Barn discovery, single ownership since 1962 offered from the Estate of an Engineer
1938 Bugatti Type 57 Series 3 Ventoux Coupe
Chassis no. 57701
Engine no. 494
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. 57 production would fall into three clear series, this being an example of the last of the sequence, by which time the chassis had been improved with rubber engine mounts and hydraulic brakes among other refinements.
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, an example of which you see before you today. Like the chassis model, the coachwork was updated along the production run, and by the late 1930s, styling trends dictated that running boards had been deleted, headlights had been incorporated into the front fenders and the spare tire was recessed in the trunk lid. In this form it is arguably the purest line of the model.
This recent find in central Pennsylvania is the dream of any true collector. Quite literally the legend of the 'Bugatti in the Barn' the car has laid unused for more than three decades and comes to the market for the first time in nearly 50 years.
Bugatti historian David Sewell has confirmed to Bonhams that 57701 was invoiced by the Bugatti works to agent Sechaud of Geneva, for the sum of 82,224 French Francs. It was delivered there on September 22, 1938 and fitted from new with factory Ventoux coachwork, painted in dark blue with matched dark blue leather to its interior.
According to register notes by the early 1960s, the car had been imported to the U.S. from Karl Ivansson of Switzerland, and was now the property of E. Allen Henderson of Marlboro, NJ. At some time around this point, the car suffered from an engine bay fire which damaged the driver's side hood panel and blistered much of the paint on the front end of the car.
Nevertheless, it was particularly appealing to the late owner, who was a qualified and passionate electrical and mechanical engineer. He acquired the Bugatti in around 1964 from Marlboro Motors and set about returning it to the road. Accordingly, the paint was stripped from these items and the wiring loom which must have perished was renewed. It is known that when this work was complete, the car was made to run after an electrical fault was sleuthed and fixed and it was actually used for runs in 1966. However, the work was never finished, and so it lay unused from this time right through to today.
To judge from the condition of the car today, its leather trim must almost certainly be the original and save for some rodent damage to one seat base is intact, its paint is thought to have been redone at one point, but again this is also in a dark blue hue, and either matches the original or may just be original. Intriguingly, just over 22,000 kilometers are shown on the odometer, which given the succinct history and taken in the context of the generally unworn leather and pedal covers, may be an accurate reading from new. At the time of photography, many of the parts not fitted to the car were found in the same garage, including the original 'eye-brow' bumpers and unfitted Marchal side light, while inspection also confirmed that the car retains its original engine and this unit is confirmed as being 'free'.
Following in the truest Bonhams tradition of finding the rarest and most interesting historic automobiles, including a handful of significant Bugattis, in view of the generally original and unspoilt nature of this Ventoux, it may well represent a potential entry for preservation categories at concours level, or else a fine basis for restoration.
The Bugatti will be shown on the field at the Fairfield County Concours d'Elegance, prior to crossing the block, by kind permission of the event organizers.
- Bonhams is pleased to advise that the Type 57 has been made to run in preparation for the sale and runs well, it will still require proper re-commissioning prior to being driven.
Please note that this vehicle is titled with chassis # BUG5770138