Heir to his father’s fishing tackle fortune, John discovered fast cars amongst his other distractions of skydiving and waterskiing. He also had interests in oil, real estate and auto dealerships.
He tried his hand at racing Ferraris in the mid-1950s, even racing with Luigi Chinetti to a 6th place finish of the 1954 Carrera Panamericana in a Ferrari 375 MM.
By 1963, he had accumulated a large collection of rare cars, with a strong focus on Bugatti’s.
The Schlumpf brothers in Mulhouse France heard of his Bugatti’s, and thought they would make excellent additions to the museum they were creating.
Negotiations began, with lots of back and forth, and by 1964, a deal was struck where Shakespeare would selling them all his 30 Bugatti’s for the lowly sum, including shipping, of $85,000 USD, which works out to about $650,000 USD in today’s money!
John Shakespeare seeing off his 30 Bugatti's
Pen&ink and white markers on blue and brown paper © Paul Chenard 2016
They were all loaded up on railcars, and shipped to France.
Considering that most individual vintage Bugatti’s sell between $350,000 and $30,000,000 USD today, the Shakespeare Bugatti deal could certainly be considered the used-car sale of the century!