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Bugatti Barn Find Resurrected!

Bugatti Barn Find

When Doug M. sent in photos of this 1938 Bugatti Type 57C Atalante, I thought it looked familiar. Sure enough, it sold back in 2007 at the Greenwich Concours for an eye-watering $852k – about double what the auction house had predicted. It had been parked for 45 years, but the new owner was able to clean it up and enter it in the preservation class at Pebble Beach. Then the car was displayed at the Saratoga Automobile Museum in the “Barn Finds” exhibit. Hemmings even ran an article about how the new owner wanted to keep it original. Well, it looks like a little more work has been done and that the car is going to be auctioned off at RM’s upcoming Driven By Disruption sale. It should be interesting to see what it goes for. Until then though, check out the “before” and “after” photos and let us know if you think it has undergone a little more than a preservation job. Either way, this is one beautiful machine!

Side Before

Side After

Interior Before

Interior After

Engine Before

Engine After

Rear Before

Rear After

Source: RM Auctions


  1. Avatar photo A.J.

    Looks like a full restoration.

    Like 1
  2. Avatar photo Richard

    Liked it better in the before photos. Plus they removed the cool side stripes – no taste.

    Like 1
  3. Avatar photo Patrick McC.

    I liked the original paint job better. I think it suited the car very well and displayed it’s body nicely. I don’t know why they didn’t keep the bumpers. The chrome wheels on chrome drums is a little too much. The interior is certainly nice though.

    Like 3
  4. Avatar photo RayT

    I remember seeing this car at Greenwich in 2007, and was able to look it over pretty carefully. The current photos suggest, as A.J. said, the next best thing to a full restoration, so I would never be able to classify it as a “preservation” car by any definition.

    Personally, I might have done more than leave it as it was had I had the wherewithal to step up to the plate — being one who prizes “driving” more than “looking” — but that doesn’t account for all the polishing, painting, reupholstering, carpeting, replating and replacement parts.

    If I saw this today and knew nothing of its story, I would think: “what a nice restoration,” all done up to current Megabucks Super-collector standards (though, as a concours judge — which I have been — I would have to ding it for the plated/overly polished wheels and brake drums).

    It’s going to bring a seven-figure price when auctioned, you can bet.

    Like 0
    • Avatar photo Michael

      Exactly. And the wrong upholstery

      Like 0
  5. Avatar photo George

    No longer a Preservation car. I also prefer the original paint job.

    Like 1
  6. Avatar photo RayT

    Here (at the link above) is a picture of the Bugatti at Greenwich, the day it was sold in June, 2007. After looking at the picture again, I definitely prefer the car as it was then, perhaps with fresh tires, a good cleaning, and enough work done to make it a safe driver….

    Like 0
  7. Avatar photo Dave at OldSchool Restorastions

    definitely not a Preservation (aka Survivor) , but a properly done Concours enhanced Restoration, now it is a much more desirable and valuable car.

    I too, prefer the original secondary ‘off-white’, and unless it originally was charcoal grey, I think changing the accent color was a mistake.

    Like 0
  8. Avatar photo Michael

    Just another generic overdone resto.

    Like 0
  9. Avatar photo Ian C.

    The side stripes are still there, but a lot of it isn’t original anymore, it still looks gorgeous though, total class and elegance. I would like if the stripes were red but thats just my opinion.

    Like 0
  10. Avatar photo jimbosidecar

    What a pity. The owner turned it from a survivor to a resto mod. Might as well hand a raccoon tail from the back and fuzzy dice inside

    Like 1
  11. Avatar photo A.J.

    The problem with buying a survivor/unrestored car is that a certain unwritten responsibility comes with the ownership. The comments here kind of highlight that. You never want to be the guy that restored the nice survivor.

    Like 1
  12. Avatar photo William H

    As others have mentioned, this looks to be a restoration INSTEAD of a preservation. Scores of things have been changed or redone that were unnecessary IMO. Looks like they changed the color of the stripe to a color just a little lighter than the actual body color. Myself personally, I would have thoroughly cleaned it, repaired what was needed to make it safe with period parts, polished out the paint and left it at that. There are tons and tons of restored cars in the world but the number of survivors are, sadly, dwindling every year.

    Like 1
  13. Avatar photo Dave at OldSchool Restorastions

    ….It seems some of the above commenters only think in terms of American Iron, have no understanding of Bugattis ( or Collector Cars in general), and IMHO are making fools of themselves on a International public forum.

