This 1931 Bugatti Type 51 is powered by engine number 15; it originally was a Type 35B wearing chassis number 4961, and part of the four-car Bugatti works team in the 1930 Targa Florio. The car was later entered in the Grand Prix of Europe at Spa. Since this race was run to fuel-consumption formula, this car - along with the 2 other Type 35Bs entered in the race - were converted to to two-liter Type 35C specifications. They were given bolster fuel tanks and smaller superchargers. Chassis 4961 was driven by Guy Bouriat led the race, but stopped near the finish line to allow team leader Chrion, under team orders, to pass and take the win, and thereby become 1930 Champion of Europe.
After the Grand Prix, this Bugatti underwent a factory conversion, bringing it to Type 51 specifications. It was hoped that the car would be ready in time for the French Grand Prix, but the conversion took longer than anticipated. The work was completed in June of 1931 and it was re-numbered as 51132, registered for road use by the factory, and used throughout the year as a works practice car.
In December, the car was delivered to French racing driver Jean-Pierre Wimille for the price of 140,000 francs. During the 1932 season, Wimille raced extensively in this car, winning the Oran Grand Prix in Algeria on May 2nd.
In 1936, the car was imported to the US by Bradley Martin. It was entered by McClure Halley for Texan Dave Evans to drive in the inaugural George Vanderbilt Cup. The race was a 300 mile event held on New York's Long island on October 12th. Of the 45 entrants, Evnas qualified the car 36th and finished 14th.
The car was later sold with a damaged engine to author Ralph Stein. The damaged section of the crankshaft was repaired, but the problem re-emerged a few years later. In 1940, it was sold George Weaver, who installed either a Frontenac or a Peerless Marine engine.
Ownership passed to David Uihlein of Milwaukee in the early 1950s. Thomas Rosenberger of Milwaukee is listed as the cars next owner, selling it to Paul Moser of Santa Barbara, California in 1979. In 1985 it was purchased by Klaus Werner of Germany.
While in Werner's care, the car was re-united with its original engine. It was used in historic European racing events for a number of years before it was sold in the early 1990s.
The car is currently fitted with frame number 732 and engine number 15. The 2.3-liter straight-eight cylinder Dual Overhead Cam engine has a roots-type supercharger and an available 160 horsepower. There is a four-speed transmission, 4-wheel mechanical drum brakes, and a leaf-spring suspension.
In 2008, this Type 51 Grand Prix was offered for sale at the Gooding & Company Auction held in Pebble Beach, California. Bidding failed to satisfy the vehicle's un-listed reserve, and the lot was left unsold.
In 2010, this car was offered for sale at the 'Sports & Classics of Monterey' presented by RM Auctions. It was estimated to sell for $3,500,000 - $4,500,000. Bidding reached $2,750,000 but was not enough to satisfy the car's reserve. It would leave the auction unsold.Also photographed at :