Sale of the last century
NEIL McDONALD looks at expensive classic cars
TWO cars from a golden automotive era are tipped to set world records when they go to auction in August. A 1939 Silver Arrow Auto Union ‘‘D-type’’ grand prix racer and a 1936 Bugatti Type 57C Coupe could each eclipse the record $16 million paid for a rare 1957 Ferrari Testarossa last month.
Bonhams & Butterfields will sell the Silver Arrow at Carmel in California the day before Gooding and Company puts the Bugatti on the block down the road at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance.
The Silver Arrow Auto Union was put up for auction in 2007 by Christies but withdrawn when its race history could not be verified.
Bonhams has put a conservative figure of $12 million on the car, but cashed-up Russian bidders could push the price up now its heritage has been confirmed.
Each car has a priceless history. The Silver Arrow is the only known car of its type with a proven race history, and the Bugatti was built as a birthday present for company founder Ettore Bugatti.
It is one of the most original Bugattis in existence.
After Ettore’s death in 1947, the car was stored at the Bugatti workshop in Molsheim, France.
The Type 57C has one-off coachwork believed to be one of the last designs by Ettore’s son, Jean Bugatti, before his death.
Pieces of the German Auto Union car were tracked down by Russianborn American car collector Paul Karassik.
Chassis 19 is the only surviving Auto Union grand prix car with a proven 1939 racing history.
Auto Union and Mercedes-Benz dominated grand prix racing in the 1930s before World War II brought it to a halt.
In all 65 Auto Union cars are believed to have been built, but few survived the war.
The Red Army grabbed the survivors and 13 were taken to the Soviet Union’s motor industry research institute in Moscow, where four were dismantled and destroyed.
Parts of the other cars survived the Soviet era and Karassik has a treasure trove of pre-war components, including chassis 19’s complete chassis and the late-model V12 engine.