European Sales Manager
The Monaco Sale 'Les Grandes Marques à Monaco' / 1927 Bugatti T35 B Chassis no. 4888 Engine no. 127 TC
Sold for €2,000,000
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European Sales Manager
International Chairman for Motoring
Head of Sale
The magnificent car we are privileged to offer here is an early Bugatti Type 35B. The 2.3-litre Type 35T engine, number '127', was modified at the factory on 15th April 1927 as a Type 35B unit with a supercharger added, "pistons 26mm, assembled like engine N° 114". It is one of the very early proper Type 35TC/B engines, the first one being '94TC/4814' for Kracht, then '113TC/4806', '114TC/4845', '120TC/4848' for Eyston, '126TC/4817' for Chiron, '131TC/4849' for Keiller and '132TC/4868' for Junek.
First owner Dr Johannes Last (1873-1942) was born in The Hague on 26th March 1873. His father was the artist Johannes Anthony Last (1837-1901), whose father Carel Christian Last (1808-1876) was a lithographer and intermediary draughtsman working in Amsterdam and The Hague. As far as we know, Dr Last always lived with his parents on Hugo de Grootstraat 75 in The Hague. He worked as a lawyer and prosecutor, as recorded in his death certificate dated 6th January 1942. He never married and bought his first Bugatti Type 35, chassis '4490/39', in May 1925. His personal mechanic was J F Branse.
Dr Last's second racing Bugatti, the Type 35B chassis '4888' was delivered by road from Molsheim to La Haye, with temporary plates '1641 WW 5' issued between 14th and 19th May 1927. A little later it was sent again from Molsheim to the border at Kehl, probably after a mechanical service, with temporary plates '1765 WW 5' issued between 9th and 14th July 1927. Dr Last kept the Bugatti for four years and sold it back to the factory when he bought the ex-Prince Leopold Type 43A roadster, chassis '43306', in 1931.
A fascinating note from the factory 'used cars' book reads: "4888 (4797) Dr Last sold to M Anguenot for 13.000 fr when bought 43306 for 50.000fr." As the Type 49 cars sold new on the same page are chassis '49300'-'49302' and '49308', all delivered around July 1931, we may deduce the second delivery of '4888' to Anguenot is in that same period. That note indicates that the car was supposed to get chassis number '4797', described as 'not delivered' in factory records. The frame number of '4888' is very near to that of chassis '4796', delivered in Germany and preserved in a collection.
Dr Last had ordered chassis '4797' on 10th November 1926 and got a bill for 125.000.ff, paid in January 1927. However, in April 1927 the car was delivered in supercharged configuration with a new chassis number, '4888'. There is no mention of an invoice for '4888' in April 1927 as it had already been paid as '4797' in January. Chassis '4817' was likewise ordered on 10th November 1926 for 100.000ff (not paid) and delivered as a 35B, no longer 35T, to Hoffmann for Chiron. 135.000ff were paid, which is more consistent for a blown car.
Next owner Maurice Marcellin Anguenot was born on 31st January 1907 in the village of Villers le Lac where his grandfather Ulysse Anguenot (1849-1937) whose watch-making company, Fabrique d'Horlogerie Anguenot Frêres, built its first factory that very same year. Marius Anguenot (1876-1938) built a new factory in 1924-1925, and after his death his widow and Maurice ran the company, which was consisted of six different watch factories. Maurice's father Marius had bought a new Type 44 in November 1929 and would keep it until December 1935. Maurice Anguenot probably sold the Type 35B when he bought second-hand in October 1935 an amazing Bugatti Type 46S with a Million-Guiet aluminium body. Just before the war, in 1939, M Anguenot had bought another second-hand Bugatti, Ventoux chassis '57372', from the Charbonnier family in Jura.
We know the 35B was then taken back by the factory. It received a new sump numbered '202B' from one of the two Type 51 prototype engines assembled on 19th September 1930, the other being '201B'. Engine '201B' had 41mm high pistons and crankshaft number '161'. Engine '202B' had 37mm high pistons (the crankshaft number is not recorded). Crankcase '202B' ended up in '4888' in 1938 before the car was sold to its next owner, Henri Meurdra (1910-1997). The Type 35B is listed in the cars delivered in February 1938: "23. February 1938 – 4888 - Voit. Course MEURDRA (ex Last). 5,000ff." This shows that they remembered that the car had been owned by Last. The price of 5,000ff is nothing compared to the 125,000ff paid by Last ten years previously! The Bugatti was registered - as new - on 19th March 1938 with the plate '630 NV 4' in the name of Henri Meurdra, 5b rue Prechter in Strasbourg.
