1934 Bugatti Type 57 Stelvio Drophead Coupe
Coachwork by Stelvio
Chassis no. 57202
Engine no. 47
Mention the word 'Bugatti' in almost any conversation and even to the least informed person and ideas of craftsmanship and beauty immediately spring to mind, to some it may the mean furniture of Carlo Bugatti, to others the exquisite stylized bronzes of tigers and elephants of Rembrandt Bugatti, while to most it will unquestionably be the automobiles of Ettore and Jean Bugatti. For three decades father and son marketed their own breed of equally individual designs on the race circuits and roads of Europe. Rarely for an automobile company they excelled with both, their Grand Prix cars took literally thousands of awards through the Twenties and Thirties, while their successful single cam and twin cam eight cylinder road cars provided the classiest chassis for coachbuilders to practice their art upon. It is little wonder that the legend that they created has continued to be emulated to this day and that the qualities they prized live on in the latest revival of the brand with the 1,000hp Veyrons we have seen in recent years.
The 57 was just one such car, which formed the mainstay of the company's production through the 1930s and took various forms from elegant transportation for the wealthy to the Le Mans winning 'Tank' sports racer which Jean would sadly die in while testing the car on closed roads in 1937. By this era it was the fashion for the companies themselves to offer 'factory' designed bodywork and it would be here that Jean would have his greatest influence for it was he who penned many of the uniquely Bugatti coachwork styles. Some took their names from the mountain passes of the Alpes, where Bugattis had historically proven very successful in competition, Ettore himself racing a 5 litre chain drive car at Ventoux in 1912. That name was given to a four passenger aerodynamic coupe, while the carefully adapted open touring version was denoted the Stelvio. To many the early Stelvio as evidenced here represents the purest of the generations of 57s those distinctive Jean Bugatti lines, which are so different from anything else of their peer group.
The car we offer has been restored to be the archetypal image of the breed, presenting in the two tone livery so favored in period of black with different colored side scallop panels, in this case those being in pale yellow. In essence, the car looks as if it were lifted straight from the sales catalog of 1934, its condition too is that of a virtually new car.
One of the blessings of the touring Bugattis as compared with their Grand Prix counterparts is how uncomplicated and chartable their histories have proven to be, particularly aided through the tireless research work of a handful of enthusiasts such as David Sewell in the UK and Pierre Yves Laugier in France. It is understood that the latter can be thanked for the comprehensive chain of ownership that is known of this car which begins in 1934 when it was purchased from the Lyon Bugatti Agency by George Dame a maker of custom hunting rifles based in the Loure Valley region of France.
The car remained in the Lyon area passing into its second ownership in 1937, though it is thought that this gentleman whose name is not recorded was killed during the hostilities that followed two years later.
In 1946 it is known that the Bugatti was purchased by a Mr. Collage still in France. Collage kept the car until 1952 and it was during his custodianship that it received its only known modification, being the then fashionable 'filling in' of the car's front fenders - an act which was frequently done to make pre-war cars resemble their post-war counterparts more closely and also for the practical reason of avoiding mud being splattered on the side of the car.
Between 1952 and 1958 the car lived in Paris with its fourth owner Mrs. Combes, until it passed to a Henri Grodm'ery. Up until this time it had naturally been used for transport rather than as a collectible item, and it remained so until the start of the 1970s when Mr. Maurice Markus purchased it and in turn sold it to modern Peugeot agent and collector Henri Bas Lande. During M. Bas Lande's ownership in the late Seventies he commissioned the car's first proper restoration which entrusted to the hands of a man named Mortelli of Nice. It was later completed re-restored in Italy in the mid-1990s to the fine condition in which it is today, with new paint, new interior, new top, engine and mechanics rebuilt.
The Bugatti arrived in America shortly after its Italian restoration having been purchased by two American brothers, when one was sadly killed the other sold the car and it passed quickly through Cosmopolitan Motors of Seattle to Barrett-Jackson's 2000 Scottsdale auction where the current Canadian based owner acquired the car.
In the current hands, the Bugatti has been appreciated, admired and maintained, but rarely used, in fact it is believed that the mileage since its restoration in the mid 1990s is still in the mid-100s! The result of this is that the car still has the feel of a fresh restoration and could quite literally be campaigned at concours level as it stands. As with any virtually unused rebuild, Bonhams would probably recommend it be serviced properly before used for the tours and road events which it would similarly lend itself well to.
A year ago, Bonhams brought a similar car to the Greenwich auction, which had emerged near derelict from its long term home in the mid-west, this could not contrast more being at the opposite end of the scale in beautifully presented order - as such can be highly recommended.