5,359cc inline eight-cylinder
Three-speed manual gearbox
Restored by Alpine Eagle to exacting standards
Unique surviving Bugatti by this coachbuilder
Welcome at all major Concours events
'(The Bugatti Type 46) ...combines the luxury of a large limousine, the perfect flexibility and top gear performance of a thoroughbred low carriage with the perfect roadholding, the speed and acceleration of the best type of sports model.' - 'The Motor', 1930.
By the early 1930s Ettore Bugatti had established an unrivalled reputation for building cars with outstanding performance on road or track. Indeed, the world's greatest racing drivers enjoyed countless successes aboard the Molsheim factory's products and often chose them for their everyday transport. Although Bugatti is best remembered for its racing models, most of the 6,000-or-so cars produced at the Molsheim factory were touring cars of sporting character.
Produced from 1929 to 1932, the Type 46 exemplified Bugatti's policy of building fast and exciting touring cars possessing excellent handling. The Type 46 was powered by a 5.4-litre, single-overhead-camshaft, straight-eight engine - effectively a short-stroke version of that found in the stately Type 41 Royale - while the axles, brakes and rear-mounted transmission were other Royale carry-overs, giving the model the name 'La Petite Royale'. Because of its lengthy run of success, Ettore Bugatti had remained committed to his single-cam engine as found in the Type 46, only adopting the more advanced double-overhead-camshaft method of valve actuation, after much prompting by his eldest son Jean, on the Type 50 of 1930. But of all the many and varied car designs that he produced, it is the elegant and handsomely proportioned Type 46 that the legendary artist/engineer is said to have favored most. Unlike the Royale, only six of which found customers, the Type 46 proved far more saleable, a total of 444 (plus 18 supercharged Type 46S) leaving the Molsheim factory by the time production ceased.
A civilized grande routière to match those of rivals Delage and Delahaye, the Type 46 attracted coachwork of the finest quality executed in a wide variety of styles, the faux cabriolet body carried by this example being the work of Veth & Zoon (Veth & Son). Established in 1840 in Arnhem, Holland, Veth & Son started off constructing horse-drawn carriages before diversifying into powered transport towards the end of the 19th Century. The company grew quickly and in 1914 was appointed the official coachbuilder to the Dutch Royal Family. Before WW2, bodies were fitted to chassis of quality marques such as Bugatti, Hotchkiss, Talbot Lago, Bentley and Packard. After the war, Veth & Son escaped the fate of many of their contemporaries by branching out into the manufacture of truck and van bodies. The company still exists building commercial and public service vehicles but has not bodied a car for over 60 years.
The well documented car offered here - chassis number '46293', fitted with its original engine number '157' - was the 18th of 35 Type 46 chassis produced in the Molsheim factory in April 1930. A Type 46 chassis had been ordered on April 4th, 1930 by a provincial Dutch Bugatti agent, H Stam of Soest, a town about 35 kilometres south-east of Amsterdam, for his client C D Klos, a mussel farmer from Ierseke on the Oosterschelde coast, around 120 kilometres south-west of Soest. Chassis number '46293' was allocated to this order, for which the agent was invoiced the sum of 64,980 French francs (approximately $2,550 at the then current rate of exchange). The chassis was duly delivered to him on 14th April 1930, promptly following its completion, and came fitted with the wire wheels characteristic of early Type 46s.
In 1928 Klos had decided to purchase a 3.0-litre Bugatti Type 44 via the Stam agency, which had ordered a chassis for him from the factory on 10th September. Chassis number '44637' duly arrived on 21st September and was forwarded to the long-established Belgian coachbuilders, D'Ieteren Frères of Brussels, who had been commissioned by Klos to build faux cabriolet coachwork to his personal requirements. However soon after taking delivery of the completed car he found it to be too small, hence his order some 18 months later for a Type 46 chassis. Klos was evidently pleased with the styling, if not the size, of the D'Ieteren coachwork on his Bugatti Type 44, so he commissioned Veth & Son of Arnhem to produce faux cabriolet coachwork of the same style upon his new Type 46 chassis, which they duly did.
