by CHB’s mystery correspondent
About a year later I was with the jolly group of Bugatti friends who I have already mentioned in my article titled “The incredible unknown Atalante barn find“.
A new member who I had not met before was there and he told me that he had acquired a quite stunning T57 Stelvio (the convertible model) about a year earlier. He then went on to tell that, since he was dealing in natural stones, he often stayed in the south east of Austria. One lonely evening, while having a drink in the hotel bar, the barkeeper told him that there was a Bugatti in the basement of the hotel, which had been sitting there for many years. Being a small collector himself, I believe he had a Peugeot of some sort at that time, he showed interest in seeing the car. It must have blown his minds when he made his way into the basement and finding the forlorn Bugatti there.
He managed to strike a deal and brought the Stelvio home in the back of one of his heavy dump trucks in which he normally transported his natural stones.
An intriguing story, but now comes the best part… He had bought the Stelvio from…? Yes, Prince Alfred von Liechtenstein near Graz! I was sick for months, if not years, but such is life when chasing Bugattis.
A couple of years later I happened to meet Piet Nortier, a celebrity in the Netherlands at the time when it comes to motorsport journalism. He had been the editor of the poorly printed magazine De Motor during WW2. When I told him the story titled Met z’n twee naar Zell am See he burst out in laughter. It was in the darkest years of WW2 that, despite shortage of everything and repression by the Germans of any private publication, they wanted to carry on with their magazine and of course they were short of good stories for their magazine. So, they started making up stories, trying to cheer up their readers in those dark days of 1943. The series titled Met z’n twee naar Zell am See, was nothing more than that, but it had given their readers something to long for once peace would – if ever – return. But what about the picture of the T57S roadster? “No problem, we simply took a catalogue from a prewar show and neatly cut out the picture, combining it with a picture of the two motorcycle friends.” Any child can do that, but what else did they have in 1943?
The T57S was the 1936 Salon chassis, 57385, sold in 1938 to the French artist André Derain. He had the unique swiveling front fenders removed and replaced by conventional ones, which made this T57S even more desirable. Sadly, after the war, in 1953, its then owner commissioned Tunesi to replace the fine Jean Bugatti body by a modern roadster body, although also very beautiful for the period. This car disappeared mysteriously in August 1958 in Paris, while parked by its then owner Mr. Balleyguier at the Gare de Lyon. The car was supposed to be picked up by a mechanic, but that never happened and rumors have it that the car was left abandoned at the Gare de Lyon for two weeks. Its fate today is still a complete black hole, although the engine and gearbox survive in the Mulhouse museum.
The original 1936 Salon car with the swiveling front fenders was later replicated by Jean Bats, the panel beater who worked for that famous Brussels Bugatti dealer Jean DeDobbeleer during the 1950s and 1960s. Both lived in the rue de l’Orient in Brussels and many exciting new bodies were built on Bugatti chassis for DeDobbeleer, including this one on T57 chassis 57555, a car now in the Samsung collection in South Korea. The André Derain version of 57385, with the standard front fenders, was later replicated by Erik Koux on chassis BC116 and its beautiful roadster body built by Rod Jolly.