The Bugatti name is one which has been continually associated with unfeasible excellence, having begun its long sequence of preposterous feats with the marque's first Grand Prix start in 1911 (2nd place in a 1.3 liter car against 15 liter behemoths), and continuing onwards throughout the first half of the twentieth century. Now, for the first time during a collectible car auction week, a currently available model has been deemed more valuable than anything else available in the collectible car marketplace.
World speed records for cars, boats, planes and trains fell to Bugatti engines, and the world's most successful freely-available racing car, helped spread the name across the globe, as did a car built just for royalty. And then the death of Jean Bugatti, World War 2, and the subsequent death of patriarch Ettore Bugatti all conspired in short order and the marque failed.
Twice the name has been resurrected, but several spectacular showings this week at Retromobile indicate the Bugatti name is returning to its glorious former levels. Volkswagen's investment of billions in rebuilding the name is beginning to look like money well spent, as a week of astounding feats in Paris indicates that Bugatti has rediscovered its mojo.
To start the weekend, a Bugatti Atlantic won the Peninsula Classics "best-of-the-best" concours car award for 2017, but it was in the auctions that the name really shined. A new price record of €1,152,500 was set for the EB110 GT (the most capable car from Bugatti's second of three incarnations), and the marque claimed the top two prices of the week during the elite round of auctions held in Paris to accompany the world's most important classic car event.
Most significantly, Bugatti's current top-of-the-range Chiron topped the auction listings for the entire week when it fetched €3,323,750 (US$4,082,171) and a 1938 Bugatti T57SC fetched the second highest price of the week with €2,903,200 ($3,557,153).
It is the first time that a currently available model has been deemed more valuable than anything else available in the collectible car marketplace during a "grand slam" collectible car auction week.
A 2017 LaFerrari Aperta topped RM-Sotheby's Leggenda e Passione Ferrari Auction in September 2017, but it wasn't one of the major auction hubs with multiple tier one auctions such as Monterey, Amelia Island, Scottsdale or Paris, and as a charity auction car, the dynamics were quite different. Generous people bid many times a car's true value at charity auction events and hence the LaFerrari Aperta result cannot be used as a realistic market valuation.
That the Bugatti Chiron's marketplace verdict can be viewed as realistic highlights the turbulent times of recent auction years. In many respects, the predominance of a current model at one of the four major auction hubs is a sign of the times. The collectible car auction marketplace is evolving rapidly, and modern cars with performance and comfort appear to be what the new generation of buyers are seeking.
"We continue to see immense demand for low-production hypercars," said RM Sotheby's Augustin Sabatie-Garat. "They represent the pinnacle of engineering excellence from any given decade, and their place in history and collecting hierarchy is secure."
Only 70 of Bugatti's current top-of-the-range Chirons were delivered in 2017, with the first Chiron officially delivered in the United States during Pebble Beach 2017. Hence the car sold in Paris, an Atlantic Blue over French Racing Blue Chiron, is one of the first to escape into the wilds of the marketplace.
The first Chiron to reach auction was a black with red highlight Chiron sold by RM-Sothebys at its New York Icons sale last December (2017 - top left in the above image), which fetched $3,772,500, and another (black with white highlights - bottom right) which crossed the auction block at Kissimmee, Florida in January and attracted a high bid of $3,500,000 but failed to sell. Another almost identical Chiron to the Paris car (bottom left) will be offered at auction later this week in Los Angeles, so the model record set by the Chiron in Paris (top right) may not last long.
Not surprisingly, the mileage on the four Chirons publicly offered so far has been kept to a minimum in order to maximize profits on the approximate US$3 to US$3.1 million price tag. The variations in the new price of a Chiron are related to the preferences of the buyer and an almost endless list of options and personalization.
Each Chiron is passed into customer hands with approximately 250 test miles already traveled, when you pay $3 million for a car, they make sure it is perfect when it is delivered and that involves driving it. The mileage of the Chiron for sale next week is unknown, but the Paris car had less than 1,000 km on the odometer when it was sold, and the New York and Kissimmee cars showed 249 miles and 250 miles respectively.
The Chiron's top price of the week somewhat eclipses the second highest price of the week which was also fetched by a Bugatti from the company's glorious first incarnation. This gorgeous 1938 Bugatti Type 57C Coupe Atalante sold for €2,903,200 ($3,557,153) at Artcurial's official Retromobile auction to take second spot.
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