'The Bugatti Book' by Eaglesfield and Hampton, published in 1954, contained the first register of Bugatti cars. Chassis number '46293' is listed as being still in the ownership of C D Klos, of Damstraat 23, Ierseke. However by 1962, the year Hugh Conway's more comprehensive 'Bugatti Register' was published, the car had passed to its second owner, F L Boele van Hensbroek, of Straatweg 170, Rotterdam. It was then registered with the Rotterdam number 'RD-58-82'; however, the Register entry was in error in stating that the car was first registered in 1928 and, more seriously, that its coachwork had been produced by D'Ieteren of Brussels as a replica of the earlier body they had built on his Type 44.
In 1973-75 Hugh Conway compiled an update to his 1962 Register which was published in installments in 'Bugantics', the quarterly journal of the Bugatti Owners' Club, with a single line entry per car. This update listed van Hensbroek as still owning '46293'. The only register published since in which the car appears was produced by the Dutch Bugatti Club. This register, which was published in 2005, also includes all Bugattis known to have at some time been in Belgium, a country which has never had its own national Bugatti dub. The entry for this car (copy on file) reveals that after van Hensbroek it was owned successively by four more Dutch owners respectively named Bouvy, L Stapel, Rust and de Bouter, and that it had later been registered with the number 'K-6588'.
After many years of Dutch ownership, the car would pass to an American, William 'Bill' Borchert Larsen of Wisconsin in 2004. Mr. Larsen had come to the collector car world later in his life and was beginning to enjoy the camaraderie and sheer fun that could be had on car events and tours. In 2000 he had intended to complete the 'Around the World' rally in a Silver Ghost, and while poor health precluded him making the start, his co-driver literally picked up a female spectator to serve as navigator on the start at Tower Bridge in London, a story which would garner considerable press interest at the time. As Larsen's interest in cars developed, he became fixated on owning a big Bugatti, and after a search for a number of months, his friends at Alpine Eagle restorations in the U.K. suggested the Veth & Zoon Type 46. Although needing work, it was a project that both they and he relished and a deal was made, the car remaining in Europe, rather than ever being brought to the U.S.
Sadly, mid-way through the rebuild, at the stage when literally every component was in pieces, Mr. Larsen died. Fortunately, a similarly minded enthusiast stepped into the breach and allowed Alpine Eagle to follow the project through to the finish. Taking a number of years and at a cost of more than $550,000, the car was finally completed in 2010. The concours-standard rebuild is photographically documented in an accompanying ring binder, also containing all relevant invoices, while in addition the car comes with a beautiful, leather-bound, 36-page presentation album of professional studio photographs. As can be seen from the photos on these pages, the result is simply stunning and from the moment that it debuted at the Bugatti Rally in 2010, it is a car that had generated considerable interest.
Bonhams was entrusted with the sale of the car at its landmark Grand Palais auction in 2011, at which point it passed to the current custodian, who although generally interested in post-war automobiles was totally enamored by its charms. Since his acquisition, the Bugatti has received some $10,000 of additional work as a typical post-restoration 'shake down', including brake and clutch adjustment, carburetor tuning and general refining principally to make it as road usable and reliable as possible. It has also had the correct detail of a spotlight re-fitted to the car, completing the authenticity of its presentation. Testament to the quality of its restoration, the car was entered in the Bugatti Owner's Club Concours at the famed Prescott Hill in 2011 and won the George Harris Challenge Cup for Best in Show. After two years of enjoying the car, he has decided to refocus his collection on 1960s/1970s sports cars returning the car to the market and providing a fabulous opportunity for collectors.
The supremely elegant car is bodied in the popular two-door Faux Cabriolet style of many original Type 46s and is finished entirely in black with contrasting beige mohair hood and nickel plated side moldings, emphasizing the design's long horizontal lines. The interior is upholstered in brown leather with a crocodile skin pattern, typical of the Art Deco period, which perfectly complements the original inlaid wood door cappings. At its tail, snuggly fitted between the kicked-up fenders is a trunk which not only balances the over design of the car, but also provides some welcome storage space. Presently, the latter is fitted with a number of period Bugatti tools and luggage.
A matching numbers car with an uncomplicated history, original coachwork and still fresh from an exacting restoration, the car surely offers a serious entry for Concours d'Elegance events across the country at the highest levels.