The Hidden Legend: Bugatti Masterpiece At Bonhams

One of the world’s most valuable and desirable pre-war motor cars, this 1937 Bugatti Type 57S, has been off the road for the past 50 years. For the first time ever at auction, this rediscovered treasure will lead an extraordinary sale of exceptional motor cars at Bonhams’ flagship saleroom in London on 19 February 2021.

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The Legends of the Road Sale will feature a curated selection of motoring masterpieces, with the Bugatti Type 57S – one of only 42 produced – in the forefront. Having remained since 1969 in the North Staffordshire workshop of its late owner, respected engineer and Bugattiste Bill Turnbull, it is presented in exceptionally original condition. Mechanically restored to Mr Turnbull’s exacting standards and effectively only in need of some final re-assembly. At the request of Bill’s executors this outstanding Bugatti is offered at no reserve, with an estimate of £5,000,000 – 7,000,000.

The 57S was originally ordered new by Robert Ropner, a member of the Ropner Shipping Line family, from renowned London dealership Jack Barclay. Ropner specified a custom-built four-seater sports Grand Routier body fashioned by the celebrated coachbuilders Corsica of London to envelope its powerful 3.3-litre engine, which made the 57S the fastest road car of its day.

The car was given the charming period nickname of Dulcie due to its British registration number ‘DUL 351’.

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With the success of the marque on the racetrack during the golden era of the 1930s, Bugatti sports cars were regarded as Grand Prix cars for the road and were often the off-duty transport for leading racing drivers. It is entirely fitting that this motor car’s second owner was Rodney Clarke, who founded the post war British Connaught Grand Prix racing team.

Moreover, this Bugatti’s chassis has been identified as one of only three special lightweight frames produced for the 1936 season of Grand Prix winning and multiple world record-breaking Bugatti works Type 57G Tank streamlined sports-racing cars, the factory racing derivative of the 57S.

Soon after buying the 57S in 1969, Mr Turnbull corresponded with all four previous owners and, after a short period of use, stripped it down in his workshop to embark upon a full restoration to his own painstakingly high standards. His work was almost complete at the time of his death.

The Bugatti remained until recently in Mr Turnbull’s workshop. With largely intact black paintwork, cream leather interior and original coachwork, it is offered in exceptionally rare condition, as an advanced project close to completion, with a particularly fascinating and well-documented history file.

Sholto Gilbertson, Director, Bonhams Motor Cars UK, said: “This really is an extraordinary example of one of the most valuable and desirable pre-war motor cars. Other 57S Bugattis are in museums or known collections, and to offer the car to the open market for the first time since 1969 is going to be tremendous.

“This could well be the last ‘hidden’ pre-war Bugatti of note and we are delighted to present this rediscovered true legend of the road next year at New Bond Street.”

The Bugatti will form the centrepiece of the Legends of the Road Sale which will feature an exclusive array of exceptional motor cars. Further consignments are invited for consideration to join this highly curated and prestigious sale.

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