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Retro Mobile - classic car exhibition

260,500 euros for rusty old car found at bottom of lake

by Daniel Finnan

Article published on the 2010-01-23 Latest update 2010-01-23 20:21 TU

The rusty 1925 Bugatti Brescia Type-22

The rusty 1925 Bugatti Brescia Type-22

A rusty 1925 Bugatti Type 22 which spent years at the bottom of a Swiss lake sold for 260,500 euros in Paris today at the Retro Mobile classic car show at Porte de Versailles. Although not the most expensive vehicle in the Bonhams auction, it certainly had the most colourful past.

Culture in France: Retro Mobile

23/01/2010 by Daniel Finnan

Elsewhere at the exhibition French manufacturer Citroën celebrated 40 years of their important SM and GS models and Peugeot blew out 200 candles on their birthday cake. The company was formed in 1810 when the Peugeot family bought a cereal mill and converted it into a steel factory.

A Citroën SM celebrating 40 years of motoring

A Citroën SM celebrating 40 years of motoring

Coincidentally, the exhibition itself is marking an anniversary this year. The event began 35 years ago and each year classic cars lovers from across the globe have gathered to discuss their beloved restorations and admire the array of vintage vehicles.

The exhibition has two main themes this year. Firstly it honours two centuries of urban locomotion, from early horse-drawn carriages to steam cars and cars with internal combustion engines.

A Peugeot 601

A Peugeot 601

It also brings together a number of forgotten hatchbacks which were intended to bring down manufacturing costs and running costs, especially after the Second World War when there were fuel and material shortages.

For many classic car fanatics, Retro Mobile is simply one of the best vintage automobile shows in Europe because of the sheer number of different cars on display.

David Conway, a Citroën enthusiast from England, told RFI that it is, "the event of the year for Europe”. He visits each year to see his friends who share the same passion.

Conway boasts that he previously had a 2CV, which is now in the Citroën Conservatoire because “it was an English built one, which was a fairly rare bird”.

A Rolls Royce's <em>flying lady</em>

A Rolls Royce's flying lady

As well as lots of Citroëns – including the important high performance SM coupe and popular GS family model – the event is packed with every marque imaginable…Alfa Romeo, Cadillac, Ferrari, Ford, Jaguar, Rolls Royce, Porsche, Mazda, Mercedes-Benz and many more.

But rather than fully-restored beautiful examples that have been lovingly coxed back onto the road, a rather rusty and corroded Bugatti is stealing the show.

The 1925 Type 22 roadster, which forms part of Bonhams auction, has attracted lots of attention since its magical story resurfaced.

Some of the cars on offer in the Bonhams auction

Some of the cars on offer in the Bonhams auction

James Knight, the head of Bonhams motoring department, told RFI that “it was bought new by a Frenchman, he registered it in France, then a year or two later he moved to Switzerland, where he became domiciled.”

“The fabled story is that year-on-year the local customs man would say ‘you’re now living here – isn’t it about time you pay the import taxes on the car and get it Swiss-registered’, and it never happened.”

Eventually, after about eleven years the Frenchmen left Ascona but left behind his Bugatti roadster – putting the Swiss taxman in a difficult position.

The Swiss officials didn’t want to seize or confiscate the car. It wasn’t significantly valuable at that time so they decided to push it into the lake, where it sank 50 metres below the surface of Lake Maggiore.

Knight says it was mostly forgotten about apart from “mythical stories, a bit like the Loch Ness monster in Scotland”.

The 1925 Bugatti Brescia Type-22

The 1925 Bugatti Brescia Type-22

But then in the 1960s it was discovered by local divers and became an attraction for those wanting to indulge in a novelty automobile version of recreational wreck-diving.

Skipping forward to the present day and the local diving club decided to recover the car and put it on auction in order to use the proceeds to help a local charity.

Whether the drowned car will be restored or left in its tarnished state will be for the new owner to decide but it is unlikely to spend any more time parked in such a precarious spot.

Retro Mobile runs at Porte de Versailles until 31 January. Bookmark and Share

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