Owned for over 55 years by the legendary British Bugatti connoisseur, the late Geoffrey St John. Ex-Guy Bouriat/Louis Chiron 1932 Le Mans 24-Hour race, works-entered; coachwork by Figoni
The Bugatti Type 55 in its day was a much-coveted automotive jewel. Even with the backdrop of the Great Depression, the most stylish glitterati aspired to the Bugatti – which was aimed squarely at the most well-heeled clientele. With a chassis price-tag of 110,000 FF ($7,500), only 38 examples of the Type 55 Super Sports model were produced between 1932-35, 29 of which are known to survive.
This high-performance machine — considered by many enthusiasts — as the pinnacle of Bugatti’s sports car range, was regarded then a Grand Prix car in all but name, powered by a 2.3-litre supercharged twin-cam 8-cylinder engine – which was detuned only slightly compared to its source: the multiple Grand Prix-winning Bugatti Type 51. Even in 1932, its blistering performance boasted 0-60mph acceleration in 13 seconds and the hitherto unheard-of top speed – for a road car – of 115 mph.
This particular Bugatti has a great racing pedigree, having contested the 1932 Le Mans 24-Hour race with France’s Louis Chiron and Count Guy Bouriat-Quintart at the wheel. To meet that race’s regulations, the car was fitted with a temporary 4-seat body; sadly though its fuel tank split after three hours’ racing forcing its retirement. Immediately after the race, the car was sold by Count Bouriat to a wealthy French magazine publisher, Jacques Dupuy.
Most Bugatti Type 55s featured bodywork to a much-praised, high-fashion, door-less design by Jean Bugatti, son of company founder Ettore Bugatti. However, Dupuy, a great motoring enthusiast, commissioned noted automotive designer Giuseppe Figoni of Boulogne-sur-Seine, Paris, to create unique coachwork in a striking two-seat Type 55 style, but crucially with two highline doors, providing practicality for both ease of access and protection from the elements with its wind-up windows, while retaining a fluid line uniting bonnet, sweeping wings and graceful tail; many considered this coachwork improved upon Jean Bugatti’s. Freshly rebodied, it was promptly entered for the 1933 Paris-Nice Rally, driven by its new owner. Dupuy also entered it for La Journée de l’Elégance et de l’Automobile au Bois de Boulogne concours d’élégance event, in which, predictably, it excelled.
This chassis subsequently survived the Second World War in France and was brought to England in 1962 by A. A. Morse, having been acquired by fellow Bugatti connoisseur, and leading Vintage period racer, Geoffrey St John in 1963.
It was first restored in 1966 and further restored some thirty years later following road accident damage sustained in France. Very significantly, its chassis was not restored following that incident; instead it was painstakingly repaired by respected specialist Gino Hoskins. Despite this experience, the owner and his Bugatti continued to re-cross La Manche repeatedly. But now the time has come for the current owner to entrust this very special motor car to a new custodian.
Displayed courtesy Mr Alissar McCreary Monday 25th November to Friday 29th November 2019.