One cashed-up European has just paid $408,000 for a rusty 1925 Bugatti that sat on the bottom of a lake in Switzerland for 73 years. The price for the Type 22 Brescia Roadster was even more astonishing given that auction house Bonhams had put a reserve of $140,000 on the car.
It was one of several six-figure prices paid for classics at the Bonhams Retromobile sale in Paris. Over in the USA, organisers of the annual Barrett-Jackson classic auction in Scottsdale, Arizona also saw record prices paid for some classic American muscle cars.
Top-sellers included a 1929 Hamilton Metalplane, which fetched $755,000, a 1964 Shelby Cobra went for $607,700 and another rare 1963 Shelby Cobra CSX2091 made $443,600. In a sign the economic blues may be over, Barrett raised more than $30 million this year, up 2 per cent over last year.
In Paris other Bonhams sale highlights were a 1935 Hispano-Suiza T56 Torpedo that sold for $742,700. A record-breaking $622,100 was paid for a 1970 Monteverdi 450SS Hia Berlinetta and an iconic Citroen DS Decapotable - convertible - from the early 1970s sold for $295,500.
A spokesman for Bonhams says the sale raised $10.4 million, with 75 per cent of the lots sold. Analysts in Europe and North America say the results of both auctions say that serious collectors are emerging from the global economic crisis.
The winning Bugatti bidder, who was a European collector representing the Peter Mullin Collection in California, plans to show the car as it is at his museum. A spokesman for Bonhams says that if it is restored only 20 per cent of the original car is reusable.
The Bugatti was stuck in deep mud in Lake Maggiore, Switzerland until last July. It was rescued by a local diving club to be sold to raise money for a local charity. The Bugatti's original owner has been traced to a Marco Schmuklerski, who is believed to have been unable to pay duty on the car to Swiss authorities back in 1936.
He subsequently left Switzerland, leaving the car behind. Local customs police destroyed the car by throwing it in the lake in about 50m of water.
Because it sat there for so long much of the car's body has deteriorated. Most components have corroded, particularly on the car's exposed right-hand side. Other materials like wood, aluminium, brass and rubber survived in a much better condition.