Sam Philip06 May 2010

Hammer time: Bugatti breaks £20m

1936 Type 57SC Atlantic becomes world’s most expensive car. TopGear regrets drunken telephone bidding

Hammer time: Bugatti breaks £20m

A 1936 Bugatti Type 57SC Atlantic has become the most expensive car ever to sell at auction, fetching over $30m (£20m) in California yesterday.

One of only three ever built, the gorgeous Atlantic - styled by Ettore Bugatti's son Jean - was bought by an anonymous bidder at the Gooding classic car auction in Santa Monica.

The exact amount remains undisclosed, but reports from the show floor suggest it could be as high as $40m (£27m), smashing the $12.2m (£8m) paid for a 1957 Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa at the same show last year.

That is, in technical terms, a hell of a lot of cash. But this is a hell of a lot of car.

First bought by Lord Philippe de Rothschild in 1936, the Atlantic was fitted with a supercharger in 1939, boosting the power of its 3.3-litre inline eight to a heady 210bhp. In its prime, the Atlantic would run to a dizzying 123mph.

Since 1971, it was owned by Bugatti collector Peter Williamson, who restored the Atlantic to its original specification after an ambitious previous owner decided to paint it red. And fit new rear windows. Oops. Williamson did a good job: the Atlantic won top prize at the Pebble Beach Concours in 2003.

And now... well, who knows? No word on which deep-pocketed collector has acquired the Atlantic, but let's hope he or she isn't going to hide it away in some high-security vault deep within a shark-infested laser volcano.

Question for the day, then. If the 1936 Bugatti Type 57SC Atlantic rolled off the delivery truck in front of your house this morning, where would you take it? A blast down the French Riviera? The Nurburgring? Asda?

Sam Philip

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