A prized Bugatti Type 57S Atalante, formerly owned by Lord Howe, has emerged from storage after almost 50 years. The car is completely original with just 26,284 miles on the clock, and is being sold following the death of its latest owner, Dr Robert Carr.

Francis Curzon, the fifth Earl Howe, was a leading mover and shaker in the early days of British motor sport and would often drive the Bugatti to Brooklands. He was the BRDC’s first president, a post he held until his death in 1964, and he won the 1931 Le Mans partnering with Sir Henry Birkin in an Alfa Romeo.

Bonhams has been commissioned to sell the car. James Knight, International Head of Bonhams’s motoring department, said, “I have known of this Bugatti for a number of years and hadn’t dared divulge its whereabouts to anyone. It is one of the last great barn discoveries.”

Only 17 Atalantes were made, and a quarter of them are in the Musee Nationale de L’Automobile, also known as the Schlumpf Collection, in Mulhouse, France. The S is the low-chassis sporting version of the T57, and the svelte Atalante two-seater coupe body is the most elegant to have graced any Bugatti. Chassis 57502 was completed on May 5, 1937, and delivered to Howe, who fitted his own bumpers, rear-view mirrors on the A-pillars, and a luggage rack, which the car retains.

Howe could not use the car during WWII when he was serving with the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve, and after hostilities ceased it was sold via Continental Cars to a Mr. JP Tingay in 1947. Tingay brought the car to SC specification by fitting a Marshall K200 supercharger. Mr. MH Ferguson acquired the Bugatti from Tingay in 1950 and by 1954 it formed part of Lord Ridley’s collection. Dr. Harold Carr then acquired it in 1955 and drove it for a few years, but by the early 1960s it was parked in his garage, where it remained for nearly 50 years, until his death in 2007.

This is the second Atalante to recently emerge from more than 40 years of storage. On October 2 in London, RM Auctions sold chassis 57766 for $1m. This 1938 Type 57C had been fitted with an Atalante body early in its life and had emerged from 45 years of storage after being driven on a daily basis by John Straus, grandson of RH Macy’s creator Isidor Straus. Howe’s car, chassis 57502, is expected to make up to $5m when Bonhams offers it for sale at its Retromobile auction in Paris on February 7, by dint of its sheer originality. Debate will now rage as to whether these important cars need to be preserved, or restored.–Paul Hardiman

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