Guests often leave the Mullin Automotive Museum touched by the incredible story of the 1925 Bugatti Type 22 Brescia Roadster, dubbed “Lady of the Lake” due to its time at the bottom of Lake Maggiore. The vehicle is a prime example of painstakingly crafted artwork created by Ettore Bugatti and finished by the likes of Mother Nature. For this reason, our founder vows never to restore the vehicle to its original condition, preserving the anecdotal evidence of its remarkable story, which tugs at the heartstrings of museum patrons.
The folklore surrounding the “Bugatti of the Deep” was ubiquitous among the inhabitants around Italy’s Lake Maggiore, precariously located on the Swiss border. This particular 1925 Type 22 Brescia Roadster belonged to Grand Prix driver René Dreyfus, who lost it in 1934 Paris during a drunken poker game to Swiss playboy Adalbert Bodé. Soon after, Bodé left for home in his new prize with no cash in hand, unable to pay the car’s import dutieswhen stopped by Swiss officials at the country border. Bodé walked away, leaving the officers to dispose of the automobile into the lake—as the 10-year-old car held little value at the time. The Bugatti tale ceased to be a local myth by 1967, when deep-diving technology, withstanding enormous amounts of water pressure, located the submerged classic. This led amateur divers—70+ years after—to plunge to the depths of Lake Maggiore to catch a glimpse.
A random beating resulting in the death of a local boy led to its eventual recovery and sale in 2008. To combat youth violence, the local diving club voted to raise the submerged Bugatti and donate the proceeds to a non-profit foundation established in the name of the tragedy’s victim. An immense crowd of thousands witnessed the Type 22 surface from Lake Maggiore on July 12, 2009. The following year, it was purchased by Peter Mullin at the Bonhams auction at Paris’ Retromobile.
Today, the recovered Bugatti is displayed in isolation from the rest of the collection. An intimate space designed to replicate the dimly-lit lake bottom helps guests concentrate on the endless minutiae that truly makes this Brescia a masterful work of art.