July 5, 2005 One of the global highlights of the automotive year is the Goodwood Festival of Speed – an event that draws the cream of the world’s auto and motorcycle racing machines and talent of yesteryear. And one of the highlights of Goodwood each year is Bonhams Festival of Speed auction where extremely rare and impeccably credentialed Grand prix machines change hands. This year the highest priced sale was a pre-war Grand Prix Bugatti which realised GBP 1.32 million (US$2.32 million). Other notable sales included a 1929 Bentley 4-litre Le Mans Sports for UKP3 97,500 and a 1911 Delage 3-litre Type X Two Seat Racer for UKP 331,500. Each of the cars has a unique story behind it, as have two very special Grand Prix winning Bugattis that will go under the hammer in September. The car pictured will sell in September - it is the winning car from the very first Monaco GP in 1929
The pre-war Grand Prix Bugatti that fetched GBP1.32 million had been tucked away from the public gaze in one private British ownership for no fewer than 55 years. This most charismatic of French post-vintage Grand Prix cars was bought by the current President of Bugatti France, Mr Thomas Bscher. The car had been preserved over five decades by its former mechanic, now in his 93rd year. It is one of no more than eight Type 59s built by the legendary artist-engineer Ettore Bugatti in his Molsheim factory in Alsace, France. Only five of them are known to survive. It was made famous in pre-war British racing by the wealthy amateur owner-driver C.E.C. 'Charlie' Martin, while post-war it was campaigned widely throughout Europe and the British Isles by wartime RAF pilot George Abecassis DFC. When asked if he did not think it risky racing the car on Continental circuits between such contemporary hazards as roadside telegraph poles, trees, ditches and stone walls - 'Gorgeous George' languidly replied "Good heavens no - for the first time in six years we weren't being shot at!"
UPGRADE TO NEW ATLAS PLUS
More than 1,500 New Atlas Plus subscribers directly support our journalism, and get access to our premium ad-free site and email newsletter. Join them for just US$19 a year.UPGRADE
Other highlights of the sale, which totalled more than GBP 4 million included:
- The ex-W.B. 'Bummer' Scott Team Car specification 1929 Bentley 4-litre Le Mans Sports Four Seater sold for GBP397,500.
Paul Bablot's 'La Coupe des Voitures Légères' winning 1911 Delage 3-litre Type X Two Seat Racer sold for GBP331,500.
A 2004 Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren Coupé sold for GBP205,000
The registration '1F' sold for GBP144,500, realising four times its pre-sale estimate. Bugatti interest was strong throughout the sale with a portrait of Roland Bugatti, aged 5, painted by Arturo Rietti, selling for GBP17,250 and a Type 57 engine, as originally fitted in a 1938 Galibier saloon, selling for GBP7,245.
The original Monaco GP winner
The first of the Bugattis scheduled for this year's Goodwood Revival Sale on 16 September is a 1928 Bugatti type 35B grand prix two seater with chassis no. 4914 and engine no.170T. The car is the original Bugatti which won the very first race on the streets of Monte Carlo – the first Monaco GP winner in 1929 driven by colourful British racing driver William Grover-Williams. It is widely accepted as being the most original and unspoiled Grand Prix Bugatti in existence.
The inaugural Monaco Grand Prix attracted 16 entries - eight of them Bugattis. A Works 35B which had already taken 2nd place in the San Sebastian Grand Prix the preceding July, car no '12', was hastily repainted British Racing Green by Bugatti in deference to its British pilot. The car was driven by 'Williams' – the legendary figure who became a secret agent in France during the Second World War, and was subsequently captured by the Gestapo, and executed.
