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Barn Find of the Decade
January 2, 2009 2:54 PM   Subscribe

"When Harold Carr's nephews and nieces inherited a dusty old lock-up garage from their eccentric uncle their expectations were low. But when they opened the doors of the car collector's Tyneside [England] garage they discovered what may prove to be a life-changing inheritance."* Inside they found a rare 1937 Bugatti Type 57S Atalante. Having sat hidden, gathering dust for over 50 years, the classic car -- of which only 17 were built -- goes up for auction by Bonhams at the Retromobile auto show in Paris on February 7, 2009.

"...the Bugatti 57S is a magnet for classic car collectors. At least four of the seventeen belong to the French Musée National de l'Automobile in Mulhouse, Alsace, while others remain in private hands." "It has exceptional originality, retaining original chassis, engine and drivetrain."* "The car has a remarkably low mileage with an odometer reading of just 26,284."* "Set at a reserve price of £3 million, due to its low mileage and original condition, it was speculated that it could become the most expensive car ever sold at auction, at around £6 million."* The car was originally bought by prominent British racecar driver Earl Howe. [slideshow || video | 0:33].
posted by ericb (44 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
This tweaks my fraudar.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 3:03 PM on January 2, 2009


OMFGwow.

Frank Miller fans might recognize the 57S as Yellow Bastard's car from Sin City.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 3:11 PM on January 2, 2009


3 million, come on, it's going to need new tires, an oil change and tons of work just to get it running!!
posted by lee at 3:11 PM on January 2, 2009 [3 favorites]


No cupholders. Not interested.
posted by kcds at 3:19 PM on January 2, 2009


Further detail about Carr:
"The life of Dr Carr was compared to eccentric American millionaire Howard Hughes, due to a passion for machinery, aviation and adventuring, and also due to suffering from obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), which in later life turned him into a recluse. The reasons for Carr storing the car unused for so long was attributed to a hoarding instinct which he had developed and had progressively worsened since the 1950s, due to his OCD. In addition to the Bugatti, the hoarding had led to Carr collecting everything from receipts for pencils to 1,500 German beer steins. His hoarding instinct also meant that the documentary history of the car had been preserved."
posted by ericb at 3:19 PM on January 2, 2009


I wonder just how big a market there would be to recreate classic cars with modern engines/safety devices etc...? To be sure it would be a niche market, but give me something like that that can get ~30 MPG and be around 20K and it'd be my next car.
posted by edgeways at 3:35 PM on January 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


The Earl Howe link tickles me in my swimsuit area.
posted by Restless Day at 3:35 PM on January 2, 2009


(dang) edgeways I've often wondered the same thing. There is a niche replicar market, but (I assume) the value of the originals might be compromised (a teensy-weensy bit, I mean come on) by the availability of, say, brandnew tri-five Chevys but I think automakers are letting a great opportunity get away from them.
posted by Restless Day at 3:42 PM on January 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


edgeways: I wonder just how big a market there would be to recreate classic cars with modern engines/safety devices etc...?

Small - but it exists.
posted by Pinback at 3:44 PM on January 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


I hear that Bugatti had a timing gear made out of fiberglass. Nice and quiet until it snaps and your engine cylinders and valves merge into one.

But they are pretty to look at, I'll grant.
posted by anthill at 3:45 PM on January 2, 2009


If you can afford this car, it would follow that you can afford a Bugatti mechanic.
posted by Ron Thanagar at 3:45 PM on January 2, 2009


Not if you blew all the money on the car.
posted by ardgedee at 3:48 PM on January 2, 2009


If you can afford this car, it would follow that you can afford a Bugatti mechanic.

In fact, he fits perfectly in the trunk.
posted by Thorzdad at 3:50 PM on January 2, 2009


That, my friends, is a car.
posted by oddman at 3:51 PM on January 2, 2009


how big a market there would be to recreate classic cars

MG TD or a Duesenberg II on a VW chassis.