    ” keep the bumpers ” …’resto mod’ .. ” generic overdone resto” … ‘what a pity’ and “fuzzy dice” ALL show a lack of experience in the collector car world.

    … Guys, the car was NOT a “survivor” before it was restored … I’m sure some of the uneducated comments above have Collector Car Owners around the Globe laughing their butts off……….
    It takes more than being ‘unrestored’ to be a SURVIVOR…. apparently, some of you need to learn the difference. I’m sorry if you are offended, but it’s better to be offended , learn something, and move on .



    Like 0
  14. Avatar photo A.J.

    It is obviously a nice restoration, but are you arguing the car was not a survivor before so a full restoration was totally the right course of action?

    Like 0
  15. Avatar photo Dave at OldSchool Restorations

    of course it was not a Survivor according to the standards of the Concours .It was neglected for 45 years, and could never score high points in the Survivor Class. ….

    Sure, , it survived, but that only makes it a Barn Find…..best suited for Concours restoration.
    a NICE original is desirable and valuable… TIRED originals only have potential.

    It’s no more a Survivor than a Deuce grill from China is OEM … both are terms which are totally abused, resulting in a mis-informed generation of newcomers to the Automotive World

    Like 1
  16. Avatar photo A.J.

    But it had survived well enough to be shown in the Pebble survivor class? The owner can do whatever he wants with the car, it is his, but I understand the thinking around leaving the car alone as much as possible. Not necessarily everybody that feels that way does so through lack of education or understanding.

    Like 0
  17. Avatar photo Dave at OldSchool Restorations

    most any European million dollar Barn Find will get into Pebble Beach …

    It is really called the Pre War Preservation Class … and the Drivers Seat says of that Class.
    “It takes a sharp, professional eye to tell the difference between a car that has truly been cared for and well stored even if not used for decades ”

    and without doubt, this car does not meet those Standards…neglected for 45 years, as it was.

    Of course, there ARE no more Standards among many people in the USA anymore.. now it’s whatever they ‘feel’ they want it to be… and even losers get a trophy so no one ‘feels’ bad.

    Like 1
  18. Avatar photo Dave at OldSchool Restorations

    restoring the car was a no-brainer…

    Greenwich cost was less than a million, and FINE examples have brought 8-30+ Million in recent years …

    Like 0
  19. Avatar photo A.J.

    Dave for an educated guy like you I’m suprised you would confuse sale prices of the production Atalante like this one with much more expensive Atlantic. The highest price paid for one of these is 4.4 million and that was an S which this is not.

    Like 0
    • Avatar photo Dave at OldSchool Restorastions

      Well I was going from memory. I think less than 2 dozen Atlantics/Atalantes were built,, only a handful were Atlantics, but I do recall Atalantes have sold for more than 4.4 million dollars … so I think you missed some sales.
      I would take the time to do a bit of searching, but how high they will sell for next is irrelevant, and will not be determined until the next one hits the auction block. This is ONE of the most desirable PreWar Tourers , and the sky is the limit on a Concours example. This car restored, can take it’s proper place in a row of 57 Coupes, and maybe get Best of Class, which it could never get in a Survivor group

      Like 0
  20. Avatar photo Mike_B_SVT

    Having an unrestored car myself, I understand that there are different levels of Survivor to us uneducated Americans, who often care more about the car’s fine points than we do about scoring high points at a car show.
    There are cars that are called “Survivor” because they have been cared for over the years and were largely spared the ravages of time, having a “like new” appearance. But what did these cars actually “survive” to earn the name?
    Then there are cars like mine, that have been abused over the years but was always repaired with factory parts and returned to its original appearance. It is far from “all original”, but gives an impression of originality. Others see it and call it a “survivor”, because you can tell that it has been there and done that, but it is still on the road today despite those things. It has survived.
    All of the qualities of a car that has survived abuse and neglect have been erased from the Bugatti in question and made it into another boring old car, just like the ones it will be parked next to at the Concours ~ except that this one isn’t an “S” (ooooh, how exciting!), or it has gray stripes instead of white (wow, quite elegant, aren’t they?). Now it tells no stories on its own and inspires little imagination. What can we envision looking at its shiny paint? A life of tooling dully down the road nibbling Grey Poupon? But when it had scratches and dings… you could almost feel what it was like flying down some rutted old road kicking up gravel! How did it get that crease? How did it lose so much paint off the front of the fender? Wonder wonder wonder… gone. 77 years of existence erased.

