<b>1938 Bugatti Type 57C Stelvio Convertible  </b><br />Chassis no. 57748 <br />Engine no. C51 (see text)
Lot 284
The ex-Miles Coverdale
1938 Bugatti Type 57C Stelvio Convertible
Coachwork by Gangloff
Chassis no. 57748
Engine no. C51 (see text)
Sold for US$ 1,595,000 inc. premium

Lot Details
<b>1938 Bugatti Type 57C Stelvio Convertible  </b><br />Chassis no. 57748 <br />Engine no. C51 (see text) <b>1938 Bugatti Type 57C Stelvio Convertible  </b><br />Chassis no. 57748 <br />Engine no. C51 (see text) <b>1938 Bugatti Type 57C Stelvio Convertible  </b><br />Chassis no. 57748 <br />Engine no. C51 (see text) <b>1938 Bugatti Type 57C Stelvio Convertible  </b><br />Chassis no. 57748 <br />Engine no. C51 (see text) <b>1938 Bugatti Type 57C Stelvio Convertible  </b><br />Chassis no. 57748 <br />Engine no. C51 (see text) <b>1938 Bugatti Type 57C Stelvio Convertible  </b><br />Chassis no. 57748 <br />Engine no. C51 (see text) <b>1938 Bugatti Type 57C Stelvio Convertible  </b><br />Chassis no. 57748 <br />Engine no. C51 (see text) <b>1938 Bugatti Type 57C Stelvio Convertible  </b><br />Chassis no. 57748 <br />Engine no. C51 (see text) <b>1938 Bugatti Type 57C Stelvio Convertible  </b><br />Chassis no. 57748 <br />Engine no. C51 (see text) <b>1938 Bugatti Type 57C Stelvio Convertible  </b><br />Chassis no. 57748 <br />Engine no. C51 (see text) <b>1938 Bugatti Type 57C Stelvio Convertible  </b><br />Chassis no. 57748 <br />Engine no. C51 (see text) <b>1938 Bugatti Type 57C Stelvio Convertible  </b><br />Chassis no. 57748 <br />Engine no. C51 (see text) <b>1938 Bugatti Type 57C Stelvio Convertible  </b><br />Chassis no. 57748 <br />Engine no. C51 (see text) <b>1938 Bugatti Type 57C Stelvio Convertible  </b><br />Chassis no. 57748 <br />Engine no. C51 (see text) <b>1938 Bugatti Type 57C Stelvio Convertible  </b><br />Chassis no. 57748 <br />Engine no. C51 (see text) <b>1938 Bugatti Type 57C Stelvio Convertible  </b><br />Chassis no. 57748 <br />Engine no. C51 (see text) <b>1938 Bugatti Type 57C Stelvio Convertible  </b><br />Chassis no. 57748 <br />Engine no. C51 (see text) <b>1938 Bugatti Type 57C Stelvio Convertible  </b><br />Chassis no. 57748 <br />Engine no. C51 (see text) <b>1938 Bugatti Type 57C Stelvio Convertible  </b><br />Chassis no. 57748 <br />Engine no. C51 (see text) <b>1938 Bugatti Type 57C Stelvio Convertible  </b><br />Chassis no. 57748 <br />Engine no. C51 (see text) <b>1938 Bugatti Type 57C Stelvio Convertible  </b><br />Chassis no. 57748 <br />Engine no. C51 (see text) <b>1938 Bugatti Type 57C Stelvio Convertible  </b><br />Chassis no. 57748 <br />Engine no. C51 (see text) <b>1938 Bugatti Type 57C Stelvio Convertible  </b><br />Chassis no. 57748 <br />Engine no. C51 (see text) <b>1938 Bugatti Type 57C Stelvio Convertible  </b><br />Chassis no. 57748 <br />Engine no. C51 (see text) <b>1938 Bugatti Type 57C Stelvio Convertible  </b><br />Chassis no. 57748 <br />Engine no. C51 (see text) <b>1938 Bugatti Type 57C Stelvio Convertible  </b><br />Chassis no. 57748 <br />Engine no. C51 (see text) <b>1938 Bugatti Type 57C Stelvio Convertible  </b><br />Chassis no. 57748 <br />Engine no. C51 (see text) <b>1938 Bugatti Type 57C Stelvio Convertible  </b><br />Chassis no. 57748 <br />Engine no. C51 (see text) <b>1938 Bugatti Type 57C Stelvio Convertible  </b><br />Chassis no. 57748 <br />Engine no. C51 (see text) <b>1938 Bugatti Type 57C Stelvio Convertible  </b><br />Chassis no. 57748 <br />Engine no. C51 (see text) <b>1938 Bugatti Type 57C Stelvio Convertible  </b><br />Chassis no. 57748 <br />Engine no. C51 (see text)
The ex-Miles Coverdale
1938 Bugatti Type 57C Stelvio Convertible
Coachwork by Gangloff

