About 15 of the 38 Bugatti Type 55s were fitted with Jean Bugatti-designed roadster or coupe coachwork, the classic roadster being considered by many cognoscenti to be the most attractive sports car ever offered to the motoring public. The Type 55s, 2262cc, supercharged, twin-cam, straight-eight engine was carried over in detuned from form from the successful Type 51 Grand Prix car and fitted to a modified Type 54 ladder frame chassis. It was the ultimate exclusive supercar of the early 1930s.
This car was delivered new to Madame Saquier of Paris and after restoration was owned by Ralph Lauren until 2003. Its present owner purchased the car from Bill Ainscough in 2005.
The racing accomplishments of the Bugatti Type 35 led to the production of the Type 43. The idea was to power road going cars with the Grand Prix motor. As competition continued to grow, Bugatti introduced the Type 51. The new Grand Prix car featured the same inline eight-cylinder, now powered by double overhead camshafts plus a supercharger.
The Type 43 was replaced in 1931 with the new Type 55. The Type 47's twin-cam eight-cylinder engine was used to power Type 55. They had cast aluminum wheels from the Type 51, with brake setup and gearbox from the Type 49. Performance was impressive, with zero-to-sixty taking just 10 seconds.
By 933, Bugatti had built just 38 examples of the Type 55. Jean Bugatti designed two factory bodies: a roadster and a coupe known as the 'Faux cabriolet.' 14 examples received the works coupe body and only one factory cabriolet was built. The 14 remaining cars received coachwork from other coachbuilders. 11 were bodied by Vanvooren or Gangloff and the remaining three by other outside firms.
One owner of original owners of the Type 55 was Dr. Jacques Kocher. By 1938 he had owned at least 14 Bugattis. He had purchased a Type 35, a Type 37, a Type 44, two Type 43s, three Type 57s, a Type 57C, the 1936 Paris Show Type 57S Atalante, a Type 50 Profilee and a Type 57C Atalante. On February 2nd, 1932, chassis 55206 was offered to him. It was given engine number 6 and invoiced on March 4th of 1932 who took delivery of the chassis from Dache & Pic. Dache & Pic was a small Bugatti agency in Valence and sold about two dozen Bugattis in the 1930s.
Upon delivery, Dr. Kocher commissioned Billeter & Cartier (a Lyon-based coachbuilder) to build a special two-seat cabriolet. Much of their work had been for the Rochet-Schneider brand cars, which were also based in Lyon. Billeter & Cartier bodied a number of five-liter Bugatti chassis and at least one Type 46S chassis.
The coachwork was completed in roughly six weeks. The Cabriolet body featured long, sweeping fenders similar to that of the Super Sport Roadster and dual rear spares. It also had outside exhausts, the only Type 55 with this specification. It also was given a fold-flat windscreen that opened forward when vertical, as well as roll-up windows. It also was given plated irons on top, plated accents on both doors an plated strips on the rear deck for additional baggage. The inside was finished in black with a dark green leather interior. The interior was offset by green accents along the fenders, a green leather top boot and green painted wheels with a polished surface.
This Bugatti Type 55 is the only Bugatti known to be specified with the brake drum and wheel castings predominately painted.
The Type 55 was used regularly, even competing in the 1933 Rallye des Alpes. In January of 1935, the Type 55 was purchased by Emile Sambuc, who had owned several other Bugattis. Mr. Sambuc retained the Type 55 for two years before replacing it with a new Type 57 Gangloff. Laurent Biancotto of Marseille purchased the Bugatti and kept it for an additional two years. In November of 1938, the car was sold to Marseille resident Alexandre Oliva. On June 2, 1939, the Cabriolet was registered by Department du Nord as '3252 MD 6' to Paul Lefevre in the town of Lille. In 1947, the car passed to another Lille resident Pierre Gerard. On April 21 of 1949, the Type 55 was re-registered as '7626 NB 1' in the name of Ghislain Gengembre, who kept the car until his death.
