A very rare Bugatti Type 30 believed to have been owned by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (1900 – 1944) will be sold by Bonhams on 3 December 2007 at the annual Olympia sale in London. The legendary French aviator and author, who was the face of the fifty franc note for many years, is famous for writing ‘Le Petit Prince’ which has sold more than 50 million copies worldwide.

The 1926 Bugatti – chassis 4724 – is one of only three surviving examples of the Type 30 by favoured coachbuilders Lavocat et Marsaud, and is expected to fetch £200,000.

The car was supplied new to a Parisian dealership in 1926 and shortly afterwards was bought by Louis Charavel, the well-known connoisseur of 1920s Bugatti motorcars. At this time Saint-Exupéry, who had trained as a pilot in 1921, worked for the Aéropostale, pioneering international postal flight. He initially flew the Toulouse/Dakar and Casablanca/Dakar routes, before being appointed director of the Aeroposta Argentina Company in 1929 and moving to South America. His love of speed and machines extended to a passion for cars and he took with him his two highly-prized Bugatti motorcars, a Type 44 and what is believed to be the Type 30 to be sold by Bonhams.

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry travelled extensively, and his adventures included an attempt to break the record for a flight from Paris to Saigon for a prize of 150,000 francs. He crashed the plane in North Africa and survived four days walking in the desert before being rescued by a Bedouin on a camel, who saved his life. Many of his books are inspired by his experiences as a pilot including ‘Le Petit Prince’ in which he describes being marooned in the desert in a damaged aircraft.

Saint-Exupéry eventually settled in the United States, before flying with the Free French to fight with the allies during the Second World War. He went missing on 31 July 1944 and the remains of his plane were only discovered on the seabed some 60 years later.

The Bugattis stayed in South America and chassis 4724 did not surface again until 1974 when it was discovered in Uruguay. Since then the car has spent some time in Australia before being purchased by the current owner and brought to the UK some 15 years ago.

The Type 30 was introduced in 1922 and was Bugatti’s first production eight-cylinder model. It was described in the press at the time as ‘A full blooded, real man’s motor-car, by intention and performance.’ Notably fast and powerful for its day and incorporating many of the characteristics of the racing Bugattis, the examples with rakish Lavocat et Marsaud bodywork were particularly desirable.