Chassis no. 57748
Engine no. C51 (see text)
3,257cc DOHC Supercharged Inline 8-Cylinder Engine
Dual Throat Updraft Stromberg UUR-2 Carburetor
170bhp at 5,500rpm
4-Speed Cotal Pre-Selector Manual Transmission
Semi-Elliptic Leaf Springs with Rigid Front Axle – Live Rear Axle
4-Wheel Lockheed Hydraulic Brakes

*Long term US ownerships, including more than 40 years with Miles Coverdale
*An original supercharged Bugatti
*Extensively researched by marque historian Pierre-Yves Laugier
*Desirable, enjoyable Stelvio Cabriolet coachwork
*The quintessential Bugatti road car


THE BUGATTI TYPE 57

The Type 57 Bugatti, introduced in 1934, marked Jean Bugatti's emergence as Bugatti's leader and creative force. It was the first new model built under his direction and it incorporated many features that were new to Bugatti. Its dual overhead camshaft eight-cylinder engine had dimensions of 72x100mm, offering 3,257cc displacement. The crankshaft ran in five main bearings. The camshafts were driven by a train of helical-tooth gears at the engine's rear with a further crankshaft bearing behind them. Finger cam followers minimized side thrust on the valve stems.

The Type 57 also marked Bugatti's first use of a transmission fixed to the engine crankcase and a single plate clutch. The top three gears in the four-speed gearbox were constant mesh. Jean created a novel independent front suspension system using transverse leaf springs for the first two examples of the Type 57 before Le Patron spied it and insisted it be replaced by a proper Bugatti hollow tubular live axle. Thenceforth suspension was traditional Bugatti semi-elliptical front and reversed quarter-elliptical rear leaf springs with cable-operated mechanical drum brakes.

Much of the Type 57's commercial success may be attributed to Jean Bugatti's sensitive, flowing coachwork, which graced the most famous of the chassis' examples. Atalante two-seat coupé, Ventoux four-seat coupé, Stelvio cabriolet and the Galibier sedan vied with the best of France's and Europe's formidable coachbuilders' creations and comprised the bulk of Type 57 production. Bugatti's clients could have the best, but overwhelmingly they chose Jean Bugatti's designs on the Type 57.

Despite financial travail, development of the Type 57 continued with the introduction of a stiffened frame and rubber-mounted engine along with the supercharged 160hp Type 57C in 1936. In 1938 the nearly unthinkable happened in Molsheim, when Bugatti finally adopted Lockheed hydraulically actuated brakes and replaced the beautiful and lightweight but expensive aluminum-spoked wheels and brake drums with Rudge-Whitworth center-lock wire wheels and separate brake drums.

THE MOTORCAR OFFERED

This incredibly beautiful Bugatti has a complete provenance from new as researched by noted historian and marque authority Pierre-Yves Laugier.

The car was originally ordered by a true patron of Bugatti, Albert Brenac, who had begun his relationship with the brand with the acquisition of a Type 35 in 1926. Mr. Brenac's own story may well reflect his passion for engineering and performance as from his teenage years, he had begun his career as a test pilot for Avions Voisin and during the first world war he had been one of the first to fly a Voisin bombers on night raids. Born in a village in the south of France, Labastide Rouairoux, Brenac built a textiles business close to Toulouse after the war.

By the late 1930s, his interests had migrated from the Spartan Grand Prix car to touring version Bugattis. A Type 49 was ordered, then replaced with an unblown 57 (chassis 57530) in November 1937. By the following summer on, July 29, 1938, Brenac placed a new order with regional Bugatti licensee Leyda of Toulouse for a supercharged version.

His order, number 1010, provided for a 57C which left the factory a month later on August 30 destined for Gangloff to receive the Cabriolet coachwork it still wears to this day. The factory register records the car to have been completed and ready for delivery on October 21, 1938. Costing 99,840 French Francs, Mr. Brenac's new Bugatti was registered care of his textile works in the month leading up to its completion.

True to form, Mr. Laugier's diligent sleuthing lead him to Albert Brenac's son, Guy, who recalled both his father and Leyda travelling to the Molsheim works to collect the car. He recalled Brenac Senior enjoying the car immensely, though the intervention of the war curtailed some of its use in the eight years he kept it. Through this period its maintenance was either with a local garagiste "Olayet" or for more serious matters it returned to Leyda's premises. Latterly, he moved his business to Cannes on the French Riviera towards the end of 1944, and it was there that he met the second custodian of the Bugatti, a Monsieur Helle.

