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Not a Veyron, Waking Up In a 1939 Bugatti at SEMA 2013


When I hear Bugatti, I immediately think of the asphalt eating, record holding, hypercar engineering wunderkind from VW. As the resident European Car guy (if you haven’t figured that out by now, go run thru my articles) I’m usually a decent resource for most Europeans cars…MOST. The 1939 Bugatti Type 57c Van Vooren cabriolet completely threw me for a loop.


I had been busy for most of the day upon my arrival (read that as: I was busy drooling over every inch of the Liberty Walk Ferrari 458) and had a few cars I was tracking that I definitely wanted to hit. I got a message from a buddy and then another friend hits me up asking if I’ve seen “The Bugatti”. Again, my first thought was someone brought a Veyron to SEMA? Michelin hasn’t been a part of the SEMA show for years, who could pull this off? After a few more texts, I found out it’s in my buddy RJ’s booth – Meguiars. Imagine my surprise as I came across this:


Yeah, that’s not a Veyron LOL. As I soaked the car in and took pictures, I overhead a lady ask her husband: “Would $250K do it?” (I’m assuming referring to the cost of the vehicle) – Nope! The guy answered, almost sarcastically. I thought to myself, man – how much is this worth? The answer is actually north of $10 million.


A few minutes later I get the breakdown from my buddy – apparently the car was a gift to the Prince of Persia (Insert Jake Gyllenhal joke here) from the French government. They commissioned the best talent within their country to provide a gift for the Shah's wedding. To create one of most extravagant cars to come from their country, France chose Van Vooren and Bugatti.


Van Vooren provided amazing bodywork along with some amazing details for such a bespoke vehicle at the time:

  • A very short windscreen which would disappear completely, wound down into the bulkhead via a window crank.
  • A true disappearing top, which was concealed by a panel behind the interior.
  • Fully skirted fenders



In 1959, it was sold out of the Prince’s collection for…wait for it, $275 USD. Yes, instead of the Playstation 4 you’ve been waiting for — you could’ve had this and some change. A switch in government over time nearly destroyed the car, but it was saved and brought back to the US for restoration.


As the resident know it all, I got taken to school — Bugatti is definitely more than just the Veyron. The car is now part of the Petersen Automotive Museum collection for the world to view, be sure to check it out when you have sometime. 

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