The next owner was Yves Garnier who purchased it in 1970. Mr. Garnier rebuilt 55206 entirely by himself and in 1978 he bought a spare engine (no. 36, ex-55236) from M. Mulnard. During the restoration the original crankshaft was replaced with the original crank of engine number 36. The work took more than a decade to complete and was finally finished around 1980. In 1987 the car was purchased by German dealer Hans Bitterwolf who in turn sold the car to Peter Agg, then living in Sussex, England. During Mr. Agg's ownership, the car received further restoration including a new paint scheme of black wings with a blue body and grayish-beige interior. It was later brought to the US by Mr. Agg, where it participated in several major events including the Colorado Grand. After Mr. Agg's seven-year ownership, ownership passed to Ruedi Schmid of Basel, Switzerland, who retained the car for 16 years. Mr. Schmid drove the car in the 1998 Klausen Hillclimb and the 1994 International Bugatti Rally.
In 2007, the car was given a significant mechanical overhaul which included the installation of a new Brineton cylinder block. A year later, the car participated in the Bugatti Owner's Club Prescott Garden Party.
The current owner purchased the car from Mr. Schmid in November of 2010. A thorough restoration soon followed. The car retains its original frame in addition to its brass chassis tag mounted to the original aluminum bulkhead. The original lower crankcase is stamped 'No. 6'. The upper crankcase bears the assembly number '72', which is believed to originate from factory service of the car after some sort of crankshaft failure. The original supercharger and the original gearbox are stamped '6'.
This is one of the most (if not the most) original Type 55s in existence. The Billeter & Cartier coachwork is original and solid. Body no. 2238 is stamped on several panels and timbers. Original interior fabric materials were found. The interior and exterior finishes were matched to original specifications.
In January of 2012, the car was Bugatti's sold exhibit at Retromobile in Paris. It was displayed in its original black and green livery.
Powering the car is a 2262cc dual overhead cam inline 8-cylinder engine fitted with a single Zenith 48K Updraft Triple-Diffuser carburetor. With the assistance of the Roots-Type supercharger, it produces 135 horsepower. There is a four-speed non-synchromesh manual gearbox and four-wheel mechanical drum brakes.
In 2012, the car was offered for sale at the Pebble Beach auction presented by Gooding & Company. The car was estimated to sell for $5,000,000 - $6,500,000. Unfortunately, a buyer willing to satisfy its reserve was not found. It would leave the auction unsold. By Daniel Vaughan | Nov 2012
This Type 55 Bugatti has chassis No. 55270 and was delivered new to the Baron Phillip de Rothchild in 1932. After passing through various owners, the present owner purchased the vehicle at the Sotherby Auction in London in 1985.
This Type 55 Bugatti was one of only 38 examples produced from 1932 through 1935.
The car is powered by a 2.3 liter (2262 cc) straight eight-cylinder engine a Roots-Type supercharger. The 2-valve DOHC unit produced 130 horsepower and can rev to 5000 RPM. The transmission is a manual four-speed and the vehicle sits on a 108.3 inch wheelbase and weighs 1800 lbs.
The car has participated in numerous shows and events since restoration in 1993.
Sold for $1,760,000 at 2008 Gooding & Company. This 1932 Bugatti Type 55 Roadster is chassis number 55201 and engine number 1. It is the prototype Type 55 car and the only example to have louvers on the top of the bonnet. The first owner was Duc de la Tremoille who took possession of the car in October 1931 after the Paris Salon. Later in the cars life, it was given Figoni-style fenders and a removable tonneau.
In 1951, the car was imported from France to the United States by Otto Zipper. Recorded owners include Odabashian, Dr. R. Vann and Mrs. Bowers. In 1960, Edsel Pfabe purchased the car from Mrs. Bowers for the sum of $1,200. At this point in the cars history, it was not running, and was partially assembled and may have even been without its coachwork.
