We all know it’s more important to value people and experiences over physical possessions, but it can’t be denied that certain inanimate objects are directly tied to our heartstrings. We spend lots of time in our cars, for example, so we associate them with memorable trips, conversations, and other good (and bad) times.
And boy, if there ever was a car that told a story, it was this one! The custom-built Bugatti Type 22 Brescia Roadster that was discovered at the border of Switzerland and Italy was already a one-of-a-kind vehicle on its own, but what happened to it made it even more remarkable.
The Bugatti in question switched hands several times, and nobody is entirely sure why it moved around so much in its early years. Regardless, where it eventually ended up—and how it got there—just might surprise you!
In 2009, a custom-built 1925 Bugatti Type 22 Brescia Roadster was recovered from the bottom of Lake Maggiore, which sits near France at the border of Italy and Switzerland. It had been there since 1935, but the story behind it was even more fascinating.
Allessandro Vecchi / Wikimedia Commons
Although the vehicle was built in Brescia, Italy, it was originally registered in Nancy, France. A plate on the car read “George Nielly, 48 Rue Nollet, Paris,” and it seemed highly likely that Monsieur Nielly was its proper owner for a time. With its 1.5 liter engine, four cylinders, and ability to reach speeds of up to 100 miles per hour, it was an incredible work of engineering for its day.
At some point (though the exact time is unknown), the car must have changed owners. According to one legend, René Dreyfus, a champion Grand Prix driver, was drunkenly playing poker when he lost the vehicle to Adalbert Bodé, a Swiss playboy, in 1934. According to another story, it came into the hands of Switzerland-born architect Marco “Max” Schmuklerski, who had the car taken from him when he neglected to pay the fees for importing it. So, how the heck did it end up in the lake?
Whatever happened between the owners was neither here nor there, because it ended with Swiss officials literally rolling the car into the lake. It wasn’t seen again until it was discovered by diver Ugo Pillon in 1967. From there, it became a popular location for other divers, but there was an important reason why it was finally brought up to the surface.
On February 1, 2008, a young man named Damiano Tamagni was tragically beaten to death by three people. Both Damiano and his father, Maurizio, had belonged to a local sub aqua club in the Swiss town of Ascona. The community decided that, if they pulled the legendary Bugatti out of the lake, they could sell it and use the money to raise funds for a charity in Damiano’s name, entitled “Fondazione Damiano Tamagi,” which would aim to tackle the problem of juvenile violence.
A dive club managed to recover the car in 2009, and it was sold to Peter Mullin of the Mullin Automotive Museum, located in Oxnard, California, in 2010 for roughly $370,000. It’s now kept in a museum, but it isn’t treated like most vintage cars would be. Instead, with its unusual coloration, shape, and condition, it seems almost like an art installation in a private room.
What a story this one special car was able to tell! This Bugatti had incredible beginnings on its own, but who could have ever expected it to have such dramatic memories tied to it?
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