    Like 0
    • Avatar photo Dave at OldSchool Restorastions

      What they “actually survived” was the abuse that most cars get….
      That’s my ’57 Merc……… it would be a Survivor, but it had a repaint 20 years ago ( NO body work) …same thing with my ’78 RS/LT ..just repainted 2 years ago, and my 66 MZ Code Riviera I posted a while back… all three are otherwise ‘original’, but are not technically Survivors

      Like 1
      • Avatar photo Mike_B_SVT

        Nice Merc!
        I’m not sure if the “barn find” / unrestored craze is as big in Europe as it is in America. Even here it is true that a rough, beat-up, unrestored “collector car” will not be bringing home trophies or scoring high points at the shows. However, if they scored points based on crowds, questions asked, and attention gathered, those “abused” survivors would probably take the gold!
        I know that often I don’t get to see the other cars at shows because I’m constantly answering question and talking with folks – sometimes before I’m even parked! Not that that is a bad thing – it shows that people DO appreciate a rough “survivor” for the things that it has been through.

        I think that love of “survivors” stems a lot from my generation (a teen in the ’80’s), who bought them as our first cars when they were already 20 years old and showing signs of abuse. When we see a rough survivor we are taken back to our youth – we see our own first car, that had split seats, missing trim and rusty spots that we sanded and sprayed with a rattle can.

        Like 0
    • Avatar photo Rob K

      Love the Cougar pic Mike. Nice to see it isn’t only mine where the hood doesn’t fit properly. Were they all like that? Sorry to go off topic.

      Like 0
      • Avatar photo Mike_B_SVT

        A lot of them are that way, unless you do some tweaking on the end caps to line them up. Kind of like the headlight doors on the ’67/’68’s ~ even the factory promo shots show them misaligned, LOL!

        Like 0
  21. Avatar photo DRV

    I remember seeing it on Chasing Classic cars after the purchase at a concour with it polished up, running, and just the black fenders redone. That is the way I would have left it if it were mine regardless of barn find or preservation status. It is gorgeous now, but then I have seen a few of these look just like this with red or green side highlights …wish it wasn’t all glam now.

    Like 1
  22. Avatar photo Al8apex

    wow, all the arguments are about how many points it will score or what trophy it will or will not get … So history has boiled down to some pompous pissing match at a “car show”? Sad turn of events for real car people, not the tarted up posers that wear over starched clothes and makeup … pathetic excuses …

    Like 1
  23. Avatar photo Chris A.

    I’m wondering if the white accent paint was added later and the gray was original. It does make sense if the gray paint was under the white. Contrasting paints on Bugattis is a pre-war style statement and looks right on them, the gray does not. Chroming wheels and especially brake drums is a big turn off. What’s wrong with polished aluminum and steel?

    As for restoration v. survivor, the Pima Air Museum in Tuscon has an F4F Wildcat carrier qualification plane that went into the mud at the bottom of Lake Michigan during WWII. Pima is restoring the starboard side of the airplane, but leaving the port side just as it looked after it was hosed off and cleaned. The survivor history is there for all to see and appreciate. My 2002 Volvo S80 is gradually acquiring survivor status, but parts, both Volvo and aftermarket are being used to keep it looking and running as best I can. This Bugatti’s tires will never see the surface of a highway unless there is a hole in the bottom of the car transporter. What a waste. At least Leno restores his so they can be driven and the experience shared with us..

    Like 0
  24. Avatar photo MMantle7

    This Bugatti was a known car ever since the Greenwich Auction in 2007 and the Chasing Classic Cars TV show. It’s was cleaned up and made driveable to be shown on the concours circuit including Pebble Beach. Wheels were painted black and bumpers removed prior to showing. It was also displayed in the Sarasota Auto Museum in a Barn Find display. I am not positive, but I believe the car was then sold again and the new owner decided to do a concours restoration and I think it looks amazing. The car still has a great story and I am glad it was shown both ways. I believe it was shown again completely restored at Pebble Beach a couple years ago.

    Like 0
  25. Avatar photo Chris C

    Its a nice looking car ,but not original from the factory .Still cool

    Like 0

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