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1936 Bugatti 57SC Atlantic Sells for World Record Price

Economic recessions have a funny way of affecting some people. Recently, it may have caused a private buyer to pay the largest amount ever offered for an automobile -- reportedly somewhere between $30 million and $40 million. Of course, the car wasn't just any old beater -- it was a rare and highly-coveted 1936 Bugatti brokered by Gooding and Co. Details of the sale are not official, in an effort for the broker to protect the seller's request for confidentiality.

The distinctive 1936 Bugatti 57SC Atlantic was owned by the estate of the late Dr. Peter D. Williamson, a noted Bugatti collector who died last year, and reportedly sold to the Mullin Automotive Museum in California. In 2003, the car won the coveted Best in Show award at the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance. Just three other Bugatti Atlantics were ever built, this 200-horsepower supercharged example being the first in the series. Fashion mogul Ralph Lauren retains one of the remaining cars in his extensive collection.

Previous sales of classic automobiles at public auction have fallen well short of the reported mid-$30 million price this Bugatti fetched. The most expensive auction sale occurred at the RM Auctions' Leggenda e Passione annual Ferrari event at the automaker's headquarters in Maranello, Italy. There, a pontoon-fendered 1957 Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa brought $12.7 million, shattering the previous record of $2.67 million for a 1961 Ferrari 250 GT California Spyder LWB attained the year before.

The nearest runner-up to the Bugatti in private sales may be that of a Ferrari 250 GTO in 2009. The car reportedly sold for $26 million, making it the highest price ever paid for a Ferrari, if not any automobile.