- Chassis number 55204
- 1 of 38 "Type 55" produced
- Rare and elegant cabriolet bodywork by Vanvooren
- Winner of the 1st Lyon-Charbonnières Rally (1947)
- Clear and well documented history
- Very original example (Engine, gearbox, axle, chassis, 80% of the bodywork)
- Complete restoration by a renowned workshop
At the end of 1931, the Parisian Bugatti agent Dominique Lamberjack, a friend of Jean Bugatti's, asked the factory for semi-exclusive rights to the Type 55 2.3-liter chassis delivered to him. Every second chassis was to be delivered to him and the other half to the factory's privileged customers. Thus, Lamberjack wanted to secure exclusivity on the promising "Super Sport twincam". History will tell that no chassis would arrive until March 1932 when the first five factory customers had already received their cars. Lamberjack, a great friend of Robert de Prandières, director of the Vanvooren coach builder in Courbevoie, obtained that the majority of the chassis be entrusted to Vanvooren for bodywork.
Among the six Bugatti Type 55 chassis delivered in Paris, five were dressed by Vanvooren and one by Figoni.
1. Parisian life with Vladimir de Constantinovitch
Chassis 55204 was the first of five chassis ordered by Lamberjack between March and November 1932. The order was dated February 8, 1932, when 55204 was invoiced to "Lamberjack fils - Paris" for 72,000 francs. As agreed, 55204 was sent to Vanvooren in Courbevoie to receive a very nice two-seater cabriolet body. The name of the first owner is not known with certainty, but we know that he lived in Paris thanks to the original registration of the vehicle : 9762 RF 5 corresponds to a plate of the department of the Seine.
We also know that the car belonged to an amateur nicknamed "the Admiral". Lamberjack confided in 1990 that he had in his clientele the son of General de Constantinovitch, known as "the Admiral", living on boulevard Haussmann.
Vladimir de Constantinovitch was born in Trieste in June or July 1879. His father, General Alexander of Constantinovich, commanded the Royal Guard of Serbia. His mother, a wealthy Serbian woman, gave them many estates in Serbia an in Trieste. Vladimir had graduated from the military school in Belgrade. He had married a wealthy American woman, Anne Heyward Cutting, from New York, whose family had made a fortune in the railroad business. After his wife's untimely death in November 1921, he remarried a French woman from the north of France, dividing his time between his apartment at 170 Boulevard Haussmann and his castle in the Somme, and Le Touquet Paris Plage.
Vladimir conscientiously squandered the family fortune, helped by his numerous conquests: Bugatti 37A, 57C and Hispano 32CV and a Type Sport. Since Constantinovich bought his cars new, as the Hispano and Bugatti sales records prove, it is logical to conclude that he bought chassis 55204 new, and had it brought to Courbevoie through his friend Lamberjack.
2. A life of racing with Pierre Daligand
Then 55204 arrived in Macon in the summer of 1946 keeping the garage registration "6009 W 5" for a few months. The new owner was a personality of the automobile world in Lyon. Pierre Daligand, at the same time stomatologist and manager of the Renault dealership of the Garage Continental in Macon. He started competition through motorcycling in 1929, the year in which he tried his hand at the handlebars of a Magnat-Debon 350 cm3 series bike with some success. In 1932, he participated in various events including the Circuit de l'Ain with a Motosacoche 500 cm3, and in 1934, he switched to cars on the circuit and in rallies. The year 1936 marked the beginning of his Bugatti period, with successively a Type 37, a 43 roadster, a Type 49 faux-cabriolet and a Ventoux.
- 1946: The IXth Rally of the French Alps (July 12-15)
Our car was entered in this rally, which was the first post-war rally in France. The event was between 3,000 and 4,000 km long and crossed the Alps from France to Germany via Italy, Switzerland, Yugoslavia and Austria. The difficulty of the route and the average speed required meant that few competitors managed to keep to the time limit. Pierre Daligand, at the wheel of his Type 55, achieved the best time of the race from a standing start in Annecy. The car had the race number 80 and the license plates of his garage. It behaved brilliantly until fuel supply problems led to its withdrawal.
- 1947: The First Lyon-Charbonnières Rally (March 21-23)
This competition was created by Dr. Daligand. With two colleagues from the M.C.L., he designed the entire route and the rules, and submitted his project to the A.C.R. (Automobile Club du Rhône) Sports Association.
For this race, Daligand asked a worker from the Continental garage, Mr. Molla, to modify the body of his Bugatti Type 55 cabriolet, by making aluminum elements adapted on the wooden structure of the Vanvooren cabriolet. The central part of the body made of sheet metal was kept. The doors were notched, and sport wings replaced the original long wings.
The race took place in three legs, which were quite demanding for the men and their machine. 51 crews reached the finish despite heavy rain, snow and night-time events.
Pierre Daligand won the event in his Bugatti Type #55 204.
- 1947: The Xth International Rally of the Alps (July 11-15)
The event covered 1,050 km, starting at the old port of Marseille and finishing in Cannes. Of the 61 competitors at the start, only 27 were classified. The race was won by Gaston Descollas, a Bugatti dealer from Marseille, driving another Bugatti Type 55 chassis 55201, under race number 112.Pierre Daligand, with race number 111, retired after a tire burst while leading the race.This last race marks the end of the sporting career of our car.
The car was sold in early 1948 "to some young people from Beaujolais" who never put the Bugatti in their name.