Auburn Boattail Speedster on a 1980 Ford chassis

Also, the exhaustive http://www.kitcarlist.com/

There used to be a place that rented lots of fake MGs to tourists in Acapulco. They were cheap to build given the plethora of type 1 Beetles in Mexico
posted by CynicalKnight at 3:56 PM on January 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


Oh wow. I wish I could feel 1/100th of the joy his nieces and nephews felt upon the discovery. For even one minute of my life.

I think everybody dreams of finding treasure of some sort. This is cake on that.
posted by iamkimiam at 4:14 PM on January 2, 2009


I wonder just how big a market there would be to recreate classic cars with modern engines/safety devices etc...? To be sure it would be a niche market, but give me something like that that can get ~30 MPG and be around 20K and it'd be my next car.

Depends how classic you want. There's an outfit in Napier, New Zealand who specialise in taking Jags (and other English cars) and respeccing them - keeping the body of an old Mark II for example and giving it a working electrical harness, perhaps a more modern engine, air conditioning, and so on.
posted by rodgerd at 4:23 PM on January 2, 2009


I'd be so torn, incidentally, between the desire to take it out for a spin, and the desire to not be the idiot that crashed it. Maybe take it to a private session at a race track and just go for a gentle cruise before selling it.
posted by rodgerd at 4:24 PM on January 2, 2009


How many barnfinds per decade are there? I found links to some, as well as a few books, but "automotive archaeology" is a field I am unfamiliar with.
posted by filthy light thief at 4:25 PM on January 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


I have frequently regretted my lack of a wealthy and eccentric uncle who would remember me in his will. I think this was the beginning point of half of the books I read as a child.
posted by Forktine at 4:31 PM on January 2, 2009 [11 favorites]


Their uncle preserved for them an old machine for 50-odd years? Are you kidding me?
posted by Wolfdog at 5:27 PM on January 2, 2009 [4 favorites]


This reminds me of a story Jay Leno mentioned once on some car show. He knew an older guy who was a car enthusiast. This guy had a garage that Leno noticed and asked him about it. Apparently the old man would never come clean about what he kept inside the garage. So after he was gone he bought whatever it was sight unseen from his kid. Just found the story again here about half way down: “It’s a real ‘car-in-a-barn’ story."
posted by P.o.B. at 5:29 PM on January 2, 2009


I'm with rodgerd...I'd have to drive it before I sold it. Or as the LOLKIDs would say: WANT!!1!
posted by dejah420 at 5:30 PM on January 2, 2009


Really unfortunate timing. They would have gotten a hell of a lot more a year ago.
posted by srboisvert at 5:33 PM on January 2, 2009


The market for those ultra-collectible cars is generally speaking recession proof.

The Beacham Jaguars out of New Zealand (and there a few companies in England doing the same thing) are certainly nice cars, but 'cmon, either enjoy an old car for what it is or buy something interesting new. Otherwise you're a poseur, and I guarantee you'd be happier in a new car.
posted by maxwelton at 5:54 PM on January 2, 2009


If I had a zillion bucks I'd buy a Tesla Roadster (well, and a barn somewhere) just to hide away for my ungrateful descendants to find.

Are there any production cars today that would bring about the same kind of excitement if it was discovered 50 years from now?
posted by porpoise at 6:13 PM on January 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Are there any production cars today that would bring about the same kind of excitement if it was discovered 50 years from now?

Yes. Which ones, now, there's the rub.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:24 PM on January 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


In fact, he fits perfectly in the trunk.

FWIW -- your link is to a 1937 Bugatti Type 57 Atlantic -- a much different bodystyle than the 1937 Bugatti Type 57 Atalante which lacked such an extended trunk (aka "boot").
posted by ericb at 6:41 PM on January 2, 2009


Then there is the gorgeous 1937 Bugatti Type 57SC Gangloff Drop Head Coupe -- one of which is in Ralph Lauren's car collection.

[Previously on Mefi: Speed, Style and Beauty: The Ralph Lauren Car Collection]
posted by ericb at 6:46 PM on January 2, 2009


Their uncle preserved for them an old machine for 50-odd years? Are you kidding me?