In June of 1963, the car was sold to Dr. Peter and Susan Williamson, and the ongoing restoration was continued. A re-creation of the Jean Bugatti Roadster body was made for the car, which it still wears today. The restoration was completed around 1964 and finished in cream with black fenders and body accents, a red coach-line and a brown leather interior. The car rides on eight-spoke alloy wheels with integral brake drums, Marchal headlights and a raked folding windshield.
This is the first Type 55 built, one of only 38 Type 55s produced, has its original engine and chassis, and one of the most coveted prewar sports cars. In 2008, this Type 55 Roadster was offered for sale at the Gooding & Company auction held in Pebble Beach, California. It was estimated to sell for $1,400,000 - $2,100,000 and offered without reserve. As bidding came to a close, the lot had been sold for $$1,760,000, including buyer's premium. By Daniel Vaughan | Mar 2009
Sold for $10,400,000 at 2016 Gooding & Company. The Bugatti type 55 is a very rare and historically important car, with just 38 examples built between 1931 and 1936. Of these, just 14 were completed with Jean Bugatti's Roadster coachwork. Of the 13 surviving Roadsters, it is believed that five or six retain their original coachwork and major mechanical components.
Ettore Bugatti was an early proponent of reducing weight instead of increasing engine size. Along with offering performance and acceleration, the lightweight sports cars had excellent road-holding and better braking than their larger competitors. The Bugatti Type 35 Grand Prix, making its Grand Prix debut at the Grand Prix of Lyon in 1924, weighed just 1,500 lbs and was powered by an overhead-camshaft straight eight. By 1927, it had proven its capabilities and potential by winning over 2,000 race victories.
The Bugatti Type 51, inspired by Harry Millers racing cars, was powered by a supercharged 2.3-liter twin-cam engine and would continue the company's racing resume well into the 1930s.
Jean Bugatti, Ettore's son, was a talented engineer and designer as well. He proposed many technical innovations, including the use of an independent suspension setup. His designs were equally bold and daring, and it was Jean who had the idea to create the Type 55 'Supersport,' a vehicle that appealed to the company's most demanding clients. It would combine the mechanical underpinnings of the Type 35 B with sporting coachwork. It had the same chassis as the 16-cylinder Type 45 and Type 47 Grand Prix cars, and was powered by the 4.9-liter engine found in the Type 54. It was given the Type 51's supercharged and engine the four-speed gearbox found in the Type 49.
Bugatti unveiled the Type 55 in October of 1931 in Paris. It was a road-going vehicle that boasted a top speed in excess of 110 mph. Bugatti offered the Type 55 as either a chassis or it could be outfitted with one of three factory bodies - a cabriolet, Roadster, and the coupe, each wearing a design created by Jean Bugatti.
This particular example was completed in April 1932. It left the factory powered by with engine number 10 and given Jean Bugatti Roadster coachwork. It was the second example ever built and the first completed that year.
The car was given factory invoice 55213 to Bucar S.A. on April 6th of 1932. It was given a temporary registration in Basel though it was never officially imported into Switzerland. It made its first public appearance at the Mille Miglia that started in Brescia, Italy, on April 9th of 1932. This Roadster is the only Type 55 to compete in the Mille Miglia. It wore race number 102 and was entrusted to Achille Varzi, the Bugatti factory driver, and co-driver Count Luigi Castelbarco. Bugatti's other factory entry was a Type 51 Grand Prix, driven by Carlo Cazzaniga and Archimede Rosa.
The Type 55 Roadster raced at the Mille Miglia wearing a red and black livery. It was outfitted with road equipment, a leather hood strap, central driving light, and headlamp covers. It was also fitted with special 'sport wings.'
Sadly, the Bugatti was forced to retire from the race after a rock punctured the fuel tank, and it was unable to be repaired.
After the Mille Miglia, the Roadster was registered in Strasbourg, France. It was registered to Carlo Cazzaniga at the address of the Bugatti shop in Strasbourg. Though not confirmed, its first private owner may have been Andre Derain, who owned at least 11 Bugattis during his life.
