1937 Bugatti 57SC sells for record $9.7 million at Amelia

Or, you could buy a Chiron trio and keep the change.

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See this car right here? It may very well be the most valuable Bugatti ever sold at auction. Any 57 would stand among the most sought-after Bugattis among collectors. But this particular 1937 Bugatti 57SC Sports Tourer features unique bodywork from British coachbuilder Vanden Plas. That may make it look more like a Jaguar or Morgan than a Bugatti, but that signature grille tells you otherwise. Chassis number 57541 was showcased at the London Motor Show and featured in some of the company's own literature, then went on to race before and after the War on our side of the Atlantic.

In superlative condition, the Vanden Plas Bugatti was valued at $11-13 million heading into the Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance where it was auctioned off by Bonhams this weekend. It didn't quite get there, but at $9,735,000, the auctioneer lauds this as "the most valuable Bugatti ever sold at auction and the most valuable car ever sold at Amelia Island." That may not actually be accurate, though. Sports Car Market logs a '31 Royale that Christie's apparently sold for slightly more at $9.8 million way back in 1987, and Gooding & Company sold a '61 Ferrari 250 GT SWB California Spider for $17 million over the same weekend.

One way or another, it's a lot of money, and a beautiful car that one very fortunate owner will be taking home with him (or her) from Florida this week. Check it out in the extensive image gallery above and the video clip below.

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For immediate release – 11 March 2016 – Amelia Island, Florida – Held Thursday, March 10th at the spacious and conveniently accessible Fernandina Beach Golf Club, Bonhams' second annual Amelia Island auction was a resounding success with nearly $27.5-million achieved.

With an impressively diverse and curated selection of 95 automobiles ranging from 19th century motor carriages to 21st century supercars, the handpicked assembly offered something for every taste and interest.

Leading the sale was the singular 1937 Bugatti 57SC Sports Tourer by Vanden Plas. Armed with a generous amount of international buzz from the preceding weeks, this very special pre-war car had the auction tent packed to capacity with bidders and spectators. With a starting bid of $6-million, the bidding quickly rose to $8-million. Then, followed by strong applause from the audience, the car sold to a private American collector for a total sum of $9,735,000, making it the most valuable Bugatti ever sold at auction and the most valuable car ever sold at Amelia Island.

The spectacular 1937 Mercedes-Benz 540K Cabriolet also achieved impressive results when it was bought for $2,970,000 – also by an American collector, while a 1967 Ferrari 275 GTB/4 that had been in single ownership for 45 years made $2,750,000.

Another vehicle that may exceed all offered in terms of rarity and historical importance was the Connecticut-built 1896 Armstrong Phaeton Hybrid. As the oldest – and likely very first – known modern hybrid-driven car in the world, this landmark automobile predates the Lohner-Porsche by four years and the Toyota Prius by 100 years. Amazing all in attendance as it drove around the grounds, the Armstrong was purchased for $483,400 by renowned Dutch collector Evert Louwman, who indicated it will be proudly displayed at his museum in The Hague, Netherlands for all to enjoy.

Other notable results included the 1935 Riley MPH that annihilated all previous records and set a new world record for the marque when it made $880,000, and the Wade Carter Collection of exquisite automobiles that was 100% sold.

"We are extremely pleased with our second sale here, which exceeded all of our expectations and showed the strength of our US team in sourcing interesting collector cars from around the country," said Rupert Banner, Bonhams Deputy Group Motoring Director and the sale's auctioneer. "The diverse selection of automobiles offered, many from private collections and from long term ownerships, proved to be well-appreciated by the broad selection of collectors who attend the Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance. In the warm Florida sunshine a series of bidding battles, frequently between domestic and international bidders, created new records for models and marques."

James Knight, Bonhams Group Motoring Director, added, "Our Amelia Island auction once again reaffirmed that there is a strong appetite for interesting, rare and fresh to market motorcars. These cars attracted multiple bidding battles to produce record and near record prices. I was also equally pleased to note that readily available models attracted continued interest as long as they were priced accordingly. By the time we finish the first quarter of 2016, we will have conducted six auctions in four countries and our healthy sell through rate to date clearly demonstrates an active market."

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