2021 | Pebble Beach Auctions
1929 Bugatti Type 35B Grand Prix
$3,500,000 - $4,500,000
Winner of the 1929 French and Spanish Grand Prix with Williams and Chiron
Featured on the Cover of Road & Track Magazine, November 1951
Retains Matching-Numbers Engine per Factory Records
Comprehensive Restoration by Marque Specialist Ivan Dutton Ltd. Completed in 2006
Documented by Noted Bugatti Historians Mark Morris and David Sewell
Single Zenith 48K Carburetor
Estimated 130 HP at 5,500 RPM
4-Speed Manual Gearbox
4-Wheel Cable-Operated Mechanical Drum Brakes
Front Rigid Axle with Semi-Elliptical Leaf Springs and Shock Absorbers
Rear Live Axle with Reversed Quarter-Elliptical Leaf Springs and Shock Absorbers
Ettore Bugatti Automobiles, Molsheim, France (Retained for the 1929 Grand Prix de l’ACF)Louis Chiron, Monaco (acquired from the above in 1929)Alfred German, New Jersey (acquired circa 1948)Robert Fergus, Columbus, Ohio (acquired from the above in 1951)George Byers, US (acquired from the above in 1952)Lawrence C. Falvey and Family, Detroit, Michigan (acquired from the above in 1952)Chris Drake, Worcestershire, England (acquired from the above in 2000)Current Owner (acquired from the above in 2006)
Grand Prix de l’ACF at Le Mans, 1929, Grover-Williams, No. 36 (1st Overall)Spanish Grand Prix at San Sebastián, 1929, Chiron, No. 1 (1st Overall)
Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance ® , 1989Meadow Brook Concours d’Elegance, 1989
Considered by many to be the finest racing car of its period and one of the most enduring automotive designs of all time, the Type 35 Grand Prix is the definitive Bugatti.
Unveiled at the 1924 Grand Prix of Lyon, Ettore Bugatti’s Type 35 was immediately hailed as a modern marvel, combining advanced engineering with masterful aesthetic design. Equipped with an overhead-cam eight- cylinder engine, the original Type 35 produced 95 hp, an impressive figure for a normally aspirated two-liter machine of the era. The car’s extremely lightweight chassis showcased Bugatti’s revolutionary hollow front axle and cast aluminum wheels with integrated brake drums, while the main mechanical components were clothed in a streamlined two-seat aluminum body that was both elegant and purposeful. The entire car was beautifully made, from its horseshoe radiator to its tapered tail, with scraped or polished metal finishes and fine detailing throughout.
Bugatti built several different variations of the Type 35 through 1931, when the model was replaced by the Miller-inspired twin-cam Type 51. Early Type 35s generally followed the pattern set by the original Lyon cars, while more powerful supercharged models of varying engine capacity appeared in 1926. Altogether, the Bugatti works in Molsheim, France produced approximately 350 Type 35s.
A credit to their technical achievements and versatile performance, Bugatti Type 35s dominated racing throughout the late 1920s and early 1930s, with over 1,000 wins in a variety of competitions. It has been said that the Type 35 averaged 14 race wins per week and, by the close of 1926, the model set 47 individual speed records. The Type 35 took the Grand Prix World Championship title in 1926, won the Monaco Grand Prix three times, and the Targa Florio five times. Bugatti’s success attracted the most famous drivers of the day – Nuvolari, Varzi, Divo, Costantini, Chiron, Dreyfus, and Williams all contributed to the legend of the Type 35 Grand Prix.
This Bugatti presented here is a Type 35B – the designation for a 2.3-liter, eight-cylinder model fitted with a Roots-type supercharger. As noted in historian Hugh Conway’s definitive reference book Grand Prix Bugatti, this car, chassis 4938, was originally equipped with engine no. 192T. Notably, it was retained in factory ownership, first registered in Strasbourg, France, as 3874 NV2, and prepared as a works entry for the Grand Prix de l’Automobile Club de France (ACF) on June 30, 1929.
Chassis 4938 was joined at Le Mans by two other works Type 35Bs, chassis 4933 and 4939, entered for Count Conelli and Albert Divo. This car was entrusted to English racing driver William Grover-Williams, famed for his win at the inaugural Monaco Grand Prix and his heroic contributions to the French Resistance during WWII.
In 1929, the Grand Prix de l’ACF was run to a strict fuel-consumption formula, so Bugatti fitted its three works cars with smaller superchargers and distinctive-looking bodies, characterized by a wider cockpit, rear-mounted spare, and large cylindrical fuel tank topped by a prominent gauge, rather than the standard Grand Prix Bugatti pointed tail.
Williams, wearing race no. 36, led the race nearly from start to finish, winning the Grand Prix outright, covering 605 km in 4:33:12 at an average speed of 133.028 km per hour.