Rather sadly M. Helle did not enjoy the car for long, perhaps put off by an early mechanical failure during which the 'blower' took in water and damaged the engine. He parted with car on September 24, 1946, selling it to Charles Ehrmann of Nice, a teacher. Now being in the region of famed Nice Bugatti agent Friderich, who had been with Ettore from the company's founding, hearsay passed down through its first long term U.S. owner records that the car was taken to him and overhauled in this period.

Ehrmann's custody was also brief, for by the spring of '47 the car had passed into the hands of a real sporting car enthusiast, Albert Benmussa of Lyon. Like Brenac, Benmussa was also in the textiles business, specializing in silk; however more and more in this era he began to trade old cars. Benmussa was also a key player in the popular post war Lyon-Charbonnière Rallyes, and is known to have campaigned 57748 on the 1950 edition. He is thought to have shared the driving with a Mr. Campenon.

An image of the car in this period is shown on these pages and is the earliest surviving photo of the 57C, seemingly depicting its original guise of two tone blue paintwork and sporting wheel discs. For this rally it wore race number 8. Another known competitive outing came on September 7, 1952, when the car was entered on the "Côte de la Rochette" races in Hauteville, in the Ain department of France.

Sometime in the period of 1952-3 the Bugatti received a complete engine rebuild in the workshops of Marcel Piottin, who before the war, had been the mechanic in chief at Bugatti agent Monestier of Lyon. Soon after, he set up his own shop and assisted many former company clients in the area. Again, Mr. Laugier's fastidious research led him to meet M. Piottin's son who worked with his father and recalled working on Benmussa's engine. At this point, perhaps to assist cooling but more likely simply to give the car the appearance of its later 57 models and 'S' series cars, the lower panels of the car's hood received the vented panels still present on the car today. At the same time, it also was fitted with a windshield washer and front shock absorbers.

Benmussa retained the Bugatti until 1956, when on April 3 it was sold to François Kresser, at which point it made its first major location move to the Paris suburb of Neuilly sur Seine. It was there that it was seen first by noted American Bugatti connoisseur, Miles Coverdale. According to his own recollections he acquired the car and on December 2, 1957 registered it in Grenoble, France, where he was working at the time.

It wasn't long before Coverdale returned to America and brought the Supercharged Bugatti with him to his home on Long Island, where it would become a well-known fixture in the post war Bugatti scene. As well as being used regularly by him, it also spent some time on exhibition at Austie Clark's Long Island Auto Museum in the Hamptons.

Coverdale once recounted to the late Hugh Conway that after years of Benmussa's ebullient use of the car, that it had required another rebuild, this time by Henri Hauswald in Paris, Benmussa having blown the engine on the autobahn in Germany!

All noted authorities attribute the absence of the expected sequence of chassis and engine number on the upper crankcase it wears today to date from this second rebuild and believe that during its rebuild of the original engine, this component was simply replaced by an unmarked new/old stock part from the Bugatti works/factory which still supplied such things in those days.

Miles Coverdale is a name that resonates strongly in Bugatti circles as one of the pioneering collectors of the marque, and over the course of his life he owned numerous Pur Sang cars, including one of the Le Mans Type 50 Team cars and a Type 55. As an aside, he was directly descended from Myles Coverdale, the first person to print a fully translated English literature version of the bible in the UK in 1535.

Coverdale retained the car until he passed in 2002, and was still seen to be using the car in his twilight years, the car by now having been painted a 'putty' grey color. After this it was acquired by local Greenwich based Bugatti enthusiast Desmond Fitzgerald.

Upon acquisition, Mr. Fitzgerald returned the Bugatti it to its original blue livery, albeit preferring it to be in a single Royal Blue hue, and had the car reupholstered in a matched dark blue hide. On its completion in 2004 he sold the car to the current owner.

Over the course of the last decade or more the car has been cherished and enjoyed by its current Bugatti aficionado owner. In 2010 it was campaigned on the American Bugatti Club 50th Anniversary Tour and it has been shown occasionally. Since that time, its use has been limited.

As evidenced from its visual presentation, even among the more commonly produced coachwork designs each and every car has its own personality. In the opinion of Bonhams specialists, this is a particularly good looking example of Gangloff's late Cabriolets.

Recently displayed at Bonhams Amelia Island Auction for preview, during this time it was test-driven by ace car journalist Robert Coucher for Octane Magazine and features in their June 2015 issue. He describes the car as a 'classic expression of the pur sang' and concludes 'the straight eight's vitality fizzes through the chassis and up through your feet to your fingertips via the steering wheel, and the roar from the exhaust is intoxicating – sentiments that we can only echo...

With its great looks, known pedigree, and supercharged performance, this desirable late series 57C offers an eminently usable way of experiencing the Bugatti Legend.

Saleroom notices

  • Please note that this vehicle is titled as a 1939 and its titled is in transit.
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