“Drowned Bugatti” fished out of Lake Maggiore

bugattiunderwaterA 1925 Bugatti Brescia that was pushed into the Swiss side of Lake Maggiore in 1936 has been retrieved by a diving society and put up for sale.

It’s not in very good condition, what with having been underwater for 70+ years, but about 20% of the body is usable and you can still see bits of the original blue paint. The Brescia was called that because it won the top four spots on the Brescia course in a 1921 race, so its an important car for collectors. Even with just 20% of the body left, it could be fully restored or used as a model for an accurate modern duplicate.

Locals thought the story of the sunken Bugatti was apocryphal until a diver found it 160 feet below the lake surface in 1967, but nope, it really happened. The French-registered car appears to have been owned by Zurich architect, Max Schmuklerski. He lived in Ascona, Switzerland, for 3 years working on some buildings and stored the car in his builder’s yard for the duration.

Customs agents knew it was there and they knew it was never registered in Switzerland. When Schmuklerski left Ascona, the builder certainly wasn’t going to pay the custom duties and by the now the car was 11 years old and well-used, so its value was probably less than the tax bill.

So the builder and/or the customs agents decided to just dump it in the lake. The kept a chain attached to it in case they needed to retrieve it, but over time the chain corroded and the Bugatti dropped down to the lake floor.

It would probably have remained there until it disintegrated had it not been for a tragedy. In February of 2008, Damiano Tamagni was mugged by three juveniles. He was beaten so severely that he died from his injuries. He and his father Maurizio were members of the local underwater diving and salvage club in Ascona so they decided to raise the Bugatti sell it to fund a charity in Damiano’s name. The Fondazione Damiano Tamagi seeks to combat juvenile violence.

Despite its condition, Bonham’s estimates the Bugatti could sell for €70,000 – €90,000 ($100,000 – $130,000) which would be a nice nest egg to launch the charity.

See the Bonham’s lot details for lots of pictures of the car at various stages in its recovery.

The "Drowned Bugatti" on display