Henri Meurdra was born in Saint Quentin on 21st January 1910. Having lost his mother from pneumonia in 1917, as an only child, he was educated in Paris by his grandfather, Mr S Gomez- Vaez from the Bordeaux and Bayonne area. Gomez-Vaez ran its Spanish operations for the perfume manufacturing company Houbigant, whose factory was in Neuilly-sur-Seine and main shop at 19 Faubourg Saint Honoré in Paris. Henri Meurdra was a dedicated Bugatti enthusiast, owning 11 between 1931 and 1955. He graduated as an engineer in 'Arts et Metiers' in Paris around 1930 but never had to work as his grandfather died and he inherited enough money to buy an hotel in Strasbourg. He ran the hotel until 1973.
Henri's first Bugatti was a Type 30 bought in June 1931 and kept for one year. In January 1934 he bought a Type 35A which he sold in July 1935. Then he owned a Type 44 early in 1937 before buying '4888' in March 1938. That very same year on Christmas Day he bought a lovely Stelvio. Between 1949 and 1955 he bought a Type 49 and then four closed Type 57s! When Henri Meurdra met his wife around 1957 he had already sold his last Bugatti. The Meudras sold the Strasbourg hotel in 1973. Henri died in Valence on 23rd March 1997. Family members recall Henri telling his children that his 35B was capable of 185km/h on the narrow Alsatian roads.
Meudra, who acted occasionally as a Bugatti dealer, had sold the Type 35B in 1938 to Jack Lemon-Burton (1911-1994), who imported it into the UK. Regularly advertising Bugattis for sale in Speed magazine, JL-B rented garage premises at 17 Cavendish Road, Brondesbury, London NW6. In Speed's August 1938 edition, JL-B advertised a Type 35B for sale: "BUGATTI 2.3 single cam Grand Prix racing car. Issued from the Bugatti works June 1938. An absolute perfect specimen capable of 135 mph. Would make an ideal sprint machine, or road-racing car. £265." Knowing '4888' was registered 'as new' by Meurdra in March 1938, there seems little doubt that it is the same car. As the Bugatti still appears in JL-B's advertising in April 1939, and was not registered in the UK until 9th April 1941 (as 'LMF 961'), it is possible that it did not find a UK customer prior to that date.
Next owner Louis Giron raced '4888' in the first post-war trial: the VSCC Marlow Trial of 3rd February 1946. He was officially accepted as a Bugatti Owners' Club member on 24th May 1946. The March 1946 issue of Motor Sport magazine comments: "Giron's Grand Prix Bugatti would have made it but the gears jumped out, after which he restarted unaided." In May 1946 Giron crashed the ex-TASO Maserati at Prescott.
Louis Giron had served his apprenticeship with Bugatti at Molsheim and it is known that he helped to build the 1924 Type 35. He came to England in 1930 and worked on cars, mainly Bugatti in and around Brooklands. After the war he went into partnership with Rodney Clarke and Leonard Potter in Continental Cars, which was first based (in 1944) at Central Garage in Chobham near Woking, Surrey. In the September 1946 issue of Motor Sport it states that the garage owners "are fortunate in having the services of Louis Giron who used to be with Bugatti at Molsheim". The 1947 BOC members' list records L Giron at 'The Garage, Gregories Road, Beaconsfield, Bucks'. In 1949 his address is recorded as 'White Hart Hotel in Chobham, nearby Continental Cars Garage'! No traces have been found of '4888' in the 1947-1948 period, though the name of 'Grane' or 'Crane' is found in the car's history after Giron's ownership.
The Type 35B was next owned by John Forge, who recalled his post-war Bugatti days in the July 1986 issue of The Automobile magazine: "In 1949 I bought a Type 35B Bugatti from a firm, then known as Chipstead Motors in the Fulham Road. (NDLA: at Onslow Garage, 197 Fulham Road, Kensington, SW3.) It was euphemistically described as road equipped which meant that two headlamps were mounted either side of the radiator and although bulbs were included, there was no support system by way of dynamo or battery; there were also four light mudguards; this car was my introduction to Bugattis and I drove it on the road for a great many miles. On every occasion it was the most exciting and exhilarating experience. At this time I was farming in Kent and I had a girlfriend who lived in London; the car would idle through the tedious journey from Westminster Bridge to Blackheath with only very occasional stops - when I stalled the engine and had to recruit a passenger to give a pull on the starting handle. But when the A 20 was reached it would slip quickly into its stride and although the only indication of speed was the belt driven revolution counter which always started to slip about 2,000rpm, it was very fast indeed. After about a year I swapped this gorgeous car for a 1750 supercharged Alfa Romeo."
