Thursday, 9 August 2012

Jean Bugatti's final car completed 73 years after his death


Jean Bugatti's final car completed 73 years after his death

Bugattis seem to feature rather a lot on this blog (as well they should, being amongst the finest of classic - and modern - motor cars as well of one of my favourite marques) usually, it has to be said, in various states of disrepair.  The one in this story is no different, in fact it never even made it to completion - until now.

Jean Bugatti with his own personal 1932 Type 41 Royale

The design was the brainchild of Jean Bugatti, eldest son of company founder Ettore Bugatti and with whom he worked as de facto designer throughout the 1930s.  One of the company's most famous models, the gargantuan 1932 Type 41 Royale, was largely the work of young 23-year old Jean.

1936 Bugatti Type 57S Atalante

By 1939 Jean was completely established in the design department and had produced what are arguably still some of Bugatti's best - and the world's most beautiful - cars, including the 1936 Type 57S Atalante (one of which was found in original condition, unseen for 50 years, in a garage in Newcastle back in 2008).

1936 Type 57G 'Tank'

Again in 1936 Bugatti produced the remarkable Type 57G 'Tank' racer, which went on to have great success in various Grands Prix (including winning that year's French GP at Montlhéry) and later at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, which it comprehensively won in 1937.  Come 1939 and Jean Bugatti had started on a redesign of the 57G for the Le Mans race of that year, dubbed the Type 57C 'Tank'.  It once again came first in what was the final Le Mans before the Second World War and Bugatti were riding high and looking to the future with the Type 64 Coupé prototype and some more advanced drawings by Jean Bugatti based on that design.

Jean Bugatti 1909-1939
Sadly Jean Bugatti would never see these new designs realised.  On the 11th of August 1939 he took the Type 57C 'Tank' on a post-race test (following its Le Mans win) on the supposedly closed factory test route that ran close to the French village of Duppigheim.  Unfortunately a drunk cyclist had managed to find his way through a gap in some fencing and so on to the road.  In his effort to avoid hitting the man Jean Bugatti's car left the road and struck a tree, killing him instantly.  He was 30 years old.

Following this tragedy and with war only weeks away, what was left of Bugatti's design department closed down and attention was directed elsewhere.  Now, 73 years later, the Mullin Automotive Museum in Oxnard, California has used the last design drawings left by Jean Bugatti shortly before he died to create a one-off, brand-new bodyshell.  Made using the same techniques Bugatti would have used to hand-build bodywork in the Thirties, this evolution of the Type 64 is on the verge of becoming a unique vehicle - a "new", never-before-seen 1939 Bugatti.

One of only two 1939 Bugatti Type 64 chassis, of a total of 3 produced

The Mullin Museum have been able to use one of only three original Type 64 chassis on which to mount the new bodyshell and the "virtually complete" car will be shown at a local event on the 17th August.  As a truly one-of-a-kind car it is, as its creators have said, a perfectly fitting tribute to Jean Bugatti and a valuable addition to the historic Bugatti catalogue.  It is an incredible and totally laudable undertaking and I for one can't wait to see the pictures of it on the 17th - I'm sure it will be worth the 73-year wait.

The single example of a bodied 1939 Type 64 Coupé

1 comment:

  1. I would very happily drive that last car. Of course my husband and sons would need Zoot Suits or it just would not look right. :)


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