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Lot 1528
The ex-Charles Olivero Geneva Motorshow
Sold for US$ 1,930,000 inc. premium

Lot Details
The ex-Charles Olivero Geneva Motorshow
1939 Bugatti Type 57C Cabriolet by Gangloff
Chassis no. 57749
Engine no. 64C
Introduced at the Paris Motor Show in October 1933, the 3.3-liter Type 57 touring model was destined to form the basis of all future output from the Molsheim factory until war intervened and brought production to an end in September 1939. Almost everything about it was new, contributing to a significantly more refined motor car than all earlier models of the marque. Its chassis frame had a longer wheelbase and a wider track than the preceding Type 49 but retained traditional Bugatti suspension comprising semi-elliptic front springs passing through a circular section front axel and the characteristic reversed quarter-elliptic rear springs.

Although its engine had the same basic dimensions as that of its predecessor it shared no componentry, being a far more modern design in all respects. Its twin overhead camshafts, driven by a train of gears from the rear of its five main bearing crankshaft, actuated pairs of inclined valves in hemispherical combustion chambers within the fixed head cylinder block to generate 135 bhp. And for the first time on a Bugattti the engine and gearbox comprised a single unit with the clutch contained within a conventional bell-housing. Only its rear axle centre casing and differential were carried over from earlier models, while Bugatti's fully compensated cable braking system was retained but operated larger brakes than formerly.

From the outset the factory offered three standard coachwork styles, the four-door Galibier saloon, the two-door Venloux fixed head coupe' and the Stelvio cabriolet, while chassis were also supplied to outside coachbuilders to allow clients to specify their own choice of coachwork. In total about 670 examples of the Type 57 Bugatti had been produced by September 1939 with chassis numbers falling in the range 57101 to 57842 which included 43 of the more expensive Type 57S sporting variant.

Although remaining conceptually unchanged the basic model was nevertheless produced in three distinct series distinguishable from one another by a range of additional refinements to their detailed specification. The Series 2 model was introduced at the Paris Motor Show in October 1935 and featured a slightly modified engine flexibly mounted in a new cross-braced chassis frame, a strengthened rear axle and de Ram shock absorbers. At the same time the range was extended by the introduction of the supercharged Type 57C model. The mechanically actuated brakes of the earlier models were replaced on the Series 3 announced in the summer of 1938 by a Bugatti-Lockheed design of hydraulic system, and equally state of the art Allinquant telescopic shock absorbers were added to yield far and away the most refined version of the model, particularly when in supercharged Type 57C format.

On the 15th of September, 1938 Gaston Descollas, the Bugatti agent for Marseilles in the south of France, placed an order with the factory for a Type 57C chassis for his customer Charles Olivero, a wealthy Marseilles jeweler who wished to replace his two-year-old Type 57 Atalante, Chassis No. 57432. The original order was for a special cabriolet but this was later cancelled. The car allocated to this order was Chassis No. 57749 fitted with engine no. 64C, the first of five Type 57C chassis listed in the October 1938 factory production records. It was noted as having been invoiced in chassis form for a price of 69,300 French francs and delivered to Descollas on the 14th of November 1938. However, this date was later deleted and changed to the 13th of February 1939, doubtless the date when the completed car with its cabriolet coachwork was re-delivered to Marseilles.

On the 9th of November 1938, shortly before the chassis was delivered, Descolas had written to the Parisian coachbuilders Figoni & Falashi advising that he had bought a Type 57C chassis at the Paris Motor Show for his client Charles Olivero who had admired the coachwork fitted to a 12-cylinder Delahaye which they had displayed on their stand at the same show. He had therefore visited the Figoni stand himself to seek further information and the price of a similar open two-seater body. The coachbuilders replied by letter dated 17th of November 1938 quoting a price of 85,000 French francs less commissions - a figure even higher than that of the cost of the Type 57C chassis itself!

Olivero rejected this quotation, deciding instead to commission the coachbuilders Gangloff of Colmar to design and construct the coachwork for his new car in the style of the Figoni-bodied Delahaye show car. Writing exactly 50 years later, Charles Olivero recalled visiting Colmar in January 1939 in his Type 57 Atalante to inspect its progress and take a selection of photographs of the bodywork under construction.

On the 11th of February 1939 the completed car was registered for road use in the name of Charles Olivero of 22 rue Petit St. Jean, Marseilles. It was allocated the number 2086 CB1 by the Bouche-du-Rhne registration authorities, this region covering the mouth of the river Rhne including the city of Marseilles. Next, in March of 1939, the car was displayed at the Geneva Motor Show at the instigation of the Swiss Bugatti agent Sechaund before Olivero himself exhibited it in a number of the Concours d'Elegance which were so popular on the French Riviera. Sadly he did not have long to enjoy his new motor car as only six months later France was plunged into a war which was to last for six years, during which time the car was hidden in Marseilles. In February 1947 Olivero moved house in Marseilles to the same address from which in 1989 he was to recall visiting Gangloff in 1939 to see the coachwork of his car being built. Then, needing a larger car to accommodate a growing family, Olivero sold the car on the 18th of February 1948 to the Compagnie Gnrales de Lgumes Secs (General Company of Dried Vegetables) of 3 & 5, rue Jobin, Marseilles, no doubt for the use of one of its directors. The following year the car appeared again at the Geneva Motor Show before its ownership passed on the 13th of June 1949 to Gaby Zaraya of 90, rue Canebire, Marseilles, the brother of the manager of the Marseilles football club, the owner of a large vegetable shop in Marseilles and presumably the director in question of the company in whose name the car was previously registered. Zagar repainted the car white and, like Olivero before the war, entered it for a number of Concours in the South of France. Then five years later, on the 6th of October 1954, the car was acquired by a new owner of unknown name domiciled in the Seine-et-Marne region to the east of Paris, where it was allocated the registration number 473 CJ 77. During this period of ownership the car's hood was extended forwards of the front axle and its coachwork was repainted black. Between about 1954 and 1961 the well-known Belgian Bugatti dealer Jean de Dobbeleer of Brussels bought and sold more than 150 Bugattis including over 50 of the Type 57 model, all but a handful coming to the USA via his American agent Gene Cesari, and in 1960 this particular car became one such example. De Boddeleer's records confusingly described Chassis No. 57749 as a Type 57C Aravia (a Letourneur & Marchand designation) with a Saoutchik (sic) body purchased in France and sold through Cesari.

The first American owner of the car later in 1960 was George Huguely of Washington D.C. in whose name it was listed in Hugh Conway's 1962 Bugatti Register when its coachwork was erroneously described as being a two-seater Convertible Coup by Saoutchik based on the information supplied by de Dobbeleer. In about 1970 ownership of the car passed to Robert Morgan of New Jersey but by 1988, the publication date of the first American Bugatti Club Register, compiled by Andr Rheault, Morgan had disposed of it but its present whereabouts were unknown to the club.

In April 1988 the car was sold at auction in Geneva where it was purchased by F. Traber of Switzerland, remaining in his ownership until it returned to the USA. The present owner acquired the car from Joe Murphy of Pennsylvania who in 1996 had obtained it from the Blackhawk Collection who in turn had evidently purchased it from one Harry Resnick, following a lengthy and meticulous restoration during which its extended hood was returned exactly to its original configuration the car, now painted in a more appropriate color scheme and still fitted with all its original component parts, was displayed at the 2003 Pebble Beach Concours where after a lapse of over sixty years it once again became a star Concours attraction, a role in which it had distinguished itself when new in the south of France.

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