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Coachwork by Letourneur et Marchand
*Please note that this vehicle is titled 1939, with the chassis as 57644470.
Unveiled in 1934, the Type 57 is widely regarded as a masterpiece from the hand of Jean Bugatti. Designed to replace the Type 49, the new Bugatti was powered by a magnificent 3.3-liter twin-cam straight-eight engine and represented the ultimate in automotive performance and design. Bugatti continually refined the Type 57 throughout its production run resulting in three distinct series of chassis. The final third-series chassis –underpinning the car presented here – featured a ribbed differential, cross-braced frame, rubber engine mounts, and hydraulic brakes, among other improvements.
The history of this Type 57, chassis 57644, can be traced back to February 1938, when it was constructed at the Bugatti works in Molsheim. According to Barrie Price’s Bugatti 57: The Last French Bugatti, this car was originally equipped with engine number 470 and striking three-position Cabriolet coachwork by Letourneur et Marchand. In all, it is believed that only six Type 57s were originally outfitted as a Cabriolet by this prestigious French coachbuilder. Originally finished in green with a lighter, contrasting cove and green leather upholstery, the Cabriolet was delivered to its first owner, S. Jaspart, in November 1938 through Bugatti’s Paris showroom.
Textile manufacturer Hubert van Dooren acquired the Type 57 in 1945 and it passed through two other owners prior to 1949, when it was sold to Rudi van Daalen Wetters, a Dutch air force major and attaché to Prince Bernhard. Remarkably, the Type 57 remained in Rudi and Ria van Daalen Wetters’s collection for the next 66 years, following their family as they moved between the Netherlands and the US. Throughout their ownership, the Cabriolet remained in largely original condition and regularly participated in Bugatti club rallies until the 1990s, when it was retired to the family’s Los Angeles-area garage.
The current owner, a well-known connoisseur of French classics, was introduced to the van Daalen Wetters in the 1980s by their mutual acquaintance Phil Hill. In 2015, the consignor finally convinced Ria to sell him the car and he immediately embarked on a nut-and-bolt restoration with the goal of returning the Bugatti to its original splendor. Renowned Bugatti expert Scott Sargent of Sargent Metal Works was commissioned to perform the show-quality restoration, while the engine was entrusted to Leydon Restorations for a complete rebuild. This late-production, third-series engine was rebuilt to exacting standards and fitted with a period-style supercharger – an exact copy of the original Bugatti unit – with a dyno test confirming the amazing results: 260 ft./lb. of torque at 3,500 rpm and 223 hp at 5,000 rpm.
Since its restoration was completed, the Bugatti has received a class award at the 2018 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance® and participated in several American Bugatti Club rallies. The consignor reports that driving the restored Type 57 is most impressive, describing it as “fast and powerful with a sporting nature,” while Scott Sargent confirms that 57644 retains its original chassis, Letourneur et Marchand coachwork, and important matching-numbers components.
Not only does this rare, late-production Type 57 possess elegant open coachwork and a superb provenance, with just two passionate caretakers since 1949, its expert restoration has been rewarded with a trophy at the exclusive Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance® and its open road performance is matched by few other European Classics. Gooding & Company is proud to present this magnificent Type 57 Cabriolet for sale, and recommends it to any collector in search of an exceptional Bugatti.