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Coachwork by A.P. Compton & Co. Ltd.
*Please note this vehicle is titled 1930.
The 1931 Olympia Motor Show Car | Two Private Owners from NewAlfred Dugdale, Aberdeenshire, UK (acquired new in January 1932)Stratford upon Avon Motor Museum, Warwickshire, UK (acquired from the above in 1973)Current Owner (acquired from the above in 1975)
Olympia Motor Show, London, England, October 1931Stratford upon Avon Motor Museum, Warwickshire, UK, 1973-1975
The successor to the popular Type 44, the Type 49 was, in many respects, the final evolution of the traditional Ettore Bugatti touring car and one of the finest automobiles of its era. None other than Hugh Conway, the famed marque authority, writes in his book, Bugatti: Le Pur-Sang des Automobiles, that “many experienced Bugattistes believe that the finest of all touring Bugatti cars was Type 49.”
Introduced in 1930, the Type 49 was a classic Bugatti design, featuring a narrow chassis frame, horseshoe radiator, cable-operated drum brakes, four-speed gearbox, and a beautiful single overhead-camshaft, three-valve-per-cylinder straight-eight engine. For the Type 49, Ettore Bugatti devised a new twin-plug ignition system and enlarged the engine’s bore and stroke, increasing displacement to 3,257 cc. These updates resulted in an immensely capable high-performance touring car, with a top speed approaching 100 mph in standard trim.
After testing the new Bugatti in November 1932, The Motor published the following report, attesting to the superb nature of Ettore’s latest offering:
“The Type 49, or 3.3-litre tourer, combines all those qualities for which the Bugatti is famous, with an unexpected flexibility and silence at low speeds on top gear. It is indeed a car with a dual personality – a comfortable carriage and a lively sports model. It will lap Brooklands at over 80 mph and it will call through traffic and round street corners in top gear with never a sign of snatch…. So quickly and easily does the Type 49 reach a speed of a mile a minute that, on the average main road, it is possible to cover long distances in an astonishingly short space of time. So safe does the car feel, that one has no hesitation about driving at the maximum whenever road conditions permit. … There are very, very few cars capable of equaling this performance.”
Between 1930 and 1934, Bugatti constructed approximately 470 examples of the Type 49, before introducing the all-new Type 57. Wider, shorter, and heavier than its predecessor, the Type 57 also featured a twin-cam engine – a development championed by Jean Bugatti, much to the chagrin of his father. As such, many consider the Type 49 the last of the Ettore-designed Bugattis – a line of automobiles whose combination of artistry and engineering may have never been surpassed.
The Type 49 presented here, 49119, is without question one of the most important examples of this desirable Bugatti model. Immediately distinguished as one of the earliest chassis of its type (the series began with chassis number 49111), this Type 49 was originally fitted with traditional wire wheels, rather than the later turbine alloy wheels equipped on nearly all subsequent examples. This distinction gives it the appearance of an earlier and more sporting car.
Delivered new to official English agent Bugatti Concessionaires, 49119 was entrusted to coachbuilders A.P. Compton & Co. Ltd. where a sporting open four-passenger body was fashioned in the style of Bugatti’s own Grand Sport. Featuring separate cycle fenders, a raked windscreen, louvered splash aprons, front bucket seats, and a pointed Grand Prix-style tail, the body built for 49119 was highly attractive and in keeping with the thoroughbred nature of the Bugatti chassis upon which it was built.
A.P. Compton & Co. Ltd., a little-known yet prestigious English firm, described its coachbuilding technique as “the direct result of the experience gained in the construction of racing bodies for use on the road and track.” By all accounts, this claim must certainly have been true, as its most famous effort was constructing the Reid Railton-designed body for Sir Henry Birkin’s legendary single-seat Blower Bentley.
With such a pedigree, a Compton body would have held great appeal to English enthusiasts, and, suitably, the completed Type 49 Grand Sport was a featured display on the Bugatti stand at the Olympia Motor Show, held in London during October 1931.
In January 1932, the Type 49 Grand Sport was sold to Alfred Dugdale, its first private owner. Mr. Dugdale’s daughter, the vintage Bugatti racer Averil Scott-Moncrieff, wrote that “he bought  from the English Bugatti concessionaire at Brixton Road. He drove the car back from London to Basford Hall, where we lived then, and he told me he sang and shouted with joy all the way.”
Mr. Dugdale registered 49119 in the UK as “RF 9288” and retained possession of his car until 1973 – a remarkable feat that Hugh Conway once considered the longest period for an original owner of a Bugatti. During his four-decade ownership, the Bugatti was used often and took part in several journeys to the south of France. In 1973, Mr. Dugdale, then over 90 years old, finally sold his prized car to the famous Stratford upon Avon Motor Museum, where it was displayed for two years.
In 1975, the current owner, an American collector and Bugatti connoisseur, acquired 49119 from the museum, and it has remained in his care since. Rarely exhibited, the Compton-bodied Type 49 has nonetheless successfully completed several American Bugatti Club rallies in New England and has always been held in the highest regard by those with a passion for the marque.
An exceptional Bugatti, 49119 is not only the earliest Type 49 residing in the US, it is the oldest chassis of the type known to survive. Unlike the vast majority of Bugattis, this striking car is fundamentally unrestored throughout and retains its original one-off English coachwork, chassis, data tag, and engine, complete with the proper dual ignition system, consisting of exceedingly rare Scintilla coils and a 16-lead distributor.
Refinished in dark blue – the color it wore when new – the Compton coachwork still retains much of its original brown leather upholstery, canvas top, and side curtains, as well as a wonderful metal suitcase that fits into the tail section, behind the rear seats. The consignor reports that the odometer reading of approximately 61,000 miles is correct, based on his conversations with Mr. Dugdale’s family and known subsequent mileage.
Surely one of the finest surviving Bugatti touring cars, this early-production Type 49 Grand Sport possesses an unrivaled provenance, having been displayed at the 1931 Olympia Motor Show with just two registered owners since. Its largely original condition speaks to the care it has continued to receive over the past 80-plus years, and its splendid Compton coachwork, with attractive lines and unique character, makes it one of the most overtly sporting Type 49s ever built.
Gooding & Company is proud to offer this magnificent Bugatti at public auction and to recommend it to any enthusiast in search of an outstanding example of this legendary marque.