1934 Bugatti Type 55 RecreationSOLD

RM Auctions - The Ponder Collection - Texas - April 20-21st, 2007

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ESTIMATE: $425,000 - $525,000


$693,000 Sold

135bhp, 2,270cc, dual overhead camshaft inline eight-cylinder engine, Roots-Type supercharger, four-speed manual transmission, solid axle with semi-elliptic leaf spring front and rear suspensions, four-wheel drum brakes. Wheelbase: 2,750mm (108")

Built Adhering to Very Strict Bugatti Specifications Using Many Original Parts 1932 Bugatti T55 Roadster Recreation

It has been repeated countless times throughout automotive history – success in racing leads to an enthusiast demand for a street legal version of the race car. By the 1950s this was an accepted fact and manufacturers would build street legal versions in conjunction with their racers. However, in the formative years of international racing, most manufacturers were unaware that such an opportunity could be exploited.

From the onset, Bugatti was active in racing, and while their customer cars offered superior performance than their contemporaries, there existed a sizeable gap between the prowess of their full race models and their road going cars.

Introduced in 1927, the Type 43 had been Bugatti’s first Super Sport model. It was essentially a Grand Prix race car with two rows of seating and a phaeton-like folding top. Powered by the T35B’s 2.3-liter supercharged engine, it was the first publicly offered sports car capable of 100mph.

In 1931, Jean Bugatti decided to repeat the formula that had created the Type 43, in the car that would replace it. While the T43 was in essence a thinly veiled race car, the Type 55 was a heavily veiled race car. The engine was a standard twin cam T51 Supercharged Grand Prix engine with a slightly reduced compression ratio; this allowed it to run on regular gas, this in turn reduced internal temperatures and greatly increased its longevity. Although power was slightly down, the 2.3 liter inline eight-cylinder engine easily propelled the T55 to a top speed of 112 miles per hour.

Jean Bugatti designed the Molsheim-built body for the T55 when he was only 22 years old. This supremely elegant two-seat roadster featured moldings on the body that lent themselves best to two-tone paint schemes. Long sweeping mudguards reminiscent of the Esders Royale roadster were repeated in form in the cutaway to the passenger compartment that was made low enough to negate the need for doors.

The interior of the Type 55 was fairly sparse; the large wood rimmed steering wheel was located on the right hand side, while the instrumentation was centered on the dash. Shifting was accomplished with a floor mounted ball change gear lever pulled directly from the Type 49 which was given a full casing to strengthen the frame. The nine foot wheelbase of the T55 was the same as the T54 Grand Prix race car, but the track was shortened three inches in the T55. At the four corners, the T55 employed the T54s eight spoke cast aluminum wheels with their integral drum brakes; these wheels would be the only visually recognizable feature on the car that hinted at the levels of performance the T55 offered.

In a review of the T55 published in The Motor, June 14, 1932, the writer is not shy with his praise: “…the new Type 55 Super Sport 2.3 litre supercharged Bugatti is an ideal car for traveling safely from point to point at really high speeds and in complete comfort. Considering its performance, it is really very reasonably priced at the figure of £1,350.” Unfortunately the public did not entirely agree with the opinions of this writer, and as the Depression was gripping the world economy during its production, the T55 was not nearly the sales success the T43 had been.

Production finally ended in 1935 with only 38 Type 55 chassis built, of which several were fitted with custom coachwork, but none matched the outstanding good looks of the original Molsheim body, of which 16 examples are known to be made. Subsequently, the Type 55 is regarded as one of the most desirable Bugattis of all time, and not just because of its rarity, but also because it delivers the best driving experience of any of the Bugatti road cars and is without question one of the most attractive. Today, a decent original Type 55 Bugatti will easily achieve a seven digit price tag at auction, in any currency.

Once a car achieves the level of exclusivity and desirability that will command a seven digit figure, talented enthusiasts and restoration firms are often compelled to recreate that car, as there exists a demand far in excess of availability. Replicas and recreations are becoming increasingly common in the collector car hobby. Some examples, like the Shelby Cobra have been replicated many thousand times over, and accordingly there exists a Cobra replica to fit any budget. However, in the case of a Bugatti recreation, there exists a much smaller, highly discerning market for such a vehicle.

The 1932 Bugatti Type 55 recreation offered here is a remarkable vehicle, as it is very clearly the product of very passionate and brilliant craftsmen. Completed in 1995 by Bugatti specialist Ray Jones, it adheres strictly to correct Bugatti specifications and made accurate to the very smallest details. Whenever possible ,genuine Bugatti items were used, such as the front axle, the radiator, as well as proper electrical components including an authentic Scintilla magneto, starter, and generator.

The noted Bugatti specialists at Brineton Engineering in England, using an original Bugatti block, constructed the rest of the engine. Sourcing as many parts as possible from Bugatti club members and other sources, whatever they could not find they built themselves following original Bugatti designs. The supercharger has Bugatti original twin lobes in a recreated casing, and is fed by an exact replica, built by Crosthwaite & Gardiner, of the original T55 carburetors.

The four-speed gearbox and clutch housing were built using the correct Type 55 patterns, however the clutch itself is a modern dry-type unit and the universal joints used by the prop shaft are also of the modern variety to increase reliability and smoothness.

The body was hand pounded out of aluminum in the style penned by Jean Bugatti and built by the Molsheim factory. All the surfaces of the car were properly finished, with extensive engine turning and a hand scraped engine. The rear axle is an original Bugatti unit that was correctly modified, as it would have been for the T55, while the wheels and brakes are modern castings that are identical to the originals.

When Mr. Ponder acquired the Bugatti, he had it completely restored by noted Bugatti specialist and former Best of Show Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance winner Mr. Jim Stranberg of High Mountain Classics; the body was repainted red and black, and the seats were modified with a folding armrest then re-upholstered in a rich black leather with red piping. The restoration left nothing to chance and returned the car’s condition to better than new. Most recently, in an interview with this author, Mr. Stranberg related that this was the best he had ever seen of its kind.

Today, the Bugatti is in outstanding condition; it has been driven a total of 215 miles and accordingly shows some evidence of road use in the paint and undercarriage. Wearing engine no. 55 and chassis no. BC 92, this recreation is proud of what it is… this pride will undoubtedly be shared by its next owner.

Please note that although the example offered here is in fact a 1932 model, the Texas title incorrectly lists it as a 1934 model.

Reference Number 7611

as of 2/27/2007

Car 1934 Bugatti Type 55 Recreation
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