The early history of 55213 is not certain, until 1946, when it was owned by Georges Metz. M. Metz advertised the Roadster for sale in Action Automobile et Touristique in April of 1950, and then sold it to a garage in Paris. In May of 1951, it was registered in Paris to Jean-Baptiste Altieri. In 1983, M. Altieri was approached by Nicolas Seydoux who was interested in purchasing 55213. After acquiring the car, it remained in Seydoux's collection until 2008, when it was sold to a Swiss individual named Peter Livanos. Mr. Livanos had the car completely restored by Laurent Rondoni of Ventoux Moteur Ingénierie in Carpentras, France. Upon completion, it was refinished in blue and black nitrocellulose.
During the restoration process a new engine and gearbox - exact replicas - were built for the car. (The original components still remain with the car.) By Daniel Vaughan | Oct 2016
This Bugatti Type 55 was ordered in February 1932 by the Swiss Bugatti agent Bucar of Zurich on behalf of their client Edmond Reiffers a notary in the city of Luxembourg. The completed chassis, numbered 55219 with engine number 11, was delivered by a Bugatti employee who drove the car fitted with temporary seating and the plate number 1655 WW5 from Molshiem to Luxembourg in early April 1932. Reiffer's son Earnest immediately began racing the bare chassis with success in events organized by the Automobile club of Luxembourg. In October 1932 Reiffers commissioned the Belgium coachbuilder Pritchard and Demollin to build a four-seat cabriolet body for chassis 55219. With this new body fitted the car continued to be used by the family for sporting activities including rallies and hunting expeditions.
By the late 1950s the car was in the possession of a Belgian Bugatti dealer who offered the car to American clients. The car was purchased by Bob Estes of California who used it as a parts car for two other Type-55s he also owned. The dismantled and incomplete car was sold to Ray Jones of Michigan who rebuilt the car using available components and re-bodied the car as a Jean Bugatti Roadster. Efforts were made to locate cars that contained the missing original parts of 55219 and bring them back together. The only exception was to retain the roadster body.
Bugatti had a long and lengthy history when it came time to produce the Type 55. Their resume included extremely successful race cars and elegant and sophisticated road going vehicles. In the racing department, the minimalist Type 35 was a very competitive car that racked up many impressive victories. It was, like so many other Bugatti's, available with either a naturally aspirated engine or with the addition of a supercharger. In the early 1930s, a new car was needed to keep Bugatti at the front of its game and to comply with new racing regulations.
Bugatti had been very successful in creating great racing machines and using the lessons learned to create performance-minded road-going cars. In other words, the technology that worked on the track often made it into the production vehicles. This continual growth and constant evolution aided in the marque's success both on and off the track.
Bugatti had been working on the Type 47 and its Grand Prix sibling Type 45 when the French Grand Prix was ended in 1928, effectively canceling these projects. Much time and attention had gone into designing these machines. The deep-section rail frame for the Type 47 Grand Sport was designed to house a three-liter U-16 engine. The chassis frame, with its widely spaced rear springs and long rear-axle trailing arms, was strong enough to house a larger engine, which it did with the Type 54 Grand Prix. The engine was a 4.9-liter unit straight-eight. Jean Bugatti continued his previously successful endeavors by offering a de-tuned version of the Grand Prix car for road-going purposes.
The Type 55 was given the Type 47/54 chassis and a lower compression Type 51 Grand Prix engine. A very attractive, Jean-Bugatti designed, two-seater coachwork was created for the Type 55, along with a similarly styled coupe body coachwork.
Production of the Type 55 began in 1932 and continued until 1935 with a total of 38 examples created. 23 examples were completed during its first year of production. The straight-eight engine had cast-iron block and head, dual overhead camshafts, Zenith carburetor, Roots-type supercharger, and displaced 2262cc. There was a four-speed manual gearbox, cable-operated drum brakes at all four corners, and live axle suspension.