Ummm ... I don't think he "preserved" it for them, as much as he "squirrled" it away like many of his acquisitions. According to many articles (to some of which are linked in the FPP) and reports, Dr. Carr suffered from OCD and was a "hoarder."

In addition to finding the Bugatti his family members found other cars.
"As well as the Bugatti, his nephew also discovered a classic Aston Martin, and a Jaguar E-type in the lock-up."
There are reports that Dr. Carr was a recluse and only permitted the one nephew to visit him in his "squalid" home. The nephew's comment on his uncle:
"He described his uncle as 'a very eccentric old gent', adding: 'I suppose you could call him a mad doctor. People who saw him in the street thought he was a tramp. He would wear two pairs of trousers at the same time."
posted by ericb at 7:07 PM on January 2, 2009


"When eccentric doctor and compulsive hoarder Harold Carr died at the age of 89, his relatives faced a daunting task to sort through his possessions.

His home was packed with piles of medical machinery, 1,500 beer steins, thousands of receipts and even a World War Two spy drone."
posted by ericb at 7:12 PM on January 2, 2009


I did a barn find post in 2007. A local one, yet!
posted by jessamyn at 7:44 PM on January 2, 2009


Their uncle preserved for them an old machine for 50-odd years?

Great, now I'll be having that Rush riff banging around in my head all weekend. Now that it's a bad thing.

Seems to me there was a post a year or two ago about a find in Portugal - someone bought a farm and found dozens of vintage autos locked away in a couple barns.
posted by Ber at 7:52 PM on January 2, 2009


Are there any production cars today that would bring about the same kind of excitement if it was discovered 50 years from now?

A good bet: The Bugatti Veyron, said to be the fastest production car currently being made. In Stainless and gray. In Black and red.
posted by longsleeves at 9:17 PM on January 2, 2009


Are there any production cars today that would bring about the same kind of excitement if it was discovered 50 years from now?

Yeah, somehow have gotten ahold of a working, non-disabled EV1 (the one in the Peterson Museum basement is disabled) and squirrel that away.
posted by davejay at 9:32 PM on January 2, 2009


Are there any production cars today that would bring about the same kind of excitement if it was discovered 50 years from now?

It depends on your definition of production, I guess. Porsche 959s, Ferrari F40s, Mclaren F1s and so on have all been notable cars in their day (in the way Bugattis were in theirs), and are quite rare, small production runs. A 959 would be worth a fuckton of money now. In 50 years? Ayuh.
posted by rodgerd at 10:06 PM on January 2, 2009


Generally speaking, wouldn't real estate be a better investment than future classic cars?
posted by Harald74 at 10:41 PM on January 2, 2009


all this hoo-ha over a dusty old car. Know what would be really awesome?

If somebody left me a barn.
posted by billyfleetwood at 11:17 PM on January 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Here's a photo of Earl Howe with another one of his Bugattis, hovering over Tazio Nuvolari in the driver's seat and looking looking pretty damned pleased with himself. From this page.
posted by taz at 11:26 PM on January 2, 2009


The Earl Howe link tickles me in my swimsuit area.

Are you confusing Earl Howe with Peter Adamson.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 12:39 AM on January 3, 2009


A few years ago there was a 1938 Bugatti found in a similar state in Westchester County.
posted by milkrate at 1:15 AM on January 3, 2009


Cheers for that PeterMcDermott, how have I never heard of Francis Curzon or Peter Adamson before? Their stories are just the sort of thing I would have delighted in, when I was younger. Nowadays of course I'm an Eco-Fascist.
posted by Restless Day at 2:59 AM on January 3, 2009


P.o.B. - Fun link. However, the first photo caption says "In late 2004, this Duesenberg was pulled out of this Boston-area carriage house where it had rested since 1950" yet the photo shows a car that has air in the tires. WTF? Were Duesenberg tires impervious to dry rot?
posted by Lesser Shrew at 11:23 AM on January 3, 2009


At first I thought "Maybe they were all rubber back then." Which shows how much I know about tire history. The article mentioned the car had been worked on during it's storage period. Also there is a picture of the car on rollers with the previous owner and buyer.
posted by P.o.B. at 2:25 PM on January 3, 2009


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