As legend has it, in 1934, French race car driver René Dreyfus, who achieved fame racing on the Grand Prix circuit in the 1920s and ‘30s—even winning the Monaco Grand Prix in 1930—was in a liquor-fueled game of poker with wealthy Swiss playboy Adalbert Bodé in Paris. Eventually, short on cash, Dreyfus bet his 1925 Bugatti Type 22 Brescia race car on a hand and lost it to Bodé.
But this story doesn’t end with a nice ride off into the sunset. When Bodé returned to Switzerland, he was stopped at the border and told that he could not take the car with him. As gambler’s fortunes tend to wax and wane, Bodé was notable to get the cash together to get the car out of customs, and it was marked for destruction like any other confiscated contraband. Being a different time, Swiss authorities decided the easiest, if not the most ecologically friendly, method of disposal would be to dump it into the Lago Maggiore.
There the masterpiece of French design sat until 2009, when it was finally recovered. Though many people knew the car was somewhere in the lake, no one had yet committed to bringing it up. Unfortunately, its reemergence was brought on by tragedy when a member of the local salvage diving club was beaten to death by three young people in a street attack. In an effort to raise money for a charity dedicated to preventing youth violence, the club committed to bringing up the car.
While it was only expected to fetch about $57,000, the price eventually rose far higher when California-based art deco car collector Peter Mullin went up against a Bugatti collector from the Netherlands to acquire the artifact. Eventually, Mullin came out on top and he now displays the Bugatti in the same condition it was found in at the bottom of the lake at the Mullin Automotive Museum in Oxnard, Calif.
“My theory was that Ettore Bugatti started in the creation of this piece of art, and mother nature finished the creation,” says Mullin.
There’s much more to this tale than is featured here, so please watch the video to get all of the details from the story’s major players.