It’s September, with many months and many auctions to take place before Retromobile 2020 in Paris, but Bonhams already is touting at least one consignment for its annual auction at the Grand Palais.
The car is the 1932 Bugatti Type 55 driven as a works entry in the 24 Hours of Le Mans by Louis Chiron and Guy Bouriat-Quintart, and was displayed at Bonhams Goodwood Revival sale this past weekend.
Bonhams notes that the car is being offered at auction for the first time after 56 years of ownership by a British family.
“Over the years, the family have resisted many offers,” Sholto Gilberton, director of UK Motor Cars for Bonhams, is quoted in the announcement. “Everyone will now have an equal opportunity to secure one of the most important motor cars to come to market in recent years.”
Bonhams is sharing the vehicle’s estimated value only with those likely to be bidding.
“Just as the modern-day Bugatti Veyron, Chiron and EB110 models are a contemporary car collector’s dream, so the Bugatti Type 55 in its day was a much-coveted automotive jewel,” Bonhams reports.
“Even with the backdrop of The Great Depression, the most style-conscious glitterati all aspired to the Bugatti – which was aimed squarely at the most well-heeled clientele. With a chassis price tag of 110,000 FF ($7,500), only 38 examples of the Type 55 Super Sports model were produced between 1932 and 1935, 29 of which are known to survive.”
Bonhams said the Type 55 Super Sports were considered to be Grand Prix cars in sports car clothing. They were propelled by a supercharged 2.3-liter twin-cam inline 8-cylinder engine similar to those in the Bugatti Type 51 racing cars.
“Even in 1932, its blistering performance boasted 0-60 mph acceleration in 13 seconds and the hitherto unheard-of top speed — for a road car — of 115 mph,” Bonhams says.
The Type 55 heading to the auction block was fitted temporarily with a 4-seat body to meet Le Mans regulations in place at the time. It ran only 3 of the 24 hours of the race, suffering a split in its fuel tank.
After the race the car was sold to French magazine publisher Jacques Dupuy, who commissioned Giuseppe Figoni to create unique 2-seat coachwork with high-line doors with wind-up windows. Dupuy raced the car in the 1933 Paris-Nice Rally and displayed it in the concours d’elegance at Boulogne.
After World War II, the car was taken to England by A.A. Morse and then acquired in 1963 by Geoffrey St John. It was restored in 1966, and then again 30 years later after it was damaged during a drive in France.