Expensive cars on Bring a Trailer are no longer newsworthy. There are six-figure sales on that platform all the time. A few have even topped a million dollars. Those cars, however, have mostly been blue chip classics or more modern exotics. The prewar greats, particularly high-end ones, just haven’t graced the online auction space to the same degree. That’s why, as we went through our morning ritual of scrolling BaT, a horseshoe grille and cycle fenders almost had us spitting out our coffee. This was the very first Bugatti of any kind offered on BaT (other than a handful of replicas), and although it’s a Bugatti with some issues, the fact that it sold online like this is more significant to us than the car itself.
Chassis 38470 is a Type 38A sold new in Britain with a supercharged straight eight and fitted with factory four-seat aluminum boattail “Grand Sport” coachwork. Like many Bugattis, it led a less than straightforward life, reportedly getting a non-supercharged replacement engine and being shortened into a two-seater before coming to our side of the pond in the 1960s. It then got a restoration in the early 1990s that returned it to the original long wheelbase, four-passenger configuration and its straight-eight engine is now fed by a $60,000 reproduction supercharger. Concours appearances from the 1990s to early 2000s included Pebble Beach, Meadow Brook, Amelia Island, Greenwich, and Hershey. While its show days are probably behind it, being a CCCA Full Classic makes it eligible for all sorts of great events.
More recently, in March of 2020, we saw this Bugatti at the RM Sotheby’s Amelia Island auction and we rated it in solid, older restored, #2- condition. Prewar cars like this are right at home in Amelia (there were five other Bugattis on offer there last year), yet it hammered not sold at a $320,000 high bid against a $350,000–$400,000 estimate. On Bring a Trailer, the seller admitted he got talked into lowering the car’s reserve, but we can’t ignore how much more attention it got this time around. $90,000 worth, to be exact.
That it sold for $415,000 barely a year later on BaT just goes to show that people bidding through the computer screen aren’t just interested in rare Subarus and low-mile Porsches. A 94-year-old Bugatti can sell well online just like a ’94 BMW can. Even as live events are coming back (and we’re glad they are), the online auction space isn’t just here to stay—its appeal is also expanding to all segments of the market.