The car was a 1936 Bugatti Type 57 SC Atlantic. Only three of these cars were ever built and it was designed by Jean Bugatti, the son of Ettore Bugatti. The cars were made from aluminium with distinctive riveted seams. This is one of only two of the cars that remain in their original condition: the other is owned by Ralph Lauren.

The car had been part of a Bugatti collection owned by neurologist Dr Peter D. Williamson. Following the death of Williamson in 2008, and the consequent sale of the other cars in the collection (for $15.5m), Gooding & Company brokered a deal on behalf of the family, with the Mullin Automotive Museum. The car is known to have been sold for at least $30 million, although some sources suggest an even higher figure.

Previously, the highest price known to have been paid for a car was for a 1957 Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa. This auction carried out by Sotherbys,in Maranello, Italy, in May 2009 saw the car sold to an unknown telephone bidder for $12.2m

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This specific Ferrari is considered one of the most competitive racing Ferraris ever built, having won 10 races in North and South America between 1958 and 1961. It boasts a 300 bhp, 2,953 cc single overhead cam degrees V-12 engine, six Weber 38 DCN carburetors and a four-speed manual gearbox. Only 22 of these cars were ever produced.

It would appear that year by year the highest price record is being smashed. Prior to the 2009 auction, in 2008, again at the Ferrari test track, Fiorino, in Italy at the annual Sothebys’ auction, a 1961 Ferrari 250 GT SWB Spyder California came up for sale.


This car had previously been owned by actor James Coburn. This time the purchaser was not unknown: it was UK radio and television presenter Chris Evans, who paid $11m for the privilege of owning it.

Following the sale of the Bugatti Leslie Kendall, curator of the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles, said: “It does sort of recalibrate things in the sense that now, it’s official, certain cars have reached the level of art. People will start paying attention. It’s should be obvious that there are connoisseurs out there who appreciate cars just as much as they do art, fine wine, furniture and sculpture.

“When the first car sold for seven figures, nobody could believe it. Then one went for eight figures, now the Williamson Bugatti. The nine-figure car is out there. It’s just a matter of when.”

Edit added 14May 2010

From the Sun newspaper today:

“Chris Evans gave himself a present for pulling in a million more Radio 2 listeners – the most expensive car in Britain.

The Beeb DJ celebrated getting a breakfast show audience of 9.5million by paying £12 million for the vintage Ferrari 250 GTO.


His latest motor cost £6,000 when new in 1963.
Evans, 44, who collects Ferraris as investments, flogged at least three from his existing fleet to help pay for it.
Just 36 of the 174mph roadgoing racing cars were made – and Ferrari nut Evans had long dreamed of owning one.

Evans, who has a £45million fortune…. stumped up around 20 million US dollars – and he plans to use the car on the road.”

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