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It was raced at Le Mans in 1932 by Louis Chiron and Count Guy Bouriat-Quintart, and now this Bugatti Type 55 is being offered for the first time at auction.
Chassis number 55221 started life as a works Le Mans entrant and has spent the last 56 years with the same British family.
When new its chassis price-tag was 110,000FF ($7500) – but rarity and history have combined to push that up a touch and it’s expected to fetch in excess of €4million when it leads Bonhams’ 2020 Grand Palais Sale in Paris next February.
Just 38 Type 55 Super Sports models were built between 1932 and ’35, and Chassis 55221 is one of only 29 that are known to have survived.
It ran with a temporary four-seat body at Le Sarthe to comply with the race’s regulations, but it didn’t get far, retiring after just three hours with a split fuel tank.
Still, this was a serious high-performance machine, with a supercharged 2.3-litre twin-cam, eight-cylinder engine derived from and only slightly detuned in comparison to that in the Type 51 that was a multiple Grand Prix winner.
That meant 0-60mph in 13 secs en route to a 115mph top speed – in 1932.
After its Le Mans outing, Count Bouriat sold the car to wealthy French magazine publisher Jacques Dupuy, who commissioned Parisian coachbuilder Giuseppe Figoni to fashion a two-seat body with a pair of highline doors, to combine sweeping style with ease of access and protection from the elements.
Once rebodied, Dupuy drove the T55 in the 1933 Paris-Nice Rally as well as the La Journée de l’Elégance et de l’Automobile au Bois de Boulogne concours, in which it excelled.
The Bugatti came to the UK in 1962 with AA Morse, acquired by fellow Bugatti connoisseur – and leading vintage racer – Geoffrey St John the following year.
The T55 has been through two restorations, the first in 1966, the second around three decades later after a crash in France – but, crucially, its chassis wasn’t damaged and specialist Gino Hoskins was able to bring it back to best.
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to acquire an extremely historic and important motor car owned by the same family for 56 years,” said Sholto Gilbertson, Director, Bonhams UK Motor Cars.
“Over the years, the family have resisted many offers and we are very much looking forward to presenting the Bugatti for sale in Paris next February. Everyone will now have an equal opportunity to secure one of the most important motor cars to come to market in recent years.”