Queen's Bugatti to star at Pebble Beach

| 14 Jul 2014

A 1927 Bugatti Type 35C Grand Prix car belonging to so-called 'Bugatti Queen' model, dancer and racing driver, Hellé Nice is set to steal the limelight at Gooding's Pebble Beach sale, taking place on 16-17 August. It is expected to fetch up to $3.5m.

The Bugatti was purchased by Nice when it was three years old and was used extensively throughout the 1920s. It features a supercharged 2292cc straight-eight engine capable of producing 130bhp and propelling the car to over 130mph. The right-hand-drive car has been restored several times, most recently being repainted from French Racing Blue to its original shade of Taupe.


Nice was a pioneer in the truest sense of the word, becoming a successful racing driver after being inspired by Charlotte Versigny, who had campaigned a Talbot in 1927. Two years later Nice won an all-female Grand Prix at Montlhéry at the wheel of an Omega-Six, and in the process set a new Land Speed Record for women.

Her relationship with Phillippe de Rothschild led her to be introduced to Ettore Bugatti, which in turn resulted in her piloting the Type 35C in five Grands Prix in France.

Countless hillclimbs and sprints followed, as did an outing on the Monte-Carlo Rally, before she suffered a serious accident at the Sao Paulo Grand Prix in 1936, in which she was thrown from her car and several spectators were killed.

Though the trauma of the accident undoubtedly affected the star, it was the Second World War that would effectively end her career. In 1949 she was accused of being a Gestapo agent by Grand Prix driver Louis Chiron. Despite his lack of evidence, it resulted in her never driving competitively again.