This car has become one of the most celebrated of all Bugattis, having lain submerged beneath the waters of Lake Maggiore in Switzerland for more than 70 years. Its whereabouts had been known to the local dive club for years, but in February 2008 a tragedy occurred which led to its retrieval. Club member Damiano Tamagni was mugged and beaten so severely that he died. The club decided to raise the car and use the funds from its sale for a charity in Tamagni’s name to address the issue of juvenile violence.
But how did the Bugatti come to be in Lake Maggiore in the first place? Subsequent research has uncovered much of its history. On April 11, 1925, chassis number 2461 was registered in Nancy, France, in the name of Georges Paiva, with the number 8843N5. A small brass plate found on the car after its removal bears the name Georges Nielly, 48 Rue Nollet, Paris, but the registration plate is only partly legible, the last digits being RE 1. This registration was issued in Paris between May and June 1930, so perhaps Georges Nielly bought the car earlier in Nancy and had it registered in Paris. The French plates have remained on the car since then.
The Bugatti chassis plate is missing, as is the enamel radiator badge, but the relevant chassis number is on the round boss on the right front engine bearer. The engine number 879 is on top of the cam box, the gearbox bears the number 964, the radiator is by Chausson and the carburetor is a Zenith, which is correct. The SEV magnetos are in the middle of the dashboard. There are indications the body was modified, with fenders added, probably at the end of the 1920s.
So far, the likely candidate for ownership in Ascona is Marco Schmuklerski, a Zurich-born architect who lived there in 1935-36. If he studied in Paris, it is possible he brought the car back from there but without paying any import duties. When he left Ascona, Schmuklerski stored the car in a builder’s yard. But the Swiss authorities wanted their tax money, so the car was hidden in the lake at the end of a chain. However, that corroded and the car fell 150 feet to the bottom of the lake. It was discovered in 1967 by a local diver and finally, in July 2009, the car was finally rescued from its grave.