While there are many Bugattis in the Mullin’s collection, one stands out from the rest – a 1925 Bugatti Type 22 Brescia Roadster:
Unrestored is an understatement when looking at this Bugatti. However, there’s a good reason this Bugatti remains in this condition – it is the famed “Bugatti in the Lake.” The Mullin provides superb detail in this unusual story…
According to renowned Bugatti historian Hans Matti, this Brescia was owned in 1934 by Swiss Adalbert Bode – a playboy whose interests were known to include racing, bartending, and professional poker playing. By one account, Bode is said to have met legendary racing driver Rene Dreyfus in Paris during the Spring on 1934 and to have won the Brescia from Dreyfus in an impromptu game of poker after two bottles of champagne.
At some point thereafter, without money, Bode left Paris for home. However, upon arrival at the Swiss border the new owner was required to pay customs onthe car. Unable to afford the tax, he reluctantly abandoned the car in Ascona on Lake Maggiore at the border of Switzerland and Italy in a private garage. After a few years, Swiss officials were required by law to destroy it, and elected to do so by pushing it into the lake, however attaching 35′ chains in the event that there was a future need to retrieve the car. With the passage of time the chains became fatigued and broke, the Brescia falling to a final resting depth of 173 feet.
Years passed. However locals continued to remember the Bugatti in the Lake even after the World War. Finally, after three more decades and substantial advancements in diving technology, the Bugatti in the lake was discovered by a local diving club in August 1967.
In the years that followed, it became a much-romanticized part of town lore and a local dive attraction for deep divers. And it may have stayed that way were it not for the occurrence of a tragedy in which a young local man, Damiano Tamagni, lost his life as a result of a random and brutal beating he suffered while attending the Carnival of Locarno.
With heartfelt sympathy for Damiano’s grieving family, a local diving company contacted the dive club and suggested they work together to raise and sell the Bugatti to benefit the Fondazione Damiano Tamagni, a charitable foundation established to combat youth violence. The project ultimately involved more than thirty volunteers and months of planning. On July 12, 2009, in front of an assembled crowd of more than 2,000 people, this Bugatti was lifted from Lake Maggiore where it lay submerged for nearly 75 years.
Aside from this story, what is most impressive about this unrestored Bugatti is its incredible patina, which is filled with a rich depth of colors and aged to perfection. Even the most talented artist would have a difficult time recreating the unusual beauty in this recovered underwater automotive myth-come-true. If you’re ever near the Mullin, I highly recommend you visit this offbeat Bugatti.