The production of the Bugatti Type 73 began in 1943, right before the onset of World War II. Production was postponed during the war but began again in 1947 with the introduction of the Type 73A. Ettore Bugatti's death on August 21, 1947 spelled the demise of the Type 73.
The Type 73, Type 73B, and Type 73A were touring cars that came with seating for either two or four people. All the Type 73 (A, B, C) were given, or intended to have, four-cylinder engines. The Type 73 had twin overhead camshafts with four valves per cylinder. The Type 73B was similar but had single overhead camshafts. The Type 73A had single overhead camshafts with three valves per cylinder.
Five chassis of the Grand Prix, single seater Type 73C were constructed with only one (73002) receiving an engine and testing by the factory. The chassis numbers were 73001 through 73005. The supercharged engine was a 1.5 liter straight-four with twin overhead camshafts and four-valves per cylinder. It featured a detachable cylinder head, wet cylinder liners, and a exhaust manifold constructed of cast iron. The rest of the chassis were sold off as the company ceased production. Most of the chassis were later completed, some being given bodies true to the original Bugatti design.
A single Type 73 without engine was shown at the 1947 Paris Motor Show.
The Type 73C models are generally not held in high regards by Bugatti purists. Many of the reasons center on the fact that the chassis's were assembled by a dealer rather than the factory. These 'one-off' vehicles did not have the traditional Bugatti designs plus there are no competition records for these monoposto's.
They remain in history as the final but incomplete creations of the legendary Ettore Bugatti.
By Daniel Vaughan | Jun 2010
Chassis Num: 73002
Engine Num: 2
1947 Bugatti Type 73C Racing Car
Ettore Bugatti had founded his reputation as a manufacturer of high quality performance automobiles wîth his earliest four cylinder models before WWI. He introduced his first eight cylinder cars in 1922, and within ten years his entire range was of this configuration. However, whilst attending the Bugatti Owners' Club's International Prescott meeting in July 1939 Ettore's talented son Jean had intimated that a new four cylinder racing car was planned for the following season. Tragically this was destined not to materialize because within the next two weeks Jean was killed in a testing accident, and some three weeks later Europe was once again plunged into war.
Bugatti, assisted by his designers Noel Domboy and Antoine Pichetto, spent the war years planning future models, one a 1,500cc car to be produced in a wide variety of forms ranging from a five-seater sedan to a single-seater racing car. By 1944 his plans for production were well advanced and he detailed his intentions in a letter dated February 1945 to Eric Giles, the Secretary of the B.O.C. The car was to have a supercharged 1500cc 16-valve engine, wîth a single overhead camshaft for the road cars but twin camshafts for the racing model.
Further details were released once the war had ended. In a letter dated 27 September 1945 to Laurence Pomeroy, the editor of The Motor, Monsieur R.A. Bouchard of the Bugatti Company in Paris advised that the racing chassis was to be of ultra-low build, being derived from that of the pre-war 4.7 liter Type 59/50 B racing car, whilst its engine was to feature all-alloy construction wîth detachable wet cylinder liners, a detachable head (a first for Bugatti) and a five-bearing crankshaft. Transmission was to be by a four speed all synchromesh gearbox, and the car's total weight was not to exceed 600kg.
No more than twenty examples were to be built in the old La Licorne factory in the Paris suburb of Levallois at a price of 500,000 French francs each. Five were to be delivered in April 1946, wîth five more during each of the next three months. Already fifteen French racing drivers had each lodged deposits of 25,000 francs, and English readers of The Motor were invited to order the remaining five planned. Inevitably this ambitious timetable floundered against the troubled post-war economic background when materials required for motor car construction were all in extremely short supply, and several orders were cancelled.
Eventually a batch of five complete sets of parts for the racing model was produced, whilst an artist's impression of a planned aerodynamic sports saloon appeared in several Continental motor magazines and at least two of their chassis were produced. However Ettore Bugatti died in August 1947 before a single example of either type had been fully assembled. The 1947 Paris Motor Show was held at the Grand Palais in early October and Bugatti displayed on their stand an engineless example of their Type 73 sports chassis together wîth a standard single-cam Type 73 and a racing twin-cam Type 73C engine. One hopeful racing car buyer, Serge Pozzoli, who had placed his order at the Paris Motor Show, recalled later that he had visited the Works and seen several chassis, and one complete racing car wîth a running engine. However, without Ettore's impetus the whole project slowly ground to a halt, the unfinished cars were dismantled, all their parts were stored at Molsheim and deposits were returned to the would-be owners.
All these parts and many others remained in storage at Molsheim for several years until one set of Type 73C parts was acquired in late 1960 by Belgian Bugatti dealer Jean de Dobbeleer of Brussels. There he assembled and fitted wîth a monoposto body featuring a typical Bugatti radiator shell based on one of a pair of 1945 Type 73C body drawings by Pichetto. After selling the finished car to a Frenchman, de Dobbeleer returned to Molsheim in 1961 and acquired the parts for another Type 73C, Chassis No 73002, which he proceeded to assemble, after which he sold its body-less chassis to the ÚS via his American agent Gene Cesari.
This car was the only Type 73C to be listed in Hugh Conway's 1962 Bugatti Register, in which its owner was listed as Jerry Sherman of Pennsylvania. Thereafter it passed in 1969 to Eric Richardson, the leading American Bugatti authority of his day, before passing in 1973 by Tom Wheatcroft who was then in the process of both purchasing and assembling what was to become his famous Donington Collection of Grand Prix racing cars. The car was fully restored in the Donington workshops to the extremely high mechanical and cosmetic standard invariable achieved by Wheatcroft, who has always insisted his cars should perform and drive as well as they look.
The car was then fitted wîth a copy of the second of Pichetto's 1945 73C body designs, this one featuring a cowled radiator grill typical of the late pre-war and early post-war period.
Tom Wheatcroft often invited his many racing driver friends to private test sessions at his Donington Park track, and accordingly this particular car was driven from time to time on such occasions by Wheatcroft and his associates throughout his period of ownership. However, wishing to accommodate a selection of much more recent racing cars, Wheatcroft decided to sell several of the exhibits displayed in his Donington Collection, and in 1994 he sold his Type 73C Bugatti to Alberto Lenz of Mexico. Lenz in turn sold the car to its current owner in 2002. Over the last few years he has meticulously carried out numerous improvements, including fitting the car wîth piano wire wheels and hubs by Crosthwaite & Gardiner and cycle wings to make the car road-legal. It should be noted that a complete set of detailed pictures during the restoration by the present owner are on file.
Whilst the Type 73C Bugatti was in truth no more than an undeveloped factory prototype which fortune dictated was never to show its true potential, or even indeed ever to have the opportunity of competing in period motor racing, it does have one claim to fame which it will retain for all time. It was the very last racing car designed by perhaps the greatest and certainly the most successful racing car designer of all time - Ettore Bugatti.Source - Christie's