The Jack Perkins 1925 Bugatti Type 35B Grand Prix Two-Seater Chassis no. BC31 Engine no. 70
'Among racing cars it is the 1924 Type 35 Bugatti which tops the list of beautiful cars of the (1920s) period. Some would say it's the most beautiful racing car of all time. Although it underwent detail changes through the years and the radiator was enlarged, its lines were virtually unchanged from its appearance in the Grand Prix of the Automobile Club of France in July 1924, through to its final, 51 version of 1931-32.' - Autocar. By the early 1930s Ettore Bugatti had established an unrivalled reputation for building cars with outstanding performance on road or track; the world's greatest racing drivers enjoying countless successes aboard the Molsheim factory's products and often choosing them for their everyday transport. The principal building block of this success was the legendary Type 35, arguably the quintessential Vintage-era sports car, which made its debut in August 1924 at the Grand Prix de l'ACF at Lyon-Givors. The Type 35's 1,991cc straight-eight engine was derived from that of the Type 30 but incorporated five roller/ball main bearings instead of three together with an improved lubrication system. In line with Bugatti's established practice, each cylinder's three valves were actuated by a single overhead camshaft. This state-of-the-art engine went into a conventional chassis with leaf springs at the front and quarter elliptics at the rear, and which boasted a novel hollow front axle and alloy wheels. The Type 35's debut gave little indication of what was to come, as the factory team of five cars was plagued by tyre troubles and could achieve no better than 7th place at the finish. Despite this debacle the Type 35 in its various forms would go on to become arguably the most successful racing car of all time, commencing with winning the inaugural World Championship for Manufacturers in 1926 and securing countless victories for privateers. If ever there was a name synonymous with Prescott, home of the Bugatti Owners' Club, it is that of aficionado Jack Perkins. As a past editor of 'Bugantics', a director of the Bugatti Owners' Club and chairman of the Competitions Committee, he knew one or two things about making a Bugatti go that little bit quicker than the competition. Jack was a highly successful businessman and managing director of John M Perkins & Smith Limited, drill manufacturers. As a mechanical engineer he took a keen interest in Bugattis, owning a Type 35B and a Type 35C. This 35B is exceptionally well known, having been at virtually every Bugatti Owners' Club hill climb at Prescott from the late 1950s to the late 1970s, often setting fastest time of the day and breaking course records. Jack Perkins discovered the Bugatti in 1950 at an aerodrome in Nottinghamshire where it was being driven around for fun by the ground staff! The bodywork, original engine and gearbox had been removed and the chassis fitted with a Vauxhall engine. Jack purchased the car from Duncan Reid for £60 and through various contacts obtained a correct Type 35 engine and supercharger, sourcing all the other items needed to restore the car directly from Bugatti at Molsheim. The engine is number '70', originally fitted to un-blown Type 35 chassis number '4748', which had been used extensively in period by O A 'Bunny' Phillips of California, USA. Phillips installed a 2.3-litre crankshaft, fitted a supercharger to convert the engine to Type 35B specification, and raced it extensively, most notably at the Indianapolis 500 and Vanderbilt Cup in 1936, and the American National Championship races in 1938. The chassis is an original item bearing frame number '141' stamped inside the rear channel-section cross-member, and is believed most probably to be number '4721' (see letter on file from Independent Bugatti Consultant, David Sewell). However, the chassis number has never been confirmed and consequently the frame currently carries the Bugatti Club number 'BC31'. In the early 1950s Jack Perkins set about building the fastest possible Type 35B, and together with his mechanic Eric Mason, an ex-speedway racer, utilised a Type 51 crankshaft and new cylinder blocks and pistons to build a methanol burning engine. To accommodate the single seater configuration, HWM rack-and-pinion steering was employed while Girling hydraulic brakes were fitted to improve the stopping power. Additional suspension damping was provided by Newton telescopic shock absorbers, and to harness the extra power, Perkins specified a Borg & Beck clutch, Hardy-Spicer propshaft and twin rear wheels for extra grip. The chassis was then fitted with a streamlined single-seater body fabricated in aluminium. Jack's Type 35B made its debut at Prescott on 9th May 1954, setting a best time of 52.15 seconds. Jack continued to campaign the Type 35C ('4863') he already owned alongside the Type 35B before concentrating his efforts exclusively on the latter from 1958, the 35C being sold. Years of further fettling, refining designs, lightening components and upping the supercharger boost resulted in the Type 35B's fastest time of 46.21 seconds being achieved at the May hill climb in 1981. Jack continued to campaign the single-seater until his last meeting in June 1988; by then 78 years old and in declining health, he decided to retire from the sport that had given him so much pleasure for so long. It was then decided that the Bugatti should be returned to its original two-seater Grand Prix specification, and historic racing specialist Rod Jolley was appointed to carry out the work, which was completed in the mid-1990s (bills on file). After a long battle with illness Jack sadly passed away in August 1992, shortly before the restoration was completed. Jack's widow Jean decided to put the Bugatti on display at the Haynes Motor Museum in Somerset, where it remained exhibited until December last year. The car's mechanical condition is not known and it will require re-commissioning, at the very least, before being returned to active service. Historically important Bugattis come onto the open market only rarely, and this example represents an exciting opportunity to acquire a Type 35 in the model's ultimate supercharged configuration, eligible for all categories of historic competition.