Sold for $2,585,000 at 2006 Gooding & Company Pebble Beach Auction.
Chassis #: 4889
Engine #: 152
Ettore Bugatti's first motorized creation was the twin-engined Prinetti and Stucchi tricycle of 1898. His creations continued to grow in design and sophistication which led to many successful outings at the racing circuit. It was not uncommon to see the majority of racers on the starting grid of many major races, driving a Bugatti automobile. The machines were lightweight with excellent performance and handling. They were capable of taking mediocre drivers to the front of the pack.
The true genius of the vehicle lay under the long and graceful bonnet. Bugatti had began working on a eight-cylinder engine in 1912. It was comprised of a pair of eight-valve Type 13 engines mounted in tandem. During World War I, Bugatti continued work on the eight-cylinder unit, along with the U-16 aircraft engines. At the close of World War I, the eight-cylinder unit was ready and made its appearance in the Type 28 of 1921. The Type 28 three-liter version never entered into serious production; tt was in a road-going, luxury vehicle that personified the emerging abilities of the Bugatti Company. The features of the vehicle and the technology of the engine would make its way into other vehicles created by Bugatti.
The Type 28 engine had a single overhead camshaft arrangement, which moved three valves per cylinder through finger followers. The two-liter version of the Type 28 was used to power the first Bugatti Grand Prix car, the Type 30 of 1922. This car brought with it another advanced feature, the roller crankshaft bearings. On the Indianapolis 500 race the Bugatti Type 30 racers, three had been entered, were easily distinguishable from the rest of the pack by their horseshoe-shaped radiator. This design feature would become a trademark of the legendary Bugatti Grand Prix racing machines.
For the 1923 French Grand Prix, Bugatti fielded their next evolution of racing machines: the Type 32. These vehicles became known as the 'Tanks' due to their fully enveloped bodies. There was little success by the team with the Type 32 which meant Bugatti sales began to slip. Part of the vehicles shortcomings were the brakes. Mechanical brakes were used in the rear and hydraulic brakes at the front; this was a first for the Bugatti marque. This combination proved to be unsuccessful so the company abandoned the arrangement and would not appear on another Buggati vehicle until the Type 57 in 1938.
The 1923 season had been a tough lesson for the company. Success on the racing circuit drove sales and daring, unproven technology and designs could lead to unsatisfactory results and ultimately, the demise of the company. For the 1924 season, the company dug deep into their past to build a new racer, the Type 35, that embodied the skill, talent, and experience of the Buggati Company. It was unveiled to the public at the 1924 Paris Motor Show and bore the trademark shoe-shaped radiator grill. The graceful and elegant body completely enclosed the vehicles frame. The only item exposed was the engine's sump which was done to improve cooling. Vents were throughout the body of the vehicle which, too, promoted cooling. The suspension was comprised of quarter-elliptical leaf springs attached to eight-spoke cast aluminum wheels and cast-iron-lined brake drums. The aluminum wheels were lightweight and had excellent brake cooling properties.
The engine that lay under the bonnet was similar to the units found in the Type 30 and 32 but greatly improved. The engine had an intricate five-main bearing crankshaft with roller main and connecting rod bearings. There were two four-cylinder blocks and integral cylinder heads that were enclosed in a split aluminum crankcase. There was one exhaust valve and two intake valves that were actuated by the overhead camshaft through finger followers. With the aid of two Zenith carburetors, the naturally aspirated engine produced 90 horsepower. The use of lightweight construction used throughout the engine and body married with excellent weight distribution and a potent engine made the Type 35 an excellent and superior racer for its time.
The cars inaugural racing appearance was at the 1924 French Grand Prix. The cars were poised to capture the checkered flag but a defective back of tires had the cars retiring prematurely. Later in the season, at the Sebastian Grand Prix in Spain, the true potential of the cars were realized which did much to stimulate sales. In total, there were around 139 examples of the Type 35A created over a three-year span. The 35A had three-main bearings and coil ignition and were intended as economical road going cars that could also be used in sporting events. Around 100 examples of the naturally aspirated Type 35 Grand Prix were constructed.
As the ingenuity of the Bugatti vehicles evolved, so did the creativity of the competition. To remain competitive, many marque's shifted to the use of superchargers. Bugatti followed by developing a Roots-Type supercharger to compliment the Type 35. The design was courtesy of an Italian engineer named Edmund Moglia. The blower was mounted on the lower right side of the engine and driven by bevel gears and a short shaft. A pop-off valve could be seen protruding through the right side of the hood. The result was the Type 35C which was capable of producing nearly 130 horsepower.
The Bugatti Type 35C with chassis number 4889 and 4890 are believed to have been two of the three factory entries in the 1927 San Sebastian Grand Prix. Chassis number 4889 also carries the road designation 5033 J4 which was registered on July 11th of 1927. It was given the road registration due to Ettor Bugatti's practice of driving the vehicle to and from the race.
Chassis number 4889 was offered for sale at the 2006 Gooding & Company Auction held in Pebble Beach where the car was one of the highlights of the show and estimated to sell for a very high price.
After the car was raced at the San Sebastian Grand Prix, it was left with the local agent to be sold. Ettore Bugatti often left the race winning car with the local Bugatti sales agent to help stimulate sales. This suggests further that 4889 was one of the cars raced at the San Sebastian Grand Prix and may have been the race winning car.
The early history of the vehicle is not fully known. It is believed to have been in the ownership of Barcelona jeweler who may have raced it in Spain. It was later hidden behind a permanent wall to keep it from being confiscated during the Spanish Civil War. Years later, it was given a modest mechanical and cosmetic improvement before being sold to a US citizen. The car was placed on the SS Excelsior from Barcelona to Jersey City on October 10th of 1961. Ownership later passed to Upshur, a Bugatti enthusiast and owner of several important Bugatti vehicles. It remained in his possession for four decades and until his death.
This very significant and well documented Bugatti is considered to be one of the most original of its kind in existence. At the Gooding & Company auction, it sat elevated high above the rest of the vehicles during the viewing days. A circle of cars had been placed around this vehicle and was easily discernable as a very special vehicle. On auction day, the bidders solidified this cars importance by driving the cost of the winning bid to $2,585,000.By Daniel Vaughan | Feb 2007