Mike Stevens | Jan 4, 2009

If there is one thing that puts a fire in every car enthusiast's heart, it's stories of barns and sheds laying forgotten in the middle of nowhere, loaded to the roof with ultra-rare cars in mint condition. We've all heard the stories before, and we all take a second look at run-down-looking barns when we're off driving cross-country on holidays with the family.

Relatives of deceased British doctor Harold Carr – a former army surgeon - experienced something along those lines when they discovered a 1937 Bugatti Type 57S Atalante in a lock-up garage left to them in Carr’s will. Don’t worry if you’ve never heard of this particular model, neither had I before today.

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Above: A restored example of the Type 57S Atalante

While only 17 units of the Type 57S Atalante were ever made, this particular example is even more special, owing to the fact it was once owned by Earl Howe – first president of the British Racing Drivers’ Club.

Carr’s family plans to auction the rare Bugatti, and experts say it could fetch the family as much as £3m (AU$6.12m), which Carr’s nephew says will be dispersed to the whole family.

"Of course we're delighted and we're going to make sure the money is shared out among the family. It's a wonderful thing to leave."

Earl Howe owned the car from new, keeping it for eight years. It came into Dr Carr’s hands in 1955 when he bought it from Lord Ridley, a member of the Northumberland gentry.

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The two-seat Atalante was driven by Carr for a few years before garaging it in 1960 with only 26,284 miles (42,299km) on the odometer, where it remained until his death.

James Knight, international head of Bonham’s motoring department, said that he’d known of Carr’s Atalante for some years but, like others in the know, held his tongue.

"It is absolutely one of the last great barn discoveries.

"The Atalante is incredibly original and, although she requires restoration, it is 'restoration' in the true sense of the word.

"It offers a truly rewarding project to the new owner - who will join a select list of distinguished owners - to play such an integral part in bringing this wonderful motor car back to life."

Four examples of the 57S are believed to belong to the Musee Nationale de L’Automobile in France, while others remain with private collectors.

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