Sold for $1,100,000 at 2010 Gooding & Company
The Type 50 was a breakthrough car for Bugatti-a luxury sporting model. It was designed on a short wheelbase Type 46 chassis and given an upgraded Type 46 engine. This 4.9-liter straight-8 was the first Bugatti engine with twin overhead camshafts, and it boasted a supercharger. It could produce 200 bhp, delivering speeds of over 115 mph, and was considered dangerous in unsophisticated hands. Between 1930 and 1934, 67 of these luxury cars were built. The coachwork on this car was by the small firm of Brainsby-Woollard in Peterborough, England, a company known for straightforward design.
The first owner of this car was J. Lemon Burton, who enjoyed it for a number of years. In 1940, it was imported to the United States. The chassis arrived accompanied by two bodies; one was the close-coupled convertible currently fitted to the car and the other was a lightweight touring body. The touring body later disappeared and the other was later sold to Bob Heller with whom it remained for the subsequent years.
The chassis remained detached from its bodies for many years until East Coast collector A.A. Garthwaite Jr. acquired it in 1947. He was able to purchase the convertible coachwork from Mr. Heller for the sum of $250 and reunited it with the Type 50 chassis.
Dr. Peter Williamson purchased the car in the early 1970s and gave it to his father, Norris, as a birthday present. Mr. Williamson Sr. had the car restored and finished in Dartmouth green, as he was a graduate of Dartmouth. When he passed away, Peter and Susan Williamson assumed ownership.
The drop head body has recently been refinished in period Bugatti colors of Black and Yellow over a caramel leather interior. At the Pebble Beach Concours, this car received honors for its impression restoration, authenticity, dramatic styling and historical significance.
In 2010, this Bugatti Type 50 was offered for sale at Gooding & Company Auction held in Amelia Island, Florida. The car was estimated to sell for $1,250,000 - $1,500,000. As bidding came to a close, the car had been sold for the sum of $1,100,000, inclusive of buyer's premium.
In 1931 Ettor Bugatti debuted the Type 50. It was a derivative of the Type 46, sharing many mechanical components and drawing from its design. Different from the Type 46 was the eight-cylinder dual-over head camshaft which replaced the single-overhead camshaft unit. This meant that the Type 50 was the first Bugatti to be powered by a DOHC engine and also its most powerful Bugatti designed power plant. Though smaller in size due to a decreased bore and stroke when compared with the Type 46, it was capable of producing 225 horsepower, though this was with the help of a roots-type supercharger and dual Zenith carburetors. Depending on the bodystyle the vehicle could reach a top speed of around 105 miles per hour with a zero-to-sixty time of about eight seconds, impressive for a 1930 era vehicle.
The Type 50 was designed to be a high performance, daily driver automobile. The traditional steel-ladder frame chassis was available in two sizes, a short and long version. The Type 50T, T representing Tourisme or Touring, sat atop the longer wheelbase and given a 200 horsepower engine. With its three-speed manual gearbox and live axles, it was suitable for long trips. As was typical of the time, Bugatti supplied a rolling chassis to various coach builders to outfit the vehicles according to the customer's wishes. This meant that the specifications for the vehicles varied greatly. Most of the vehicles were given enclosed coupe bodies.
Jean Bugatti convince his father to enter three examples of the Type 50 in the 1931 grueling 24 Hours of LeMans. After one of the vehicles suffered a tire-failure, the rest of the Type 50 racers were withdrawn from the race. The Type 50 continued to visit the LeMans for the next three years with their greatest success occurring in 1935 where it was able to lead the race for a period of time.
Production of the Type 50 lasted from 1931 through 1933 with 65 examples being created. With the expensive chassis and elaborate coachwork, the Type 50 was reserved for the wealthy individual. With the low production number and various body-styles and coachwork, the Type 50 is highly regarded as a collectable and rare automobile in modern times.
By Daniel Vaughan | Oct 2008