3. Bernard Roche, Château de Milly
The car was resold on June 12, 1958 and registered under the number 6271 AX 69. Bernard Roche, an original from the Rhone Valley and the Dordogne, went from castle to castle in search of treasures and collected Bugatti and other cars from the Roaring Twenties. In his castle in Fénelon in the Dordogne, he hid an eight-valve Bugatti, a Type 44 and a Type 49. He remembered the Type 55 "sold to people in Paris, complete with its aluminum wheels, for the sum of 150,000 old francs. "For some reason, the Type 55 was not registered in his name until 1958, although the car had already been with its next owner, Mr Liandier, since April 1955. It must be a very late regularization. But the facts and the pictures prove it.
4. Pierre Proust in Montrouge: 55204/55202 crossed destinies
We find the two sisters in Pierre Proust's garage at 41 rue Racine in 1955 and later. Henri Novo, who had transferred from the Teillac garage, worked in this Bugatti-dedicated den. During their regular visits to the garage, the registration cards of the two cars were reversed, which is still the case today. An inspection of 55202 in the Mulhouse Museum leaves no doubt about this old inversion.
5. Maurice Liandier Fontenay/s Bois: registration on April 9, 1955
Henri Novo's repair notes relate a first intervention on the Type 55 at the time of the registration by Proust.
We can deduce that Liandier had already bought the car:
- January 15, 1954: "Type 55 Liandier, unbundled, changed the pistons, redid the gasket plans. ".
- Then on October 25, 1954: "55 Liandier, crankshaft revised by the factory. Cylinders 60m/m5 piston height".
The young Maurice was surrounded by a privileged environment from his youth. He had Bugatti cars all his life, starting in the 1920s. He enrolled in the Beaux-Arts school, but made a career as a maintenance manager in the fur factories of "C et E Chapal Frères et Cie, Teinturerie de Pelleterie et Fourrures" owned by the Bardinon family. Liandier was a long time bugattist as he owned a Type 35 Grand Prix de Lyon 1924 and a Type 30 Indianapolis before the war. Liandier kept his Type 55 for almost ten years. It was overhauled at Teillac by Novo in 1954-1955 as noted in the latter's archives. Liandier brought his Bugatti back to his estate in Chateauneuf-de-Grasse in 1962.
6. In the famous Pierre Bardinon collection
The car was sold on June 9, 1965, to Pierre Bardinon, the famous French collector who never ceased to collect the most important Ferraris in the history of motor racing as well as models of emblematic and sporty brands such as Bugatti. Mr. Liandier's son has photos of the car and the invoice sent to Pierre Bardinon. It is indeed the old Vanvooren 55204 convertible, in its 1947 Lyon-Charbonnières configuration.
The Bugatti 55204, tired but complete, made its way back from Grasse to Paris in spring 1965. Pierre Bardinon then asked Henri Novo to take the twin cam engine out and put it in an unidentified original Grand Prix chassis, which the mechanic assembled for him in 1965. Since then, the engine ex 55204 is in the "Type 51" ex-Bardinon, ex-Frédéric Chandon de Briailles, now kept in a French collection. The chassis 55204, without engine, property of Pierre Bardinon, remained at Novo while waiting for a resurrection.
This happened 40 years later.
7. An elite collector, Charles Robert
A regular at the Novo garage, from whom he bought a Type 57 chassis that was lying around in Montrouge, and probably in the same period chassis 55204. The Type 55 is examined in the basement of his villa in Nogent, around 1986. The car is then as it was abandoned by Bardinon at Novo in 1965. All mechanical parts were still on the car: the front axle, the gearbox and the rear axle were, and still are, the original ones. The frame is the one of 55204. The central part, made of sheet metal, remains of the Vanvooren body, as well as the cut woodwork behind the seat, reminded of the beautiful two-seater convertible that was modified by Daligand in 1947. Charles Robert decided to remake a body with doors, in the style of the 1932 bodywork. He also asked the talented Laurent Rondoni of the "Ventoux Moteurs" workshop in Carpentras to assemble a competitive engine and to carry out a complete restoration of the car. Charles Robert sadly passed away before he could see it climb the Mont Ventoux at full speed for its first test run.
8. The return to the origin
During the Retromobile 2015 sale, it is another French enthusiast who bought it. He is the owner of the Bugatti type 51 reassembled in the sixties for Pierre Bardinon, by Henri Novo with the engine 5 of 55204. In order to reunite engine and chassis, he bought the car at auction and reinstalled the original engine. He also bought the body of the 1947 Lyon Charbonnières to complete the story. He decided to restore the car in its exact original configuration, including colors: the Vanvooren two-seater cabriolet of 1932. He noticed that the hood, the apron and the wooden frame of the body and a large part of the bodywork (including the lower part of the doors, up to the plumb of the seat) are original. This will allow the realization of the rear line, exactly as it came out of the Vanvooren workshops at that time. An important work of research and study of the photos of the car in its 1932 configuration, leads to the faithful reconstruction of the body from the major part of its framework.
We owe to Pierre-Yves Laugier the richness of the documentation and the clarity of the history of 55204. Pierre-Yves is a well-known historian of the brand and has brought to light the rich past of this car.
According to him, this Bugatti type 55 cabriolet by Vanvooren is one of the most original cars of the 38 Type 55 produced. Only 29 examples have survived, but less than 20 have the majority of their original components.
This cabriolet is only one of two surviving Vanvooren, with all its original mechanics, original chassis frame, engine numbers engraved on its front end, hood, cam boxes, gearbox and rear axle.
Offering outstanding road performance at the time, our Bugatti 55 is still a car for the discerning collector.
*History extracted from Pierre-Yves Laugier's research.

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  • Mileage: 1
  • Year: 1932
  • Doors: 2
  • Body type: Convertible
  • Transmission type: Manual
  • Fuel type: Petrol
  • Colour: Blue

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