In 2008, this Type 46 Sports Saloon was offered for sale at the Gooding & Company Auction held in Pebble Beach, California. It was estimated to sell for $650,000 - $850,000 and offered without reserve. The lot was sold for $440,000, including buyer's premium. By Daniel Vaughan | Mar 2009
Despite what every adolescent boy in America may tell you, the awe-inspiring Veyron was not Bugatti's first car. Nor was it Bugatti's first tribute to speed, excess, and unbridled wealth.
The 16-cylinder, quad-turbo Veyron was conceived under Bugatti's current Volkswagen ownership. Before the German takeover, the Italians had some fun with Bugatti as well. For a few years during the early 1990's, an Italy-based Bugatti produced the EB110 supercar with as many turbos and as much presence as the Veyron, albeit with a paltry 12 cylinders.
The Veyron and EB110 represent the whole of Bugatti's recent history. Between 1956 and 1991, no new Bugattis were produced.
That fact may say more about the Bugatti legend than anything else. Here was a company that could vanish for 35 years and then come back, under foreign rule no less, to build the fastest, most exotic machines on the planet. Only an absolutely exhilarating past could have inspired the inception of these modern Bugatti vehicles, and from 1909 through 1956 the French marque founded by Ettore Bugatti had just that.
Though marvelous excesses like the 12.8-liter Royale had most in common with the extravagant Bugattis of today, the company also had the power to produce less glitzy cars in the name of tasteful perfection. One such work was the Type 55 produced from 1932 through 1935.
One of the best sports cars of its time, the Type 55 was an incredible piece of engineering. Sharing its chassis with the Type 54 and its basic engine design with the Type 51, it was a terrific performer on road and track.
The detuned Type 51 engine found in the Type 55 was a dual overhead cam inline eight displacing 2262cc. Fed by a Zenith carburetor, the engine featured a roots supercharger that helped bring power output up to 130hp. In a car that weighed as little as 1,800lbs, that kind of power proved ample for rapid motoring. The cast alloy rear wheels were driven through a four speed transmission.
Only 38 Type 55 chassis were produced. Close to half of these were fitted with roadster or coupe coachwork by Ettore's son, Jean Bugatti. These bodies reinforced the Type 55's image as a sports car, and established the car as one of the best sculpted vehicles ever produced.
Jean Bugatti was undeniably talented. The work he did for his father resulted in some of the most stunning and gorgeous cars in automotive history. While he may be best remembered for the drastically curvaceous lines of some of the Type 57 bodies, Jean Bugatti's Type 55 coachwork was brilliant in its own right.
The Super Sport roadster especially was a lovely design. Perfectly proportioned and with just enough curvature, it was tasteful elegance at its best. The delicate front fenders swept down to form short running boards which then leapt up quickly to form rear fenders that fell in tight circles around the rear wheels. The stately Bugatti grille stood proudly up front, situated between carefully placed headlights. The long nose, with louvers on its sides, hinted at the car's potent powerhouse as the short tail, bedecked with twin spare tires, finished the declaration of the car's sporting intentions.
With its speed and style, the Type 55 fit perfectly with Bugatti's history as an independent carmaker. It was as enjoyable to drive as it was to look at, and its price tag and small production ensured that it would only fall into the hands of a fortunate few. The Type 55 helped establish a story incredible enough to compel a new generation of aficionados to dust off three and a half stagnant decades and bring back one of the most phenomenal names to ever grace an automobile.
'Bugatti Type 55.' The Bugatti Trust 29 Mar 2009 http://www.bugatti-trust.co.uk/bugatti-cars/bugatti-55.shtml.
'Bugatti Type 55 1932-1935.' Auto Evolution 29 Mar 2009 http://www.autoevolution.com/cars/bugatti-type-55-1932.html.
'Lot 147: Bugatti Type 55 Super Sport Roadster: Collectors' Sports & Grand Touring Motor Cars, Bonhams (10th May 2008).' Motorbase 29 Mar 2009 http://www.motorbase.com/auctionlot/by-id/266674516/.
Wise, David Burgess. 'Bugatti, Germany, France, 1909-1956; Italy, 1991 to 1994.'The New Illustrated Encyclopedia of Automobiles. 2000.By Evan Acuña