1927 Bugatti Type 3737/44 Monoplace
Year of manufacture1927
Car typeSingle seater
Number of seats1
Chassis n° 37334
- Pre-war built
- Well documented, known history by David Sewell
- High performance
This car began its career as a Bugatti 37 with a 1.5-litre engine. When it was owned by the wife of John Houldsworth, who used to race it, the car suffered a major engine failure, with the conrods going through the block. Houldsworth, a Bugatti enthusiast, then contacted a specialist who also raced Bugatti, Jack Lemon Burton, suggesting he buy the car for scrap. Which Burton promptly did in the 30's, for approximately £50, using it to build himself a " special " that was fast and suitable for hill-climbing. In place of the modest 4-cylinder original engine, he decided to install a 3-litre 8-cylinder Type 44 Bugatti engine, twice as big as the Type 37 engine and fitted with a supercharger. He recalls in a letter dated 23 July 1976 " That was hard work. (…) The steering wheel was a gift from R. Thomas to the younger brother of J. Duller, who thought it would go well on this car. " As the 3-litre engine was considerably longer than the original 1.5-litre engine, the Type 37 chassis, the hood and the engine mountings were all modified. The front axle was replaced with a wider Type 43/44 element with bigger brakes, better suited to the increased weight. The gear box and rear axle came from a Grand Prix Bugatti, although the transmission was subsequently replaced with an Armstrong preselector gearbox, which is still on the car and has made it possible to remove the standard clutch. It was then given a single-seater body allowing Jack Lemon Burton to take part successfully in his machine in various hillclimb and sprint events.
Burton then sold the car to his friend Kenneth Bear, another Bugatti enthusiast. Bear ran the car without the supercharger (powered by four carburettors) with a bit more gusto than his predecessor, finishing 2nd in a hillclimb at Prescott in 1939, just behind the Type 59 of Arthur Baron. When he died at the end of the 1940s, the car was bought by Bert Raven who continued competing in it, achieving some good results in the late 1950s. He kept the Bugatti until he passed away at the end of the 1980s, when it was restored by the specialist Ivan Dutton and offered for sale by Dan Margulies, one of the most well-respected British dealers. A copy of a letter dated from 1992 from the Bugatti Owners Club, coming in the file, confirms to him the car was built by Jack Lemon Burton before the SWW and is fitted with a genuine original Grand Prix Bugatti chassis frame.
According to a letter from the Bugatti historian and specialist David Sewell, the chassis is an authentic Type 37, in all probability n°557, which corresponds to car n°37334. It has a Grand Prix radiator with parallel sides and the centrally-mounted steering box has " R " stamped on the top and the side. The aero screen is an Avro and curiously, the bodywork has an Ettore Bugatti coachwork plaque fixed in the cockpit. The registration number, NPH 254 dates from August 1949. The engine is stamped with number 686 as well as the number of the chassis it came from, n°44999. The car comes with a history file and various letters and we advise anyone interested in this particularly original machine to consult these.
Eligible for VSCC and other historic events, this car has a lightweight chassis and an engine that is considerably more powerful than the original one. It has an unusually high performance, with the personality of a " muscle car " ahead of its time. Created as an indirect result of the failure of the original engine, it is typical of the modifications carried out by experienced enthusiasts, at a time when the value of the car didn't prevent creativity.
Such a modification wouldn't be carried out today making this car an exciting testimony to the period, appealing to those enthusiasts who like the unusual.
For more information and photos: https://www.artcurial.com/fr/lot-192728-bugatti-3744-monoplace-3980-42
Photos © Alex Penfold