, and a few mouthwateringly restored "half a city
block long" Chevys, with a long line of admirers eager to
discuss particulars with the sales rep.
In the parking lot there were
on offer for a "test drive," including a canary yellow
Ferrari. It was so low to the ground it would have required a
crawl-in entry, but that did not diminish the enthusiasm of the
long line of eager individuals patiently waiting their turn. Car
shows and auctions are fun for the entire family.
As I left the auction, a
gentleman was talking
quietly, but audibly, on a cell phone directly outside the auction
"I just bought a
the one you think it is," he said.