2022 | London Auction
1932 Bugatti Type 55 Cabriolet
Coachwork by Gangloff
£3,750,000 - £4,750,000
One of the Finest Examples of the Highly Sought-After Type 55
Exotic Grand-Prix Derived Chassis with Elegant Cabriolet Coachwork by Gangloff
Well-Documented Provenance with Just Three Private Owners Since 1955
Retains Its Matching-Numbers Mechanical Components and Original Gangloff Coachwork
Recent Show-Quality Restoration Performed by Classic Motor Cars Ltd. and Ivan Dutton Ltd.
Documented with a Report by Bugatti Historians Mark Morris and David Sewell
2,262 CC DOHC Inline 8-Cylinder Engine
Single Zenith 48K Carburetor
130 BHP at 5,000 RPM
4-Speed Manual Gearbox
4-Wheel Mechanical Drum Brakes
Front Solid-Axle Suspension with Semi-Elliptical Leaf Springs
Rear Live Axle with Reversed Quarter-Elliptical Leaf Springs
Giraud & Hoffmann, Marseille, France (acquired new in 1932)
Marcel Vidal, Marseille, France (acquired from the above in 1932)
L. Courcy, Seine-et-Oise, France (acquired in 1935)
Marcel Cirou, Paris, France (acquired via M. Framezelle in 1947)
Bob Estes, Inglewood, California (acquired via Les Haras des Pur Sang in 1955)
Walter B. Weimer, Washington, Pennsylvania (acquired from the above in 1978)
Current Owner (acquired from the above in 2014)
AGACI Montlhéry, 1947, Cirou, No. 47
See UK Registration/Import Status Guide in catalogue.
The Type 51 was the first Grand Prix Bugatti to feature a dual overhead camshaft motor, available in three sizes: 2.3-liter, 2.0-liter, and 1.5-liter, all supercharged. The 2.3-liter version produced as much as 160 hp, and the model soon proved very competitive. The Type 51 won several major races during its first season, and it was a Type 51 that earned Bugatti’s last significant Grand Prix victory against major opposition at the 1933 Monaco Grand Prix.
It was from these thoroughbred underpinnings that Jean Bugatti proceeded to develop the Type 55 road car, which soon became one of the most coveted sports cars of the early 1930s. The magnificent 2.3-liter engine retained its supercharger, but was detuned to 130 bhp to ensure tractability while inside still beat the heart of a racer. The price was astronomical, and as a result, a mere 38 chassis were built between 1932 and 1935, almost half of which were fitted with gorgeous Jean Bugatti-designed coachwork. Yet for some, that was not enough as they required something even more exceptional. To satisfy this demand, a number of coachbuilders such as Vanvooren, Figoni, and Gangloff were therefore allowed to create bespoke one-off creations. With its cabriolet body by Gangloff, chassis 55230 is one of these extremely rare and very exclusive Bugattis.
According to the Bugatti factory sales records, chassis 55230, fitted with engine no. 15, was ordered by “Vidal-Hoffmann” on April 1, 1932. Alfred “Freddie” Hoffmann, owner of the Nerka spark plug company, operated a Bugatti agency in Marseille, France, with his associate Henri Giraud. Their agency was named Giraud & Hoffmann, and Marcel Vidal was a race car driver and personal friend of Ettore Bugatti. On June 20, 1932, Gangloff in Colmar, France, invoiced Giraud & Hoffmann for a “Cabriolet 2 Places” body. The price was 19,000 francs, and the order stipulated that the top was to be fashioned from Rexine.
According to Bugatti historian Mark Morris, in the accompanying report on file, Gangloff records do not refer to chassis numbers. Nevertheless, it was possible for Mr. Morris to identify the individual entry for 55230 as a two-seater Cabriolet, which was built by Gangloff employee M. Scholler and delivered to Giraud & Hoffmann on June 24, 1932.
Whilst it cannot be definitively confirmed that Marcel Vidal was the first owner of 55230, the report on file and opinion of Morris is that Vidal likely was. On December 15, 1932, the car was given Paris registration no. 9318-RF7 but, as the records have not survived, the name of its presumably new owner remains unknown.
