The 1930 to 1933 Bugatti Type 50 is in essence a scaled-down sporting coupe version of the Type 46 Royale. The gearbox is in unit with the rear axle and the car has the large twin cam 5-liter eight-cylinder engine, which was perhaps based on the Miller racing engine. The Type 50 was a direct replacement for the Type 46, and very luxurious by any standard. There was a choice of two wheelbases and several different body styles. It sold in small numbers because of its high price. Aimed at the sporting motorist, it was designed as a high performance 'daily-driver.' A team of Bugatti Type 50s first ran at Le Mans in 1931 and continued for the next three years, when a Type 50 led the race for some time before retiring. Depending on the body style, a Type 50 could reach around 105 mph and had a zero-to-sixty time of under 8 seconds, an impressive figure for a 1930s sports car.
Bugatti's Type 50 was much improved over its Type 46 and cost almost double the price of its predecessor. In many ways the Type 50 was directly related to the Type 41 Royale with a ladder-frame chassis design offered in two sizes: the short wheelbase Sports and the longer Touring known as the 50T. Although the Type 50 was intended solely for road use, Bugatti prepared three cars for the 1931 Le Mans 24 Hours race. One of these returned to Le Mans three more times, leading the race for a while in 1935. Body styles for the Type 50 were quite diverse; they were bodied by either Bugatti or a coachbuilder of the customer's choice.
This three-passenger coupe has coachwork by the Parisian carrossier Million-Guiet and has won awards in many concours competitions, including First Prize for Classic Cars at the 1961 New York Auto Show.
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