After its debut win, 4938 returned to Molsheim, where it was converted to traditional Grand Prix bodywork and fitted with a standard Type 35B supercharger. According to the factory ledger, this car was one of two Type 35Bs that were sold to Louis Chiron, the legendary Monegasque driver who won nearly every significant European Grand Prix during his extraordinary three-decade career.
Chiron entered 4938 in the Spanish Grand Prix, held on July 25, 1929, at the Lasarte circuit in San Sebastián, a glamorous resort town on the Bay of Biscay. 20 cars entered this 40-lap Grand Prix, but in the end the starting grid was comprised of 14 cars – 13 Bugattis and a sole Alfa Romeo 1750. Wearing race no. 1 and starting from the lead position, Chiron battled with Philippe Étancelin during the first half of the race but took a commanding lead on the 21st lap. Not only did Chiron go on to win the race outright, but he also set the fastest lap, at a remarkable average speed of 86.57 mph.
After the Spanish Grand Prix, Chiron entered one of his Bugattis in the Klausen Hill Climb. However, it has not been determined whether that was 4938 or his other Type 35B, chassis 4922.
In the early 1930s, 4938 is believed to have found its way to Germany, where it may have been road registered using the identity of chassis 37350, a Type 37A that already resided in the country. This was a common practice during this era, and it may explain why that car’s chassis number is stamped on 4938’s lower crankcase and chassis frame.
In November 1951, Chiron’s former Type 35B appeared on the cover of Road & Track magazine and was the subject of a feature article, which provides an account of 4938’s early postwar provenance:
“One of the two or three Type 35Bs known to be in this country, this like-new example owns Robert H. Fergus of Columbus, Ohio (who is aware, like most enthusiasts, that no one ever owns a Bugatti.) A U.S. Army colonel found the car (which costs $10,000 new) in Germany and shipped it home, where it wound up in New Jersey in the hands of Alfred German. Mr. German spent two years restoring it to unbelievable showroom condition, whereupon Mr. Fergus happened on the scene and under the Bugatti spell.”
In 1952, Mr. Fergus sold 4938 to George Byers who, in turn, sold it to Lawrence Falvey of Detroit. A successful foreign car dealer, whose agencies handled a variety of marques, from Volkswagen to Rolls-Royce, Mr. Falvey kept the Type 35B until his death in 1985, whereupon ownership transferred to his daughter, Mary. In the late 1980s, she commissioned a restoration, carried out to the gleaming concours standards of the time, and the Bugatti was exhibited at the Pebble Beach and Meadow Brook Concours d’Elegance in 1989. Remarkably, 4938 remained in the Falvey family’s ownership until 2000, when it was sold to Chris Drake, an English collector with a passion for fine European sports and racing cars.
Soon after acquiring the Type 35B, Mr. Drake commissioned highly regarded Bugatti specialist Tim Dutton of Ivan Dutton Ltd. to carry out a full restoration. This work was undertaken with the goal of returning 4938 to a more period-appropriate appearance, while completely restoring all mechanical elements. The restoration was completed in 2006, with invoices on file documenting the process.
The current owner acquired the car from Mr. Drake in 2006, and it has been a fixture in his museum of historic racing cars ever since. While in his ownership, the Bugatti has been exercised to keep it in running order, but has been primarily kept as a static display. In preparation for its sale, Bugatti historian Mark Morris was commissioned to produce a comprehensive report on 4938, which is included in the car’s file together with an earlier report produced by David Sewell. In his report, Mr. Morris concludes that 4938 retains its original chassis frame, engine (no. 192T), supercharger (no. 240), gearbox (no. 453), rear axle (no. 208), front axle, data tag, and much of its Molsheim Grand Prix bodywork, including the bonnet and tail section.
With its classic horseshoe radiator, pointed tail, and flat French Blue paintwork, there is no mistaking 4938 for anything but the quintessential Bugatti Grand Prix car, one of the great icons of prewar motoring. As a works Type 35B, it represents the ultimate evolution of Ettore Bugatti’s original, groundbreaking design and is thrilling to drive, on road or track.
This Type 35B possesses a brief but brilliant racing history, winning two major European Grand Prix in the hands of two legendary drivers: Grover-Williams driving for the works team at the ACF Grand Prix at Le Mans and Louis Chiron, who bought 4938 personally from Ettore Bugatti and then drove it to a win at San Sebastián.
The car’s postwar history is well established, appearing on the cover of Road & Track in 1951 and then retiring into single family ownership for the next half century. Unlike many Bugatti competition cars, it remains in fundamentally original order, surviving over 90 years with its original chassis and matching- numbers engine intact. It has been restored to its proper, period-correct Grand Prix specification by one of the foremost experts in the field and is well documented, both in various books and club registers, as well as in reports produced by the leading marque historians.
This Bugatti Type 35B Grand Prix is, quite simply, one of the most desirable automobiles of all time.