After one or more owners in Paris, the car was next re-registered on November 13, 1935, in the name of L. Courcy in the Seine-et-Oise region close to Paris. Soon after, the car was issued another registration number which it wore until the following November in 1938. At this time, the car was issued a new Parisian registration no. 916-RK which it retained until 1953.
While the name of the 1938 Paris owner is unknown, it is possible to trace the car’s chain of ownership going forward. The car was acquired on April 10, 1947, from a Bugatti mechanic named M. Framezelle, by Marcel Cirou, a former Amilcar dealer and race car driver. According to the report of Mr. Morris, Cirou won a race on the Montlhéry racing track on June 8, 1947, in the sports car class with 55230. The car was reported to have driven 100.534 km (62.5 miles) in 54 minutes, 53 seconds at an average 109.9 km/h (68.3 mph).
In 1950, a new French registration system was introduced that allocated a two-digit suffix number to each region; Paris being given suffix no. 75. Chassis 55230 was issued plate no. 3124-CK75 and a photograph of 55230 wearing this registration appears in Pierre Dumont’s 1975 book Bugatti: Les “Pur Sang” de Molsheim. Marcel Cirou fell ill circa 1952. He returned to his family in Normandy and left the Bugatti in storage in Paris, likely in the Garage Auber, operated by Pierre Proust.
In 1955, chassis 55230 was sold to Bob Estes, a well-known American racing driver who would have been the Bugatti importer and distributor on the West Coast of the US if the company were to resume production. According to Mr. Morris’ report, the Type 55 was likely purchased from a certain Gaston Docime who had put it up for sale with a famous Paris sports car dealership called Les Haras des Pur Sang (The Thoroughbred Stable) owned by François Mortarini. In Hugh Conway’s 1962 Bugatti Register, the car was listed as belonging to R. Estes of Inglewood, California, and was noted as having been bought in Paris in 1955. Mr. Estes registered the car in California and several photos from this period exist showing the unique Type 55 Cabriolet parked in front of Mr. Estes’ dealership, Precision Motors, which he co-owned with Otto Zipper.
Over the next few years, Mr. Estes used the car little, while his wife Joy entered it in several concours events. In December 1978, 55230 was sold to Walter B. Weimer of Washington, Pennsylvania. Mr. Weimer dismantled the car over a period of several years, with the intent to do a full restoration that never materialized. In late 2014, he commissioned Alan Taylor to restore 55230 but, before work commenced, sold it to its present owner, a prominent UK-based collector.
Under the current ownership, a significant restoration was performed, with the bodywork entrusted to Classic Motor Cars Ltd. and the mechanicals rebuilt by marque specialist Ivan Dutton Ltd. The results of this effort are most impressive, and the Type 55 Cabriolet presents today in concours-quality condition, handsomely finished in black with red leather upholstery, and fitted with a black Rexine top, as was originally specified. Notably, 55230 has not been exhibited at any concours since its restoration was completed, providing its next caretaker the opportunity to debut this unique Gangloff-bodied Type 55 at leading international events, including Pebble Beach, Villa d’Este, Hampton Court, and Chantilly.
Chassis 55230 was inspected both before and after its restoration by Bugatti historians Mr. Morris and David Sewell, who completed an extensive and detailed report on the car, which is available for prospective bidders to review. The accompanying report concludes with the following summary: “Overall this is a remarkably original Type 55 Bugatti, retaining as it does all its original mechanical components and its Gangloff coachwork. Its recent restoration work has resulted in it becoming one of the very best examples of this most highly sought after Bugatti model.”
Gooding & Company is pleased to present this attractive, custom-bodied Bugatti – a unique and genuine example of the ultra-desirable Type 55, which has had just three private owners since 1955 and benefits from a superb restoration overseen by two highly regarded specialists. For the collector in search of a top-tier Bugatti, this remarkable Gangloff Cabriolet is worthy of serious consideration.