A Million Dollar Barn Find Collection Found Hidden In Poor Artists Barn. Three treasured Bugattis kept locked in a barn for years by the family of an artist could sell for a lot of money when they are auctioned next week.
Belgian sculptor August Thomassen bought the three vehicles in the late 1950s and early 1960s when they were practically worthless to everyone but him. Thomassen’s daughter told the De Telegraaf newspaper that he loved their engineering and unusual styling.
He kept them running and drove them as daily drivers for years, becoming such a fan of the brand that he sculpted a painting of the automaker’s founder, Ettore Bugatti, which today is on display at the National Automobile Museum in Mulhouse, France.
The 1932 Bugatti Type 49 Berline and 1937 Bugatti Type 57 Cabriolet each feature custom coachwork, as was the practice of the day. He was creating his own coachwork for a 1929 Type 40 after it was damaged in an accident, but never quite finished it. Its wood frame still waits for new body panels to be hand-formed and attached to it.
As time passed, as the value of the cars went up, Thomassen received many offers from people who had heard about them, but he had no interest in selling them at any price.
“We regularly had enthusiasts at the door who wanted to buy the cars,” his daughter said. “But my father refused to sell them. Even though we hardly had money as a family. You can safely say that we were poor.”
Since they didn’t have enough money to buy insurance for the cars, they decided to lock them up and put away, parking them in Thomassen’s studio barn in Belgium with tons of sandbags blocking the door and never mentioning them in public. The family is so scared of drawing attention to them that the daughter only agreed to speak to De Telegraaf anonymously.
But last year someone broke into the building during what was supposed to have been a recon mission for a theft. With Thomassen now 95 and no longer able to drive, the family decided it was time to sell them, along with a 1925 Citroen Torpedo that was also stored away.
After speaking to several auction houses, they decided on Artcurial, who sent a team to examine and retrieve the vehicles. Company director Matthieu Lamoure said it “the stuff of dreams,” and said that he’d “never imagined finding such sleeping beauties.”
The cars will be auctioned off on Feb. 8 at the Retromobile event in Paris, where they should sell for well over $1 million combined. The all-original Type 57 is expected to bring $750,000 on its own.
Thomassen’s daughter hasn’t decided what they’ll do with the money yet, but said that “it must be something that becomes a tribute to my father.”Auto News, Blog