An advertisement in the September 1949 issue of Bugantics for a Type 35B, placed by Hugh Elwell from Portsmouth, may be a reference to'4888', as the car is supposed to have been bought by Forge through Chipstead Motors. However, J B Forge joined the BOC in 1949 and his address was Little Coombe, Hastingleigh, Ashford, Kent.
The car's history after Forge's ownership was partially recorded in the 1954 Bugatti Book published by Barry Eaglesfied and C W P Hampton: "Chassis 4888/202B, registered LMF 961 from 9th April 1941. Owned by Steve Gumble, Hillside Road, Sudbury, Suffolk. Car originally white and autographed by famous Continental drivers, now blue. Comments says: Ex Louis Giron, Grane. Subject of article by G H Deason in Model Cars. Imported by Jack Lemon-Burton from France in 1938. Believed to have been used as Brooklands outer circuit car."
Thanks to historian Leigh Trevail from the Eastern Counties Motor Club (ECMC) and collector T J Cardy, we were able to determine that the car raced at an ECMC meeting in Fersfield, Norfolk on 17th June 1951, driven by G R I Boulton from Lynford Lodge near Thetford. He had race number '40' in Event 4 (five laps for cars over 2,500cc). One picture shows him spinning on the circuit, which is probably why he is not listed in the results. The following year, the car was entered in the Snetterton Airfield ECMC meeting on Saturday 26th April 1952. It is in the list of entries as a 2300cc supercharged Bugatti in the name of G R I Boulton but driven by S Gumble. The photograph of the car on the starting line clearly shows the race number '22' and registration 'LMF 961'. The event programme, various photographs and other interesting documentation relating to the car's provenance, including copies of factory records, may be found within the very comprehensive history file (close inspection advised).
Steve Gumble lived at 39 Hillside Road in Sudbury, Suffolk. We may suppose Gumble bought the 35B from Boulton not long after, as in the ECMC race meeting at Snetterton on Saturday 25th April 1953, the Bugatti with race number '16' is listed as owned by S Gumble. The Bugatti raced in the combined five-lap scratch race for cars over 2,500cc and in the five-lap handicap race for cars over 1,500cc. Gumble also raced a Type 38A torpedo, chassis '38471', in another class.
The car then appears for sale in the August 1956 issue of Motor Sport, offered by a firm called Chiltern Motors at 11b Water Lane, Leighton Buzzard, Bedfordshire. The Bugatti is described as "35B Grand Prix Bugatti supercharged 2.3 Litre 2 seater. Ex Louis Giron. One of four still left in original condition in this country. Capable of approximately 120 mph. In road trim with traditional Bugatti road-holding. Fitted with four almost new racing Dunlops and in excellent order throughout. £295."
Mrs Mary Suzanne Moore of 25 Cold Harbour Lane, Haynes, Middlesex bought the car in the summer of 1956, probably from the advertisement, and stored the car at her home until December 1957 when Kenneth Neve (1911-1996) answered her advertisement offering it for sale. Born in Sevenoaks in 1911, Kenneth Neve went to Tonbridge School and left in 1930 to serve an engineering apprenticeship with Vickers Armstrong Ltd, but decided against pursuing a career as an engineer. He joined asbestos manufacturer Turner & Newall with whom he stayed until he retired, having risen to become a director of the company. He was president of the VSCC from 1960 to 1963.
