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Case study: How to find a 1937 Bugatti and bring it to NZ

Posted on February 25, 2015

Case study: How to find a 1937 Bugatti and bring it to NZ

It’s all very well having the money to buy a classic car – it’s quite another to have the time and patience to bring it half way across the globe and then restore it to museum quality.

But when Tom Andrews, who owns Classics Museum in Hamilton, heard about a 1937 Bugatti Type 57 Ventoux coming under the hammer in Paris, he knew he wanted in on one of the motoring world’s biggest auctions.

The car was just one of 59 classic cars unearthed in a barn in western France where they had lain festering since the 1970s after being collected by a shipping magnate called Roger Baillon, who intended to open a private museum.

The vehicles were in a pretty poor state of affairs – but, because of their rarity, were marketed as “The King Tut” of car finds and fetched eye-watering, record sums. One of only 37 1961 Ferrari 250 GT SWB California Spyders ever built reached a whopping $21.5 million and a Maserati A6G 2000 Gran Sport Berlinetta Frua 1956 went for more than $3 million as more than 15,000 visitors a day poured through the Artcurial auction house.

Andrews shelled out just less than $500,000 for the Bugatti, which is one of just 710 examples designed by founder Ettore Bugatti’s son Jean, and is now spending around $10,000 to ship it from Southampton in the UK to New Zealand before embarking on a two-year restoration journey which could easily cost another $500,000.

64-year-old Andrews, who has been collecting cars for nearly four decades and now has 140 vehicles, said he’s used to sourcing new additions to his pride and joy museum from overseas and then having to bring them back for restoration.

“We’ve bought out of The States and out of Europe. Every year my wife and I go to Europe and always come home with a container full of stuff – full of different sorts of vehicles,” he said.

“It’s pretty hard to find some of the rarer cars but that Bugatti has quite a history to it and I have someone in England who does stuff for me so I sent him across to France to bid on it.

“Once we had it we took it from Paris to England and had it cleaned so we don’t bring any problems back into New Zealand and then it’s gone into a container to come home. That means it’ll be here in six weeks, maximum two months.”

And for Andrews, that’s where the fun starts.

“We have a restoration shop and all the different people we need to restore our cars around here in Hamilton,” he said.

“What we do is we figure out all the problems and then pull the cars apart and then there’s guys in Hamilton who do the upholstery and the painting and restoration work for us. Each car’s a process of a couple of years. But we work on them constantly – not just come in at weekends – and run it like an assembly production so we can get through quite a few cars.”

As for the Bugatti, it’s in pretty good nick considering a few decades of dirt and grime. “The biggest hurdle isn’t work on the motor and all the panel work – it’s all the research into the bits and pieces which are missing. And on this [Bugatti] I know there’s very little missing – it looks much worse than it is.

“The chap who inspected it said there’s just one bolt missing off the firewall and, in the motor area, there’s not one single thing missing off it.

“The biggest problem you have when you’re restoring or fixing cars is when someone’s been there before and had a go at it. The Americans are the worst at it, they are terrible – it’s always better to get a genuine original wreck than one where someone’s had a play at it.”


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