"Barnfind" 1925 Bugatti T13 fetches $950,000

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This T13 Bugatti fetched more than triple the auctioneer's estimate and more than doubled the highest price ever paid for the model.(Credit: Artcurial)

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Elite Paris-based auctioneer Artcurial staged the "barnfind" auction of the century earlier this year (results here) and has now pulled off another coup with the sale of a 1925 Bugatti Type 13 "Brescia", which had been hidden away in the garage of an abbey in Oigny, France since 1966.

Several other world auction records for individual models were achieved including a 1970 Porsche 911 S/T 2.3L Rally coupé, which sold for €905,900 (US$1,030,947), a 1966 Alpine A210 Le Mans Berlinetta, which sold for €476,800 (US$542,616), a 1976 Maserati Khamsin, which sold for €274,200 (US$312,050), a 1978 Ferrari 308 GTB, which sold for €202,600 (US$230,565) and a 1972 Fiat Dino 2400 Spider, which sold for €188,300 (US$214,290). But it was the 1925 Bugatti Type 13 below which caused the most surprise when it sold for €834,400 (US$949,580).

Bugatti has long been at the forefront of collectible cars, with its latter day Type 41 Royale – which was built, as the name suggests, exclusively for royalty – the world's most valuable car for many years.

The 1931 Bugatti T41 Royale Kellner Coupe (pictured above) sold for £5,500,000 (US$9,666,250) in November, 1987 at a Christies auction in London. It was for many years the most expensive car ever sold at auction and still retains a place in the top 20 nearly three decades later.

Bugatti's outrageous success at almost everything he touched, and the excellence of the company's engineering are the reasons Volkswagen paid a fortune for the rights to the Bugatti name, and then invested another fortune building a car as technologically excellent as the Veyron to match the marque's spectacular brand values.

Bugatti Type 13 Sales History

The rare Type 13 sold in Paris earlier this week was estimated to sell for between €150,000 and €250,000, but as sometimes happens when several wealthy individuals want the same car, a memorable bidding battle ensued and the bids quickly rose to double, then triple the upper estimate, finally stopping at €834,400 (USD$949,580), easily setting a world record for the model.

In retrospect, the estimate may have been a bit light, as the car was original, in relatively good condition for a 90-year-old car and largely unmolested, making it the perfect basis for a concours restoration and spectacular rebirth.

The Type 13 is the original Bugatti model, the Maestro's first road car, and although 475 were built, less than 10 are believed to still exist and they rarely come to market. Here's a list of all the Bugatti T10s that have reached the auction block in the last quarter century.

1921 Bugatti Type 13 Brescia - Est. £GBP30,000-40,000 (No Sale)

Sotheby's, London, October 16, 1993

1921 Bugatti Type 13 Brescia - £21,275 (US$33,500)

Sotheby's, London, December 6, 1993

1924 Bugatti Type 13 - Est. £60,000-80,000 (No Sale)

Sotheby's, London, November 24, 1997

1925 Bugatti Type 13 Brescia - $78,725

Christie's, Pebble Beach, August 20, 2000

1912 Bugatti Type 13 - €187,415 (US$209,900)

Poulain Le Fur / Sotheby's, Paris, December 18, 2000

1913 Bugatti Type 13 - €62,657 (US$70,170)

Bonham & Brooks , Monaco, May 21, 2001

1923 Type 13 Replica - £51,000 (US$80,485)

Coys, London, October 10, 2001

This T13 is the fourth oldest surviving Bugatti. It was estimated to sell for between €150,000 and €200,000 at a Bonham's auction in Paris in February, 2009 but failed to sell(Credit: Bonhams)

1913 Type 13 - Est. €150,000-200,000 (No Sale)

Bonhams, Paris, February 7, 2009 (LINK)

The most recent Type 13 to cross the auction block was this 1920 model which was sold for US$379,500 by Gooding & Co at Pebble Beach, 2012.(Credit: Pawel Litwinski, Gooding & Co.)

1920 Bugatti Type 13 - $379,500

Gooding & Co, Pebble Beach, August 19, 2012 (LINK)

Artcurial, now an acknowledged specialist at finding rare cars and bringing them to market, believes there won't be any more unknown Bugattis found after this one – every Bugatti still extant is now known and tracked in the marketplace. The car had been owned by the same family since 1953, and as with the Baillon Collection, a second generational change of ownership finally brought the heirloom out of seclusion.

Why Bugatti's Type 13 is so important

Ettore Bugatti was born to a wealthy artistic Milanese family, the son of Carlo Bugatti, an important Art Nouveau furniture and jewelry designer. His younger brother, Rembrandt Bugatti was a renowned sculptor, whose works regularly fetch vast sums at art auctions. The family did not approve of young Ettore's fascination with the horseless carriage, but his father supported him in his early ventures, despite imploring him to finish a formal technical education (which he did not).

