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Sunken Bugatti sells in titanic bidding

Winning bidder pays $368,000 for waterlogged prize
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Historians believe this is one of three Type 13 Brescias ordered for
Switzerland, but abandoned in Italy when importation fees were
not paid.

A Bugatti Type 22 Brescia that had lain submerged in a lake for over 70 years sold for $368,600 at an auction Saturday in Paris.

The Bugatti sat at the bottom of Lake Maggiore in northern Italy until it was raised last summer and put up for auction at the Bonhams Retromobile Sale in Paris.

The car had attracted significant pre-sale publicity. On the day of the auction, a number of telephone bidders sparred against those in the room. The winning bidder - a European collector representing the Peter Mullin Collection in California - will show the car in its present condition in his museum. The underbidder - an American - had intended to restore the car.

James Knight, Group Head of Bonhams’ Motoring department was more than pleased with the results. “The Lake Maggiore Bugatti was a tremendous result and I am pleased it has gone to a good home where it will be displayed in its present form,” he said in a company news release. Bonhams originally estimated the car to go for 70,000 to 90,000 Euros ($100,000 to $130,000), but the winning bid was 260,500 Euros ($368,600).

The main body of the car, with chassis number is 2461 and engine number 879, had remained intact despite its long submersion in 150 feet of water. Still, there was plenty of water damage, and was estimated to be about 20 percent complete.

The Bonhams Web site offered clues about why the Bugatti landed in the water, speculating that its former owner, a Zurich-born architect, had brought the car with him to Italy from Switzerland, but failed to pay the import duties. When he left Italy, he left the car behind.

“At that point these duties may have amounted to more than the value of the Bugatti, which was 11 years old and well used,” the Bonhams account notes. “In the case of non-payment of the duties, the car had to be destroyed and the simplest way to do so was to tip it into the nearby lake.”

Over the years, stories persisted about the sunken Bugatti, but it remained undiscovered until August 18, 1967 when a diver located it. On July 12, 2009, it was finally rescued by another diver and his comrades from a local scuba diving club.

To see photos of the scuba dive to rescue the Bugatti go to:

To watch a video of the recovery

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