Head of Department, Bonhams Collector Cars Europe
Sold for €862,500 inc. premium
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Head of Department, Bonhams Collector Cars Europe
International Chairman for Motoring
Head of Sale, Belgium
Head of Sale, Switzerland
The Type 37 engine number '287' was assembled at the factory in June 1929 together with the very last Type 37 un-supercharged engines made, numbers '286' to '290'. All those engines are marked 'vilebrequin trempé', indicating they had special treatment for the crankshaft. If we assume the car was assembled just after its engine had been got running, we may suppose it was kept one year by the factory before being sold. The sales records of the last Type 37s made, from chassis '37379' to chassis '37387', clearly show that most of the cars were sold one or two years after their engines were made, with many cars not sold until 1931. It is possible that the engines were waiting for their chassis for some months.
The invoice for the car appears in the factory archives: '18/6 - 3738. A Mathon. Tourcoing 38.625 ff. paid August 1930.' The price asked would indicate the car is not really new, but by June 1930 it was possibly difficult to sell a Type 37 at full price. Mr Mathon may also have enjoyed special prices as in the same period he sold around 15 Type 46 chassis and was able to get the best discount possible. The Bugatti delivery book indicates: '37385/287. Mathon 17th June 1930.' Also: 'on 18th June 1930, car chassis 37385/engine 287 left Molsheim by road for Mr Mathon.' The factory temporary plates register reads: '1767 WW 5 issued from 16th to 19th June 1930 to A. Mathon Tourcoing for Bugatti Torpedo 37385.'
André Mathon was the director of Carrosserie Spinnewyn, founded in 1864. His garage, on 162 rue de Lille in Roubaix, was an official agency for Peugeot, Bugatti and Hupmobile. He had a reputation for producing luxury coachwork, some under Weymann licence. There was also a repair shop next to the coachworks. In the late 1920s and early 1930s, A. Mathon sold many Bugattis to wealthy industrialists in the Lille-Roubaix-Tourcoing area.
The car was registered as new on 21st June 1930 with plate '7038 MB 3' in the name of Pierre Marsolan, 53 rue de l'Alouette, Roubaix. Pierre Mathieu Joseph Henri Marsolan (1881-1938) trained to be a pharmacist while completing his military service but went on to become a dentist. His address as of 30th July 1914 was 53 rue de l'Alouette in Roubaix, which would remain his professional address until his death in December 1937.
In 1925 Pierre Marsolan drove a Ravel, bodied by Holvoet, and won 1st prize for open sports cars during the International Meeting of Routes Pavées in Lille in 1925. Marsolan was a keen Bugatti fan and spent a lot of his money buying the cars from Molsheim. He ordered new no fewer than five Bugattis in as many years: a Type 38 bought in June 1927; a Type 44 in August 1928; and a Type 46 in January 1930, sold back in March 1931. He also owned a Type 44 bought in July 1930 and a Type 49 bought in January 1931. So, when Pierre Marsolan bought the Type 37 he still owned his second Type 44, and bought his Type 49 two months before selling the Type 37.
Next owner Gerard Victor Herbaux (1907-1980) got married in Roubaix on 7th November 1933, the very same day he had to sell the Bugatti. He was probably the only owner of the Type 37 who raced it. The Bugatti was registered in his name on 10th March 1931 in the village of Neuville en Ferrain. Gerard Herbaux's father, Henri, owned a carpet-making factory. On 10th May 1931, exactly two months after he bought the car, G Herbaux was listed in the entries for the VII Grand Prix de Picardie in Peronne. Competitor number '54', he finished 16th, the last driver classified. As 16 drivers had to retired, this was quite a good result and proved that the car was reliable enough to endure two hours racing on that bumpy 6km circuit.
The following year, Herbaux entered his Bugatti Type 37 in the 9th Circuit de l'Aisne in Saint Quentin on 10th April 1932. In the 1500cc category, four other Bugatti Type 37s and 37As were listed, in the names of André Vagniez, Roger Gauthier, Cochin and Auber. Herbaux carried number '81' and finished 2nd behind Auber's Type 37A. On 15th May 1932, Herbaux entered the VII Grand Prix des Frontières at Chimay in Belgium. The race was over 15 laps (100 miles). Herbaux was competitor number '8'. He finished 3rd overall and 2nd in the 1500cc class with the time of 1 hour 23 minutes, coming home behind winner Arthur Legat driving a fast Type 37A and Emile Cornet's Type 35.
Three weeks later, Herbaux entered his car for the second time at Peronne, in the VIII Grand Prix of Picardy on 5th June 1932. Competitor number '25', he finished 11th and last classified in a race that saw six entries retire. He was 4th in the 1500cc class, having completed 13 of the scheduled 25 laps. The race was won by Etancelin with his very fast Alfa Romeo 8C Monza .
On 26th June 1932 at the Grand Prix de Lorraine in Nancy, G Herbaux is listed in 1500cc class with competitor number '60'. In that race of 23, 5.5-kilometre laps won by Pierre Veyron in a Maserati Type 26 in 1 hour 18 minutes, Herbaux finished in 6th position in 1 hour 22 minutes, the seventh car being three laps behind him. Herbaux was 5th in the 1500cc class.
