1920 Bugatti Type 13


  • Year of manufacture 
  • Car type 
    Convertible / Roadster
  • Lot number 
  • Drive 
  • Condition 
  • Location
  • Exterior colour 


English title
Chassis n° 981
Engine n° 538

- History by David Sewell
- Original engine and gearbox
- Good running order
- Ex - Moser and Hayashi collections

When he designed his four cylinder, 16 valve 1.5 litre engine in 1914, Ettore Bugatti unveiled a masterpiece which powered his cars to the first four places in the Brescia Grand Prix of 1921. And that is why they were named after this city. The car we offer today is considered to be a Type 13 and this is confirmed by David Sewell's report which is authenticated by both the Bugatti Owners Club and by the Bugatti archivist, Julius Kruta.
According to the factory records Chassis No 981 fitted with Engine No 538 and Gearbox No 488 was a Type 23/27 delivered on 5th September 1920 to Louis Pabanel of Paris who was the Diatto's agent for France. Type 23 denotes a 2.55 metre wheelbase chassis whilst Type 27 denotes the 16 valve engine which was designed for racing in 1914, but did not enter production until February 1920 when it superseded the previous 8 valve model introduced in 1910. A Type 23/27 therefore indicates a Type 23 chassis fitted with the new 16 valve engine.
Shortly after the end of the World War I, Bugatti had entered into a contractual agreement with Pabanel to supply him with 50 Bugatti chassis, complete except for radiators and bulkheads, for him to market as Diatto-Bugattis fitted with rectangular Diatto radiators. Production of the new 16 valve model started at Chassis No 901, and the last of the fifty Diatto-Bugattis was Chassis No 1031 delivered in December 1920.
The first owner of this car is not recorded, nor is its original bodywork, but by June 1922 it was registered in the then extensive Marseille region with the number 2775 M 2,and retained this number after moving to Draguignan, 70 miles north-east of Marseille in September 1926. On 16th October 1928 it was sold to Edmond Autran of Toulon, in whose name it was registered 291 YU. In the new French registration system introduced that month, Toulon was in the Var region, 1 YU being the first registration number issued there.
A later French owner was named Pesnin, after which there is a long gap in the car's history until it reappears in the early Sixties with Weerte Ley of Cleveland, Ohio. It subsequently passed on the early Seventies to Paul Moser of Santa Barbara, California in whose name it is listed in the 1978 American Bugatti Register as a Type 22/23 (not sure of its wheelbase!) with a two seater roadster body but with no recorded registration number.
In the second edition of the American Bugatti Register, published in 1988, it was listed as untraced, but it was subsequently discovered that by 1989 at the latest it had gone to Japan to be owned by Yoshiyuki Hayashi, in whose name it is listed (as a Type 22) in a Japanese Bugatti Register dated January 1995. Later that year the car returned to the USA and was owned first by Rick Rawlins, then by American Bugatti Club archivist Leo Keoshian of Palo Alto, California.
In 2012, the car was purchased in the Pebble Beach auctions by its actual owner, an Italian collector dreaming of racing the Mille Miglia with it.
Like at least two other Diatto-Bugattis it was eventually fitted with a Bugatti radiator. It is unclear exactly when its chassis frame was shortened to become a (2.0 metre wheelbase) Type 13, but presumably either whilst in Japan or shortly after its return to the USA. However there is no doubt whatsoever that this car is Chassis No 981 dating from 1920 and that it retains its original Engine No. 538, Gearbox No 488 and most probably its rear axle which, like all examples of this model, were never numbered.
Recently this car has taken part in several historic events in Europe, including a successful run in the 2013 Mille Miglia. This is a light and lively car which will bring its new owner as much pleasure as a Type 37 Bugatti for a fraction of the price. Connoisseurs will appreciate that this is a matching numbers car.