1937 Bugatti Type 57S

Sports, body by Corsica
Sale Price
$7,013,000 - $9,818,000
Est. Range
19 February 2021
Sold Date
Lot Number
Incomplete restoration
Auction House
Chassis no. 57503; Engine no. 16S. Black with black cloth top over biscuit leather. RHD. 3257/160hp, 4-speed, single right side spare, wheel discs, folding windshield, Scintilla headlights, fog light, full (but scruffy) weather equipment.

Evaluation: Based upon frame rails from one of the underslung (“Surbaisse”) Bugatti Type 57G “Tanks”, original Corsica coachwork, an incomplete restoration following 51 years of dedicated ownership by the late Bill Turnbull who strove to establish its history and evolution. Originally delivered to Sir Robert Ropner, later owned by Rodney ‘Connaught’ Clarke, H.H. Coghlan and Dr. Kenneth Cock. Repainted original coachwork with fenders returned to the original profile, professionally preserved old upholstery, partially rebuilt engine. A work in progress but delightfully and passionately preserved. Completion and final assembly will not be straightforward but 503’s history and the process of its resuscitation is voluminously documented and the result will be sublime.

Bottom Line: Despite heavy emphasis on the origin of the frame rails (but not crossmembers) in one of the Type 57G Bugatti Aerodyne “Tanks” a less charitable view might be that Bugatti was employing leftover parts to make “new” cars. Be that as it may, Type 57S s/n 57503 has a marvelous history and has been treated to a meticulous mechanical restoration. It is incomplete in so many ways, but Bill Turnbull’s meticulous attention to mechanical detail promises good results and the original Corsica body is nothing if not well-preserved. It is a credit to both the Turnbull estate and Bonhams that it was offered without reserve, appropriate in the case of a car that is unique. Its challenge is that it was never quite good enough for the fastidious engineer Bill Turnbull and never got “done”, where the pursuit of “perfection” left Bill Turnbull with satisfaction for the quality of his work, but never experienced the joy of driving the car. The bidders made up their minds with this £3.6M ($5M) hammer price and there are more pounds or dollars to be spent unravelling its restoration history and completing it. Sold to a UK bidder.

by Rick Carey
25 February 2021
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Condition definitions
Condition #1: Concours
Condition #1 vehicles are the best in the world. The visual image is of the best vehicle, in the right colors, driving onto the lawn at the finest concours. Perfectly clean, the vehicle has been groomed down to the tire treads. Painted and chromed surfaces are mirror-like. Dust and dirt are banned, and materials used are correct and superbly fitted. The one word description for #1 vehicles is “concours.“
Condition #2: Excellent
#2 vehicles could win a local or regional show. They can be former #1 vehicles that have been driven or have aged. Seasoned observers will have to look closely for flaws, but will be able to find some not seen by the general public. The paint, chrome, glass and finishes will all appear as excellent. No excessive smoke will be seen on startup, no unusual noises will emanate from the engine. The vehicle will drive as a new vehicle of its era would. The one word description for #2 vehicles is “excellent.“
Condition #3: Good
#3 vehicles could possess some, but not all of the issues of a #4 vehicle, but they will be balanced by other factors such as a fresh paint job or a new, correct interior where applicable. #3 vehicles drive and run well, but might have some incorrect parts. These vehicles are not used for daily transportation but are ready for a long tour without excuses, and the casual passerby will not find any visual flaws. “Good” is the one word description of a #3 vehicle.
Condition #4: Fair
#4 vehicles are daily drivers, with flaws visible to the naked eye. The chrome might have pitting or scratches, the windshield might be chipped. Paintwork is imperfect, and perhaps the body has a minor dent. Split seams or a cracked dash, where applicable, might be present. No major parts are missing, but the wheels could differ from the originals, or other non- stock additions might be present. A #4 vehicle can also be a deteriorated restoration. “Fair” is the one word that describes a #4 vehicle.
Condition #5: Poor
Running, but battered, incomplete, and perhaps rusty.
Condition #6: Parts car
Parts car.
Hagerty only assigns condition ratings to vehicles we can inspect in person or, for online listings, via high-quality photography.