Bugatti's first prototype automobile was built in 1898, and a second prototype in 1901 won an award at the prestigious Milan Trade Fair that year, catching the attention of automotive pioneer Baron de Dietrich who licensed and produced the design as the De Dietrich Type 2.

Bugatti then managed one of De Dietrich's two factories, also taking responsibility for development of further models. Around 100 Types 3, Type 4 and Type 5 De Dietrich-Bugatti automobiles were produced from 1902 to 1904 before Bugatti left De Dietrich in 1904.

Several partnerships followed with car makers Mathis-Hermes and Deutz, followed by a prototype designed for Peugeot before he set up his own eponymous automobile company, Automobiles E. Bugatti in 1909 in the (then) German town of Molsheim in the Alsace region of what is now France.

The tiny 1368 cc Bugatti Type 13 was entered in the open formula 1911 Grand Prix De L'ACF at Circuit de la Sarthe (the beginning of what we now know as Le Mans). No-one gave the 1300cc car much hope at the start of the race, but the tiny 300 kg Bugatti emerged with second place in the race and the Bugatti legend began to take shape.(Credit: Bibliotheque Nationale de France)

From the moment Ettore Bugatti produced his first car under the family name, magical things began to happen. The tiny 1368 cc Bugatti Type 13 pictured above weighed only 300 kg (661 lb) and was entered in the open formula 1911 Grand Prix De L'ACF at Le Mans, competing against a field of cars with engines ranging to more than 15,000 cc.

After more than seven hours of racing, the sweet-handling Bugatti voiturette finished second, behind only the factory FIAT S61 of Victor Hemery. FIAT was Italy's largest car maker at the time and the 9652 cc (589 cubic inches) S61 was capable of more than 180 km/h (112 mph), as it demonstrated internationally when several of the beasts were taken to America and competed successfully for another decade. An S61 driven by David Bruce-Brown placed third in the first Indianapolis 500 and many major races were won in the S61 by legendary American drivers, such as Ralph De Palma, Teddy Tetzlaff and Caleb Bragg .

Cherbuy's Bugatti T13 during the T13's first major race at Le Mans during the 1911 Grand Prix de L'ACF(Credit: Bibliotheque Nationale de France)

The promotional effect of success in racing became imprinted on Bugatti that day, and it was to become a hallmark of the Bugatti name.

As the Molsheim factory was in the disputed Alsac-Lorraine region, Ettore prepared well in advance of the conflict, taking two completed Type 13 cars with him to Milan in Italy for the duration of the war, leaving the parts for three more buried near the factory. After the war, Bugatti unearthed the parts, and prepared five Type 13s for racing.

Bugatti's first major post war race was the "VIII Coupe des Voiturettes" held on 29 August, 1920 at the Circuit de la Sarthe (now known as Le Mans – around half of the racetrack used on that day remains as part of the Le Mans circuit today, though in those days it was unpaved – the "24 Heures du Mans" began three years later).

The race was held over 24 laps of the 17.262 km (10.7 mi) circuit for a total race distance of 410.4 km (255 mi) and as the race was for the smaller Voiturette class of race car, the Bugatti proved very competitive.

With just four laps of the race remaining, the Bugatti's T13s of Pierre de Vizcaya (pictured above in Car #1 at the start of the race) and Ernest Friederich held an insurmountable 1-2 lead, but when an unauthorised person's hand touched the radiator cap of de Vizcaya's leading Bugatti during a pit stop, the officials stepped in and disqualified the car from the race on the spot. No work was performed by the person who touched the cap, but officialdom stopped the car from progressing further due to outside assistance.

In the end, despite the disqualification, Ernest Friderich (above and below) finished the race in first place in a time of four hours 27 minutes and 46.4 seconds, at an average speed of 91.96 km/h (57 mph), some 20 minutes ahead of the second-placed Bignan.

The third Bugatti T13 entered that day, driven by Michele Baccoli (pictured below during his pit stop), finished fifth.

The Bugatti T13's triumph at La Circuit de la Sarthe in 1920 was the marque's most important to that point in time, but it paled in comparison to the result of the prestigious Gran Premio delle Vetturette held at Brescia in Italy on 8 September 1921.

After 346.02 km (215 mi) – 17.3 km x 20 laps – the Bugatti T22s (a development of the Type 13 with a longer wheelbase) of Ernest Friderich, Pierre de Vizcaya, Michele Baccoli and Piero Marco filled the first four places, such a dominant result that the name Brescia was used by Bugatti for all four-valve models after that.

The T13 was the car that gave the famous Bugatti name its start, with race car development continuing onwards, finally culminating in the production of the T35 (below), the most successful racing car in history.

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