A 1932 Bugatti Type 55 will be featured at the 2020 Bonhams Retromobile Week sale, to be held 6 February at the Grand Palais in Paris. The Bugatti is being offered for the first time at auction following 56 years in the ownership of one British family.
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to acquire an extremely historic and important motor car owned by the same family for 56 years,” said Sholto Gilbertson, Director, Bonhams UK Motor Cars. “Over the years, the family have resisted many offers and we are very much looking forward to presenting the Bugatti for sale in Paris next February. Everyone will now have an equal opportunity to secure one of the most important motor cars to come to market in recent years.”
Only 38 examples of the Type 55 Super Sports model were produced between 1932 and 1935, 29 of which are known to survive. The Type 55 model was regarded in period as a Grand Prix car in sports car clothing, powered by a 2.3-litre supercharged twin-cam 8-cylinder engine — only slightly detuned compared to its source, the multiple Grand Prix-winning Bugatti Type 51. Even in 1932 its performance boasted 0-60 mph acceleration in 13 seconds and a top speed of 115 mph.
Chassis number 55221 started life as a works entry in the 1932 Le Mans 24 Hours, co-driven by Louis Chiron and Count Guy Bouriat-Quintart. To meet the event’s regulations, the car was fitted with a temporary 4-seat body, but sadly its fuel tank split after three hours of racing, forcing its retirement.
Immediately after Le Mans, the car was sold by Count Bouriat to French magazine publisher Jacques Dupuy. Most Bugatti Type 55s featured bodywork to a much-praised, high-fashion, door less design by Jean Bugatti, son of company founder Ettore Bugatti.
However, Dupuy commissioned automotive designer Giuseppe Figoni of Boulogne-sur-Seine, Paris, to create unique coachwork in a two-seat Type 55 style, but with two highline doors, providing practicality for both ease of access and protection from the elements with its wind up windows.
Fresh from being re-bodied by Figoni, the Type 55 promptly entered the 1933 Paris-Nice Rally, driven by new owner Dupuy. He also entered it successfully for La Journée de l’Elégance et de l’Automobile au Bois de Boulogne Concours d’Elegance event, in which it also excelled.
The Bugatti subsequently survived the Second World War in France and was brought to England in 1962 by A.A. Morse, being acquired by Geoffrey St John in 1963. It was first restored in 1966, and some thirty years later was restored once more following road accident damage sustained in France. Importantly, its chassis was not restored following that incident, but repaired by specialist Gino Hoskins.