Engineer Alan Riley bought the Bugatti Type 51 in 1987 thinking it was the car used to win a 1931 grand prix. But the vehicle is actually a replica built in the mid-1980s, with just two original Bugatti components.
Despite being a fake that has been left to deteriorate for nine years, experts are estimating the replica will fetch in excess of £100,000 when it goes under the hammer at Brightwells’ sale in Leominster, Herefordshire.
However, this figure’s hefty price tag is only a fraction of the £2m authentic Type 51 would sell for on the open market.
The vehicle was left by Mr Riley, who passed away last year, in a garage at his home in Worcestershire and was covered with bin bags and rubbish over the past nine years. Auction house Brightwells recently battled through rusted cars, overgrown trees, boxes and bin bags to retrieve the mystery motor.
The model is a convincing fake built by the late London-based engineer Keith Butti, manufactured to Type 51 specification. But like an original Type 51, it has a 2.3-litre supercharged, eight-cylinder engine which developed around 180bhp when it was built.
“We never had the chance to inspect this car but now we know everything about it,” said David Sewell, an independent Bugatti consultant. “Alan never raced the car but he took it to Bugatti meetings all around the UK. He would always say it was an original.
"It is not a genuine Type 51 but it has been built to Type 51 specification. A real Type 51 is worth around £2 million and a replica is worth about 10 per cent of that. If you were to build a replica it would cost £150,000 and I’d be very surprised if it didn’t fetch over £100,000.
"It needs some TLC but will be great to see it out and on the road again,” he added.