In his memoir, A Bit Behind the Times, published in 1988, Neve recalls his Bugatti days. On his way to purchase, through Louis Giron, the Multi-Union P3 Alfa Romeo owned by Chris Staniland, Neve and his friend Bill Little had lunch on their way while awaiting a phone call. "Over lunch Bill pulled from his pocket a page from one of the motoring magazines. 'What about this?' he asked. 'This' was an advertisement offering a racing Bugatti for sale - no age, no type, no condition, no price but the address was in Southall and easily reached by railway. 'If there is no answer from Mr Giron when we ring in ten minutes time, Bill, we take a train to Southall.' An hour later we were in that not very salubrious suburb, knocking upon a door of a semi-detached residence just the same as a hundred others in a long road. I knew little about the marque Bugatti but Bill was a mine of information. The lady who answered the door of the undistinguished house in Southall said yes there was a Bugatti for sale. Some time ago she had given it to her brother as a present. He had taken it to pieces to make it go faster but seemed to have lost interest. Now it was spread all over their garage and her husband could not get his car in. She had warned her brother and now she was selling it and good riddance, she was not, as you will have gathered, a sagacious sales lady.
"A look into the garage made it plain that her brother was not a practical mechanic. We shoved the bare chassis, mercifully still on its wheels, outside and let some light into the shed. There was enough recognisable bits of Bugatti to enable Bill to say that the car was a Type 35B. Nothing vital was missing. Eventually we gathered up the last 8mm nut, leaving behind nothing but the oil impregnated concrete and room for the lady's husband's car. I had paid a very, very soothing price for the Bugatti but as a bonus the vendeuse got a shed swept and garnished as never before."
The description of the car in the 1962 Bugatti Register by H G Conway states: "Bought by Neve in December 1956 from Moore of Hayes, Middlesex. Car then in dreadful condition. During 1957 car completely rebuilt: every bearing in engine, blower, gearbox, etc replaced. Road equipment removed and restored to racing order.15x54 axle replaced. Wire wheels."
Kenneth Neve again: "The car had been painted white at one time. I started slowly with my mechanic Reg Taylor, to build the bits into a reliable and original car. Came the day when that truck load of sweepings from Southall became a breathing, rasping Bugatti again. If the Bugatti was not outstandingly fast, it was completely reliable. It went to most of the VSCC events and to local sprints and hill climbs, places like Summer's Drive, Chester, Southport, Loton Park, Rhydymwyn and Barbon." Neve occasionally drove the car at Prescott and there are photographs of him in the 1960-1962 issues of Bugantics.
In 1969 the Type 35B was purchased by the late Anthony William Rippon (1933-2021). His son Allan has written the following biography for us: "Anthony Rippon, or Tony as he was known, was by profession a lawyer who worked in industry for various listed companies. By inclination, however he was a lover of all things French and most of all of fine French food and wine and Bugattis. He acquired his first of five Bugattis, a Brescia, at the age of 21 and retained it throughout his life; his two sons still drive it. His second of three Grand Prix Bugattis, '4888', was acquired in 1969 and driven on continental rallies and raced regularly by him and his friends during his seven years of ownership. '4888' was painted yellow by him in honour of and with the consent of Madame Junek, who came to the UK from behind the Iron Curtain in the year he acquired the car. Only the need to pay school fees was enough to force his sale of '4888' in 1976. His ownership of '4888' coincided with the 50th anniversary of the Grand Prix Bugatti's debut at Lyon, which was celebrated with an international Bugatti rally. '4888' drove to and from the event on the open road. Amongst various roles, Tony Rippon was editor of Bugantics, Chairman and President of the Bugatti Owners' Club. After a lifetime spent driving all sorts of historic cars, he always believed that a 35B such as '4888' represented the best experience that motoring had to offer."
Tony Rippon recalled the purchase of his Type 35B in Bugantics Vol 55 N°3 in 1992, and later in his book Sixty Shades of Blue, published in 2017: "The year 1969 was a remarkable one for me, perhaps the apogee of my motoring life. As the summer approached I was tipped off by Bernard Kain that Kenneth Neve's 35B might coming up for sale. 'It's a very good one, particularly the engine', he said. Later on, Bernard called with the news that the car was definitely on the market and I phoned Kenneth straight away. He seemed pleased to hear from me, explaining that a deal was imminent but that he would, rather flatteringly, like to sell it to me if I could exceed a certain price. So it was back to father! I certainly didn't have the sort of funds needed myself, nor even the collateral to borrow them. By now, I must say that Dad was aware that Bugatti prices were rising and that I seemed to know what I was talking about. All the same, it was a lot of money (£5,300) and he wanted to think about it. In the nick of time he rang me back and I was on the phone to Kenneth to close the deal. Rivers sold me his trailer, I put a ball hitch on the back of my company Rover 2000 and off we went to Kenneth's house at Stretton in Cheshire to collect her."
