Auction PR Publicity Announcements News and Information
Auction PR Publicity Announcements News and Information

Bonhams Retromobile Sale In Paris Results

The Bonhams Retromobile sale witnessed some extraordinary results including €3,417,500 for the Ex-Earl Howe 1937 Bugatti Type 57S Atalante; €2,427,500 for ‘Black Bess’ – the ex-Roland Garros Bugatti Type 13; and a quite astonishing €337,500 for a Citroen DS23 EFi Cabriolet.

A packed saleroom at the second annual Bonhams Retromobile sale witnessed spirited bidding resulting in an €11.25m total. Bids were received from around the world but collectors from mainland Europe were usually victorious and it is worth noting that the Type 57S and Black Bess will remain in Europe. The collection of eight Citroens attracted much interest with a number of records broken.

James Knight, Group Head of Bonhams’ Motoring department commented: “The sale attracted unprecedented exposure, we had a packed saleroom of over 1,500 people and I am very pleased with the results. I felt the Type 57S Atalante made a market correct price and was pleasantly surprised with the result for Black Bess. I was staggered by the price achieved for a DS23 Cabriolet – I have no idea what the record was, but I reckon we must have smashed it! By the time the sale finished we had achieved a success rate of over 70%. The sale result endorses my assessment of the market. There is a healthy interest for rare and interesting motorcars and a ready market for most other cars as long as they are priced at levels to encourage interest. This was just the start to the new year we were looking for and we can draw confidence from the results.”


bugatti.jpgThe 1937 Bugatti Type 57S originally owned by Earl Howe, whose existence has only been known to a handful of people during the last 50 years.

The Bugatti with Atalante coachwork retains all the attributes that will ensure its appeal to the world’s most discerning collectors. It has a spectacular provenance having been owned by Earl Howe, Lord Ridley, Harold Carr and others; it has a continuous and chronicled history; and it has exceptional originality retaining original chassis, engine, drivetrain and body. It even has what appears to be a remarkably low mileage with an odometer reading of just 26,284.

James Knight, International Head of Bonhams’ motoring department said: “I have known of this Bugatti for a number of years and, like a select group of others, hadn’t dared divulge its whereabouts to anyone. It is absolutely one of the last great barn discoveries, and we at Bonhams are honoured to have been selected to handle its sale.”

Bugatti Type 57S, chassis no. 57502, was completed at the Bugatti works on 5 May, 1937 sporting two-seat Atalante coupe coachwork. It was ordered new by no less than the motor sport great – and the BRDC’s (British Racing Driver’s Club) first President – Earl Howe via UK Bugatti agents, Sorel of London. Howe had a long association with Ettore Bugatti and his machines, and developed a close friendship with Ettore and his son Jean, having raced their Grand Prix motor cars.

Earl Howe took delivery of 57502 on the 9 June 1937 and was to retain his Bugatti for over eight years. He added a personal touch by fitting his own bumpers, rear-view mirrors on the A-pillars and a luggage rack, which it still retains to this day. It was to become his personal companion, escorting him to Brooklands and other race meetings. The car would have seen relatively little use during the Second World War as Earl Howe served with the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve.


The 1913 5-litre Bugatti Type 18 Sports Two-Seater known as ‘Black Bess’ and widely regarded as the most important Type 18 in existence is another star in Bonhams’ Retromobile sale.

With continuous history from new, this Bugatti has the most extraordinary provenance and in 95 years has had just a handful of owners – featuring many distinguished names. This is the first time that ‘Black Bess’ has come to auction and Bonhams anticipates interest from connoisseurs around the world. It is estimated to fetch €1,300,000 – 1,600,000.

One of only three surviving examples of just seven Type 18s built, ‘Black Bess’ is widely regarded as the most desirable example available. One is entombed in the Schlumpf Collection (French National Motor Museum) and the other is privately owned in the UK. ‘Black Bess’ is very original, retaining its original chassis, engine and body. It is also chain drive which is most desirable on a motor car of this period.

This car was delivered new to the pioneer French aviator Roland Garros, the first aviator to fly the Mediterranean. In 1913 he had been invited by Ettore Bugatti to the factory at Molsheim and, impressed by the Type 18, ordered a chassis – number 474 – with a sporting two-seater body by notable French coachbuilder Labourdette. To check on its progress, Garros would regularly fly down to Molsheim in the aeroplane, a Morane-Saulnier, that he had used on his epic trans-Mediterranean flight.

When hostilities commenced in 1914 Garros joined the flying corps and is believed to have driven to a flying meeting in Vienna in the Bugatti. Although he survived being shot down in 1915, he was killed three weeks before the Armistice when he was shot down again. Ettore Bugatti, who had become a close friend, named his last child – born in 1922 – ‘Roland’ in honour of Garros.

His Bugatti was acquired by another pilot, Audemars, who passed it on to Louis Coatalen, Chief Engineer of the Sunbeam Motor Company Ltd in Wolverhampton. Coatalan was responsible for the war-time Sunbeam aero-engines, and he used the fast and reliable 5-litre car on his regular trips between London and Paris.

After the war, the 1913 Bugatti was bought by Miss Ivy Cummings. Introduced to competitive motor sport by her father, she successfully competed in many speed hill-climbs and speed-trials in the car between 1919 and 1924. She named the Bugatti ‘Black Bess’ after Dick Turpin’s legendary steed, and this affectionate title has stayed with the car ever since.

Auction info