Ettore Bugatti assembled his first self propelled tricycle in the waning days of the 19th century. His immediate passion for all things automotive led to his relocation to Alsace and the birth of his namesake company. In the period between world wars, Bugattis were essentially invincible.
Bugatti launched the Type 40 model in 1926, aiming to replace the company's previous 16-valve Brescia touring model. The Type 40 used the 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine first used in some Type 37s, but slightly detuned with one Zenith or twin Solex carburetors and coil ignition. The Type 40 was available as a standard 4-seat coupe or a roadster. The Type 40A shared its engine block with the Type 40 but displaced 1.6 liters. After about 30 cars were built with this chassis specification, the Type 40A was discontinued in 1930.
This car was produced in April 1931 as a Type 40A, a small sports car for personal use. It carries a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine, producing 50 horsepower and can accelerate to almost 80 MPH. It weighs barely a ton and 40 were produced.
It was initially purchased by Erwin Schmidt of Strasbourg, who took delivery June 4th of that year. It eventually ended up in the hands of a U.S. Army Lieutenant Robert S. Phillips stationed in France. The car passed through two American owners before being purchased by the current owners. They completed a nut-and-bolt restoration in 2010. This car, a roadster, is chassis number 40904 and is a late model that has been restored by marque expert Jim Stranberg.
The Bugatti Type 40 was powered by a four-cylinder engine that produced an impressive amount of horsepower, considering the vehicles size and weight. It was a detuned version of the engine found in the Type 37 and initially featured a splash lubrication system to its five-bearing crankshaft. Later, a full-pressure lubrication system would become standard. The engines had 12 valves, twin Weber carburetors, coil ignition and produced around 70 horsepower. In traditional Bugatti fashion, the cylinder block and head were in the form of a single casting. The three-valve heads had two inlets each and a single large exhaust valve. They was mated to a four-speed manual gearbox with center change. The suspension was comprised of a beam front axle on semi-elliptic springs, while in the rear was a live axle on reversed quarter-elliptic springs. Hartford-type friction shock absorbers were placed on all four corners, as were the drum brakes.
The Type 40's were entry level vehicles that had low-cost construction methods making them reasonable to produce and purchase. The were introduced in 1926 and served as a replacement for the touring versions of the 16-valve Brescia range. The Type 38, introduced at the same time as the Type 40, was a replacement for the Type 30. The Type 37 with its 1500cc engine replaced the racing version of the Brescia.
The standard bodystyle for the Type 40 was the four-seater coupe. When introduced, it used the wheelbase of the Type 23, which measured 2.55 meters. Bugatti created the rolling chassis and custom coachbuilders outfitted the vehicle with its bodywork.
Around 745 (some sources say as high as 900) examples of the Type 40 were produced, and 35 examples of the Type 40A constructed. The Type 40A had engines fitted from the Type 49.
By Daniel Vaughan | Oct 2007