Allan Rippon remember his father's Bugatti: "It is apparent that the car was fully rebuilt by my father and his two friends Rob James and Harold Tibbs shortly after it was acquired in 1969. The rebuild included a full strip of the roller-bearing crankshaft. Apart from various VSCC races including winning a Boulogne Trophy race at Silverstone in the early 1970s, the car went on rallies to Aubusson in 1969, Cognac in 1972 and Lyon in 1974, in each case being driven on the open road to and from the event. At Lyon the car was fastest in practice at Limonest but spun during the timed ascent due to my father's shoe coming off. At Cognac he came second to Bernard Kain and at Aubusson Tony Hutchings drove the car and beat everyone else including Mas du Clos' owner. It was the only race for which no prize was awarded!
"It would seem from the photos that my brother and I were quite keen on the car, which provided our first taste of Grand Prix Bugattis. As far as I am aware, no material mechanical changes were made to the car during the course of my father's ownership other than the change from wire to aluminium wheels and the re-coring of the radiator by Serck Engineering as a leaving present when my father gave up his post there as Company Secretary."
The last race in Tony Rippon's hands was the Limonest hill climb during the 1974 Lyon Rallye after holidays in Ardeche: "I can honestly say it was the most enjoyable holiday I have ever had, despite crashing the 35B (slightly) when my shoe came off in the hill climb at Limonest. I was later consoled somewhat to be told that my practice climb was actually the fastest of all that day.
"The following January I had a letter from someone in Belgium who has seen the car at Limonest and wanted to buy it. He was offering an absolutely enormous price for the time and I was in dire need of the wherewithal to pay school fees. I somehow felt that, in any case, an era had come to an end."
Its proud owner since 1975, Baron d'Huart, a true Bugatti enthusiast and gentleman racing driver, has owned '4888' for the last nearly half-century. The Type 35B was stabled next to other selected cars in the orangery of his family's castle in the Belgian Ardennes. The Baron raced the car in the 1990s in various events including Montlhéry and had it on display for a while at the Musée de Stavelot.
Bonhams was able to inspect the Bugatti at the owner's house on Monday 21st March 2022. Although the car had not raced for some 20 years, it started and ran perfectly when we came to see it. Close examination of the Bugatti Blue body revealed original coachwork with some reinforcement in the tail. The bonnet is of the very early blown model, with the blower aperture on top of the upper louvres. The rear left arm of the lower engine sump is stamped '202 B' and '4888'. The two aluminium dashboard panels are originals. The chassis plate is missing on the aluminium panel on the engine side, but the four holes are still visible (a replica chassis plate from 1975 and sent to the owner by Hugh Conway at the time with accompanying handwritten note come with the car). The magneto is a Scintilla MN8 unit. The large Jaeger white-faced rev counter goes up to 6,000 revs.
Since the 1954 Bugatti Register's publication, the car has been described as '4888/202B'. It may have been confused with the Type 35B chassis '4944' with original engine '202' but there is no connection at all between the two cars.
The blower drive casing and the front face of the cam box are both stamped '127', which is the correct engine number. The blower is marked '36', which is consistent with a very early blown 2,300cc Bugatti. The steering box is marked with assembly number '5' on its two parts, while the gearbox cover and casing are both stamped '274'. The rear axle number is not visible as reinforcement is fixed to the top, but the torque arm shows number '230'. The frame number is perfectly readable and '492' is stamped upside down on the middle of the rear cross member, near the maker stamping and the cross member's assembly number. The front axle is original but not numbered, as very few are. The front shock absorbers are Hartford. The frame is original in all respects and shows the early front brake cable actuation: rearwards for the smaller brakes, forwards for the larger drums.
In conclusion: we were most fortunate to be able to inspect such an original and rare model. By chance, the car's three first pre-war owners were not professional racing drivers so it had not been destroyed by intensive use before it came to the UK in 1938. The Bugatti factory only made around 45 Type 35Bs, the first being '4814'/engine '94T' for Herman Kracht in time for Klausen in August 1926 and the last one being '4963'/engine '214T' in the autumn of 1930. With most of the remaining original Type 35Bs in museums or prominent private collections, '4888' represents a unique opportunity to own one of the best examples of this iconic Grand Prix Bugatti.
Bonhams would like to thank Pierre-Yves Laugier for his invaluable assistance with the inspection and in the preparation of this description.
Please note that the four original wire wheels, starter motor and several period spares are included in this lot.