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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