In the five races in which he competed, Herbaux always finished; probably for these two reasons: the Type 37 was a reliable car and obviously well prepared, and the driver was very careful with his car and its engine.
In 1933, Herbaux was supposed to enter the VIII Grand Prix des Frontières at Chimay on 4th June 1933 but was a non-starter. Why is a mystery, as the family have provided us with a nice photograph of the car at 'Chimay 1933' according to the caption, which has to be correct as his 1932 race number was '8', so number '12' has to be for the 1933 race. It is assumed that the Type 37 came to the race but either did not finish or had trouble in practice.
Late in January 1933, Gerard Gerbaux had taken part in the Rallye de Monte-Carlo (number '47') driving a Peugeot 201, with co-driver Mr Flipo, and finished at the 71st position having had to circumnavigate a pile of rubble on a very narrow road. The Bugatti Type 37 was sold to next owner Eugène Tiberghien on Gerard Herbaux's wedding day on 7th November 1933.
Eugène Antoine Tiberghien (1911-1997) ran the family firm Tiberghien Frères in Tourcoing where 2,500 workers were employed in textile manufacturing. During the time he owned the Type 37, he bought a new Type 50T saloon in July 1933, which he sold back in August 1935.
On 9th September 1935 the Bugatti was sold to its next owner, Eugene Lescroat of Tourcoing. Lescroat ran a bar in Tourcoing and featured in the local newspaper, Le Grand Echo du Nord on 6th December 1935 during his ownership the Bugatti. The report reads: "Driving through Village Sart, Eugène Lescroat, 32, bar owner at 3 rue Carnot in Tourcoing, didn't obey the policeman who asked him to stop. After his lawyer's defence speech, he had to pay 25 fr." By 1941, Lescroat had become a garage owner. Two years after he bought the Bugatti, on 11th March 1937, he sold it to another garage owner called Augustin Dehullu in the village of Roncq.
Belgian-born Augustin Dehullu (1911-2002) had been a garage owner in Roncq since 1933. The Bugatti was the only one he ever owned. He kept the car for two and a half years before selling it, two weeks after the beginning of WW2, to Mrs Denyse Rogeau.
Born Denyse Despagne, Denyse Rogeau (1902-1994) was acting for her husband Louis Rogeau (1908-1981). She is supposed to have bought second-hand three other Bugattis the very same day she bought '37385', on 15th September 1939. There were a Type 43A roadster, a Type 44 and a Type 49. They couple had married in 1934 and lived then at 7 boulevard Victor Hugo in Lille where they had a garage. The local newspaper La Croix du Nord dated 16th June 1945 sheds some light on their activities during the war: "Louis Rogeau (37) living 7 bvd Victor Hugo in Lille, was running a small garage. In 1941, he collaborated with the Germans and made good profit. He bought cars that he resold to the Germans. He spent six months in jail, got fined 120,000, had his goods confiscated and suffered national ignominy. Confirmed by a March 1948 judgement." We may suppose that the sale of his Type 37 in 1946, to next owner Joseph Hauttecoeur, was not his own choice but possibly decried by law.
Joseph Hauttecoeur (1893-1973) was a teacher of physical education who spent his entire life in Bethune. He bought the Bugatti on 26th June 1946 and had it registered in the Pas de Calais department with the new plate '469 NB'. He kept the Bugatti around 13 years, having registered it again under the new system on 23rd March 1955 with the plate '4012 ED 62'. He officially sold the car in Belgium on 28th October 1959 to Georges Rapailde, a garage owner living at 259 rue de Philippeville in Marcinelle.
According to Kees Janssen's notes, when he sold the car, Hauttecoeur told the buyer that the Bugatti factory had rebuilt the engine and gearbox. Georges Rapailde restored the chassis but did not complete the restoration. In due course the Bugatti was inherited (in 1987) by his widow, Mme Rapailde, who had the body restored and completed the rebuild. Previously described as having full road gear, the Bugatti emerged from restoration in 'Grand Prix' trim and was registered for the road in 2002 with the Belgian licence plate 'OAK 936'.
From the photographs, we can see that the car has its original engine with sump stamped '37385 287', while the upper crankcase is stamped with its assembly number '45' on two parts. The front face of the cam box shows the engine number '287', which is repeated on the front of the circular piece joining the dynamo. The cover cam box number is '468'. The rear axle with correct ratio 14x54 is numbered '425'. (Bugatti chassis '37383' with engine '286' has the rear axle '424'). The frame number '656' is within the expected series.
The driver side of the dashboard is original with all instruments including the rare Contin Souza for the lights. All the visible mechanical parts are original and correct for the car. Offered publicly for the first time in its life and now from long term private single-family ownership of 63 years, Bonhams recommend close inspection of this lot to any potentially interested parties.
Bonhams would like to thank Pierre-Yves Laugier for his invaluable assistance in the preparation of this description.