Last month, Southern California’s Mullin Automotive Museum debuted a new 30-car exhibit, L’époque des Carrossiers: The Art and Times of the French Coachbuilders. The exhibit, which will run through the end of the year, spotlights the most exceptional, classic French automobiles owned by the museum’s founder, Peter Mullin. Vehicles on display include a 1936 Bugatti Type 57SC Atlantic, a 1939 Delahaye Type 165 Cabriolet by Figoni et Falaschi, and a 1937 Talbot-Lago T150-C SS “Goutte d’Eau.” As Mullin explains, the exhibit showcases the work of the “most extraordinary coachbuilders in the history of the automobile.”
Beyond their exceptional one-off bodywork and styling, some prewar French classics—especially those built by Bugatti—also entice collectors and enthusiasts for their mechanical ingenuity and motoring capabilities.
“The sound [of their engines], their mechanical ability, their speed, and the wonderful driving experience [that they offered], that was the eye-opener for me,” says Scott Sargent, the proprietor of Sargent Metalworks, a restoration shop that specializes in French classics, primarily those emblazoned with the Bugatti logo. “It was the golden age of the Art Deco period,” he continues, speaking of the era in which the most desirable French automobiles were built, “and these cars featured bodies that were way ahead of their time. They were the sleekest automobiles of their day. It just doesn’t get any better.”
In light of the coveted French classics taking center stage at the Mullin Automotive Museum, we look back at five other stunning examples that sold at auction over the past year.