15th Mar, 2023 13:00

Imperial War Museum | Duxford, Cambridgeshire

Lot 96

1920 Bugatti Type 23 'Brescia Modifie' Roadster
Coachwork by Baer of Berlin

Sold for £157,500

(including buyers premium)

Lot details

Registration No: BF 6460
Chassis No: 985 (see text)
MOT: Exempt

  • Reputedly 1 of just 3 Diatto-Bugattis to have survived from the 50 or so made
  • Accompanied by a detailed report from the renowned Bugatti authority and historian, David Sewell
  • Summed-up as 'a remarkably original car in the sense that there are no replica parts whatsoever to be found anywhere upon it'
  • Current family ownership since 1989
  • Rebodied using the Baer Roadster coachwork that was originally fitted to chassis 1828
  • Potentially Mille Miglia Storica eligible

"Light cars as a class are surprising to those accustomed only to heavier boats; but the Bugatti holds revelations for those even well-accustomed to light cars in general. The suspension is uncannily perfect. The steering is a delight. The response to the spur makes one forget the lightness of the whole outfit; but the craft embodied in the complete make-up is such that a very tyro could come down off the banking on the forward side of the Members' Bridge at Brooklands well up in the 70s, and yet hit the Railway Straight without anything in the way of alarm" (E. Duffield, Automotor Journal, April 1921).

The inter-related Types 13, 22 and 23 were the cars which established Bugatti's reputation as one of the world's pre-eminent sportscar manufacturers. Known as Brescia Bugattis following the virtuoso 1-2-3-4 finish achieved by a highly tuned quartet of their siblings at a Voiturette race held in the Italian town of the same name during September 1921, the diminutive Molsheim machines became synonymous with class-leading performance and matchless agility. Available from Spring 1920 onwards, the Type 23 `Brescia Modifie' was based around a lightweight chassis frame equipped with all-round leaf-sprung suspension (semi-elliptic front / reversed quarter-elliptic rear) and two-wheel brakes. Differentiated from its similarly `modified' Type 13 and 22 siblings by a longer 2.55 metre (100.4in) wheelbase, it was powered by the same 1496cc (69mm bore x 100mm stroke) 16-valve SOHC four-cylinder engine allied to four-speed manual transmission. With some 40bhp @ 4,000rpm on tap thanks to such race-proven niceties as a three-bearing crankshaft (two ball / one plain) and four valves per cylinder, the Type 23 `Brescia Modifie' was reputedly capable of up to 80mph. And while achieving such high speeds was coachwork dependent, it is sobering to think that front wheel brakes were only introduced on the model in 1925.

According to an accompanying report from noted Bugatti authority, David Sewell, who over the years has written some 600 – 700 similar dossiers, this Type 23 is chassis 968. Mr Sewell commenting: ‘Whilst there remains a remote possibility that the car could have a chassis number other than 968, the circumstances required for this to be so are judged to be insignificant’. He goes on to say that: ‘This is a remarkably original car in the sense that there are no replica parts whatsoever to be found anywhere upon it. Whilst it is conceded that it lacks its original front axle and gearbox, its replacements have evidently been in place for very many years, probably since prewar times, so have become a significant part of its history. Furthermore, its coachwork, although sourced from another Type 23, is completely original and of the correct period and moreover it blends in perfectly well with the rest of the car . . . It will certainly be regarded as a particularly attractive example of the early 16-valve Bugatti, of which only a tiny proportion of those manufactured have survived to the present day and more specifically one of only three surviving Diatto-Bugattis from the fifty or so built’.

The original Bugatti factory records show that chassis 968 was fitted with engine 502 (the same unit found aboard the sale car today) and, like its fellow Type 23 Diatto-Bugattis, despatched from Molsheim as a rolling chassis sans bulkhead, bonnet and radiator. Known to have been delivered to the Diatto agent Louis Pabanel in Paris on 26th May 1920, the car’s next seven decades are a mystery. Purchased by Brescia exponent Hamish Moffatt from specialist dealer Bruno Vendiesse in 1989 at which time it was erroneously thought to be chassis 985 (a shorter wheelbase Type 22), the Bugatti was substantially complete but dismantled and lacking coachwork. A handsome two-seater Roadster body that the Berlin coachbuilder Baer had used to clothe another Type 23 (chassis 1828) was subsequently acquired. However, little further progress was made before Mr Moffatt sadly died in June 2002. Steeped in Bugatti lore not only as Hamish Moffatt’s widow but also the step daughter of privateer racer Lindsey Eccles, the vendor commissioned David Murray of Trinity Farm, Cirencester, to reassemble / restore the car.

Issued with the age-related registration number ‘BF 6460’ by the DVLA on 15th May 2013, the associated V5C registration document lists the chassis number as ‘985’ (which is how it was sold to Hamish Moffatt by Bruno Vendiesse and the ID quoted on the import paperwork) and the engine number as ‘502’. Enjoyed by the vendor on various local journeys and driven by her to Prescott and back (and up the famous hillclimb course), the Brescia is nicely detailed with a well-stocked dashboard and Marchal headlights. Repeating Mr Murray’s advice to her that ‘the engine must not be thrashed’ due to its original block being cracked, she is only reluctantly offering the Bugatti for sale because it has become less comfortable to drive of late. True automotive jewels, Bugatti Type 13, 22 and 23 cars are rightly prized the world over. Potentially eligible for the Mille Miglia Storica, ‘BF 6460’ surely deserves another long-term custodian. Accompanying paperwork includes a V5C Registration Document, the aforementioned David Sewell report, Bugatti Owners’ Club correspondence and numerous bills / invoices.

For more information, please contact:
Damian Jones
07855 493737


Auction: Imperial War Museum | Duxford, Cambridgeshire, 15th Mar, 2023

Established in 1993, H&H has sold some of the world's most significant motorcars and motorcycles over the past 30 years. Trusted by over 75,000 clients worldwide, we are the longest established auction house of our kind in Europe. 

An auction of classic, collector and performance motorcars to be held at the iconic and visually stunning Imperial War Museum, Duxford. Cambridgeshire. 

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