Tazio Nuvolari, the Italian motorcycle and racing driver, known as Il Mantovano Volante (The Flying Mantuan) or Nivola. He was the 1932 European Champion in Grand Prix motor racing. He is seen here racing at the British circuit at Brooklands in a Bugatti.
A 1931 Bugatti Type 51 Grand Prix previously owned and campaigned by Lord Howe and driven by Tazio Nuvolari will headline the 2016 Bonhams Quail Lodge Auction, scheduled for August 19 on the grounds of the Quail Lodge in Carmel Valley, California.
Purchased new by famous privateer racer, Francis Curzon, the 5th Earl Howe, first president of the British Racing Driver’s Club and long-term Bugatti client, chassis 51121 was one of the first Type 51s to be delivered and the first chassis number in a series of 40 cars.
Immediately set to task, number 51121 was campaigned in Great Britain and across Europe at race circuits including Brooklands, Donington, Nürburgring, Montlhéry, Monza and Reims, and at hill climbs including the Klausenrennen and Shelsley Walsh where it set fastest time of the day in 1932.
Most notably, it was entered by Howe four times in the Monaco Grand Prix, placing 4th in 1932, and running to the late stages in the 1933 event. Furthermore, the car was driven by Tazio Nuvolari, the Flying Mantuan, and fellow Italian Piero Taruffi at Brooklands in 1933.
Campaigned in the national color of British racing green with Howe’s distinctive blue and silver stripes along the side of the bodywork, the Grand Prix racer was also visually notable by its large fuel filler caps fitted from its earliest days. In addition to Nuvolari, Taruffi and Howe himself, the car was also piloted in period by The Hon. Brian Lewis and Clifton Penn-Hughes.
The successor to the legendary Type 35, the Bugatti Type 51 is famous in its own right but also has a fascinating link to American engineering by way of the Miller race cars. Ettore Bugatti was so impressed by Harry Miller’s twin-cam engines that he traded three of his own Type 43 cars for two Miller 91 cars. Bringing them back to his factory in Molsheim, Bugatti had them dismantled, learned of their technology, and then built his own version. Thus the Type 51 was born.
As ever with Bugatti, the aesthetics in every form compliment the power of this American-inspired, Franco-Italian supercharged 2.3-liter twin-cam race car. The result is a beauty capable of producing 160hp and a speed of 130mph.
Never publicly offered for sale, in the present ownership for more than 30 years, unseen publicly for more than 20 years, and with just two owners since the 1950s, this Bugatti will cross the auction block at the 2016 Bonhams Quail Lodge sale during Monterey Classic Car Week.