The Monaco Grand Prix grid positions were selected by ballot and Williams started on the second row, his safety protection consisting merely of a cloth cap worn jauntily back to front. The 100-lap, 318km race was a testing one for both car and driver and only nine of the 16 entries finished. Williams took the chequered flag after a gruelling 3hrs and 56 minutes of hard racing, beating German ace Rudi Caracciola's 7.2-litre Mercedes-Benz SSK leviathan which finished third behind Bouriano in a Bugatti Type 35C. Chassis '4914' was campaigned for the next two years by French ace René Dreyfus before being sold into private ownership. It spent the war years in Ernest Friderich's Bugatti showrooms in Nice, and was then acquired by a wine merchant from the Var area who encountered financial difficulties around 1950. His property was seized and remained in store until it was auctioned four years later. The successful bidder was the-then youthful current owner, who bought it for 120 Francs!
Since that time, this 'Williams' Bugatti has been jealously preserved in completely original yet full working order. Repainted after its Monaco victory in Bugatti blue, traces of red and green paint are still visible underneath, testimony to this car's magnificent history. The substantial history file with the 'Williams' Bugatti includes a quantity of entertaining early 1960s letters from the notoriously acquisitive Schlumpf brothers attempting to persuade the owner to part with the car ("It would be much better in our museum than your garage" is a typical quote) in a campaign extending over several years, plus a record of the car's role as course opener for the 1965 Monaco Grand Prix, when it was driven by the Monegasque star driver (and contemporary Clerk of the Course) Louis Chiron.
This extraordinarily-preserved Bugatti is absolutely one of the motor racing world’s most important historical ‘documents’. Indeed for many students of the sport it is the most significant unspoiled Grand Prix-winning car in existence.
This winning car from the inaugural Monaco Grand Prix has been on display for the past decade in the late Prince Rainier's celebrated motor museum within the Principality.
This is the first time that this unique Grand Prix racing Bugatti – the 1929 Monaco Grand Prix-winning car - has ever left France.
Original period factory 1935 Bugatti Type 59/50B
Another of the stars at the Goodwood Revival Sale on 16 September will be this very original period factory 1935 Bugatti Type 59/50Bas driven by Robert Benoist in the Grand Prix de l’Acf at Montlhéry
This car’s chassis frame (Factory Frame No. 2) was purchased by the current vendor from the Bugatti factory no fewer than 37 years ago, and this historically highly significant Type 59/50B – which boasts some 90 per cent of its weight in original period factory parts – has been in his possession ever since. The engine is “Factory Engine No.8.”
In 1935 the Bugatti factory entered a dramatic development of their Type 59 Grand Prix car in the French event at Montlhéry. They fitted this Type 59 frame with their factory development engine from the Count Czaykowski Type 54 which in 1933 had raised the World Hour Record to 132.87mph at AVUS, Berlin. This 4.9-litre straight-8 cylinder engine was fitted with a lightened T50B crankshaft, Dural rods, an enlarged supercharger, camshaft tower drive with unique helical-cut gears, three model 48K carburettors, and a modified sump.
Its cowled radiator was moved forward to make space for the larger engine, and an ‘elephant ear’ oil cooler was scuttle-mounted ahead of the driver.
Early in the Grand Prix this new development car impressively disposed of the works Maseratis. On lap 4 its bonnet flew off and was caught by Benoist while he controlled the inevitable slide.
Back at the factory the engine was removed and the chassis was re-used for the single seater Type 59/50B known as Bugatti’s ‘Cork Car’.
The imposing machine before you here uses the original Bugatti Works frame ‘No. 2’, bought by the current owner from the Bugatti factory as long ago as 1968. Its engine is the ‘No. 8’ unit from the 1935 race. It has been cosmetically cleaned, but is believed not to have run since the late 1930s.
Both the ZF back axle and reinforced gearbox are stamped ‘No.4’. The majority of clutch components and the flywheel are original Bugatti parts. The De Ram shock-absorbers, radiator, steering box (‘No.2’) and arm, front axle, springs, brake drums and shoes, wheels, steering wheel, instruments, and the majority of other components even including the nuts, bolts and body screws used here are also ‘from-the-period’ Bugatti originals, while the aluminium panel work has all been painstakingly re-created to match the original factory form.View gallery - 5 images