Bonhams Sleeping Beauty Bugatti Sells For Over 4 Million At Legends Of The Road Sale

A rare 1937 Bugatti Type 57S, which had been off the road and out of sight for the past 50 years, sold for £4,047,000 (€ 4,678,180) in the live and online Bonhams Legend of the Road Sale at the auction house’s flagship New Bond Street saleroom today, 19 February. 

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The desirable pre-war supercar, the fastest road car of its time and one of only 42 produced, was the centrepiece of a carefully curated sale of motoring masterpieces which had a 100 per cent sell-through rate and realised a total of more than £7 million.



The Bugatti had been preserved in the North Staffordshire workshop of its late owner, respected engineer, Bugattiste and native New Zealander Bill Turnbull, since 1969 and was presented in exceptionally original condition, with largely intact black paintwork, cream leather interior and original coachwork. Mr Turnbull had embarked on a painstaking restoration project which was his life’s work and the 57S was offered as an advanced project close to completion, only in need of some final re-assembly.

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Sholto Gilbertson, Director, Bonhams Motor Cars UK, said: “This sleeping beauty was certainly one of the most important pre-war Bugattis – and possibly the last hidden example – to be auctioned in recent years, with other 57S Bugattis already in museums or known collections.

The 75S offers an exciting opportunity for its new owner to complete Bill Turnbull’s ambitious and exacting restoration.”

With bespoke coachwork by Corsica of London to the specification of its first owner, shipping magnate Sir Robert Ropner, the 57S was built on a special lightweight chassis previously used on one of three Bugatti works 1936 Type 57G streamliner ‘tank’ sports cars which contested Grand Prix in 1936 and set high speed records, with such drivers as Jean-Pierre Wimille and Pierre Veyron at the wheel.

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1960 Aston Martin DB4GT, sold for £1,975,000

Lining up alongside the Bugatti in this highly anticipated sale were:

1960 Aston Martin DB4GT, sold for £1,975,000 

A 1960 example of Aston Martin’s Gentleman’s Express DB4GT was the second highest-selling motor car in the Legends of the Road Sale, achieving £1,975,000, exceeding its top pre-sale estimate, following an eight-way telephone bidding battle.



First owned by Syd Green, founder of the Gilby Engineering Grand Prix racing team, the DB4GT was purchased by its late owner in 1966, who tested its Grand Tourer abilities on numerous European road trips before embarking on a restoration project in 1983.

Like the Bugatti, the Aston had been off the road for several decades, with its late owner embarking on a restoration project in 1983, and was offered as a part restoration with nearly all its original parts including the period push-button radio.

1965 Ferrari 275 GTSsold by mutual agreement in advance of the sale for an undisclosed sum

Similarly treasured by a single family since 1977, this rare jewel was one of only 19 right-hand drive examples of the 200 luxury 275 GTS variants produced during Ferrari’s ‘golden age’.

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The GTS was offered from a renowned UK-based private collection in ‘Sera’ blue with black leather interior and a private registration number ‘II HLO’ and the all-important Ferrari Classiche Certification.

1934 Frazer Nash TT Replicasold for £253,000

One of only 85 examples of this sporting Frazer Nash, named after the short-lived British firm’s success in the Northern Ireland Tourist Trophy in 1931 and 1932, and aimed at the ‘sporting motorist’.

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This period-correct car, with coachwork by AFN, was tested by its first owner in high speed and reliability trials and then in Vintage Sports-Car Club Races by its late keeper who kept the car for more than 50 years.

1955 Jaguar XK140 3.8-litre Roadster, sold for £92,000

The fifth legend was one of 74 right-hand drive roadster variants of this quintessential classic British sports car. Powered by a 3.8-litre competition engine formerly used by legendary Jaguar saloon racer Albert Betts (along with the original unit), the big cat was offered from long-term family ownership of more than 50 years.  

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Rounding out the motor car sale was a 1913 Panhard et Levassor 2.2-litre 12hp X19, also offered from the stable of Bill Turnbull, which sold for £32,200, to an old acquaintance in New Zealand, who had driven the car in 1962. In Bill’s ownership for more than 65 years, the Panhard had been extensively restored and was offered with perfect provenance from new.

The earlier Automobilia section of the sale also had a 100 per cent success rate, with the majority of lots selling in excess of their top estimates, including a Bugatti Type 57/57S gearbox which achieved £24,000 and a Furet-Gergovia 1200kg jack, to suit Bugatti Type 57/57S, also offered from the estate of Bill Turnbull, which soared past its top estimate of £400 to realise £3,060.

James Knight, Bonhams Group Motoring Chairman, said: “Today’s sale shows that exceptional examples of examples of rare and pedigree collectors’ motor cars are attracting strong interest and bids from passionate collectors and enthusiasts.

“It also proves the effectiveness of our proven Live and Online format – Bonhams innovative response to the global and local restrictions regarding Covid-19 – which still enabled spirited bidding from around the world.”

The next auction to be staged by Bonhams motor car department is its first fully digital sale, Les Grand Marques du Monde à Paris Sale, 3 to 10 March.

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