1928 Bugatti Type 40


  • Year of manufacture 
  • Chassis number 
  • Lot number 
  • Drive 
  • Condition 
  • Number of seats 
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The ex-Henry Adamson
1928 Bugatti Type 40 Grand Sport
Registration no. MW 5884 (see text)
Chassis no. 40796

This Bugatti is a rare British supplied example of the sporting and beautifully proportioned Grand Sport, Bugatti's clever 'crossover' factory body that echoed the lines of their hugely successful Grand Prix cars but provided a more commodious four-seater cabin. It was still a spartan design with single access door and compact rear seats and a guise which would prove to be extremely popular, being chosen by a number of clients on cars from the production period encompassing the Type 38 through to the Type 43.

An immaculately restored car, it returns to the UK, for the first time since the War, after a long sojourn in America. The Bugatti order book states that precisely 89 years and one day ago on 12th July 1929, chassis 40796 went to British agent Colonel Sorel, completing an order made in May that year. The car is understood to be one of few of its model that came to the UK, and accordingly historians believe those for this market featured a slight modification for this market in the form of a 'two bow' top mechanism and the option of 'side-curtain' panels to enclose the passengers – presumably necessary for our climate!

Within a few months, Sorel had secured a buyer for the car and it was registered to a G.S. White of Hardenhuish, close to Chippenham, under the Wiltshire number MW 5884, as researched by the current owner from council records. Subsequent ownership is understood to have included a B.J.F. Malcolmson of Sunningdale and London's St. James, followed by a Mr. Kiss, Mr. Vaughan, N. Williams and then R. Godfrey. In the immediate post-war years the car is known to have been active in UK circles, as it is pictured as the 'Clerk of the Course' car at the famed Prescott Hill Climb on 12th June 1949, piloted by a Michael Burns.

Shortly after this it would come through the renowned garage of Jack Lemon Burton, where it would no doubt have rubbed shoulders with numerous of its kind, including its successor in nomenclature, if not in stature, the Type 41 Royale.

By 1958 the car was still here in England, when it was found by an American on his travels, Victor Lane of Chicago at Halfway Garages on Bath Road in Reading. Mr. Lane was extremely fastidious in documenting his ownership and as recounted in a well detailed history file that continues from this point, he states that as bought the Type 40 had been uprated to Type 40A specifications and had recently received an engine rebuild at the hands of Jack Lemon Burton's famed garage in London.

In sales particulars in the 1970s, Lane states that 'Shortly after buying the car, I took it to the Bugatti works in Molsheim.' 'I was greeted enthusiastically and taken for a harrowing road test at once by the shop foreman'! His vivid recollections are carefully noted, and the fact that the foreman gave the car a clean bill of health, with the exception of its starter motor drive, which they quickly fixed for him. By this point it had lost its original steering wheel and he notes 'Francois Seyfried, a company manager, presented me, also without charge, with a brand-new steering wheel'. During this excursion, he learned that the 40A conversion was quite commonplace for the works or national agents to have carried out in period and believed that therefore it had been in this form since the early 1930s.

It is theorised that its numbered crankcase, which is from car 40121, was changed either when the car was uprated or during the Lemon Burton rebuild, which is assumed more likely, since a number of these cars passed through that garage and there appears to be a period of crossover of the two cars there.

Between 1959 and 1960, Mr. Lane moved from Chicago to Lincoln, Nebraska and during this period he commenced a restoration of the aesthetically tired, but mechanically sound car. Over the course of his custody for the next 20 years, his use must have been modest as by the time he offered the car for sale in 1978, he notes only 'one or two thousand' miles to have been covered. By then, his career had moved him to work in New York City, and he was resident in Katonah, New York. The buyer in 1978, was one Henry Adamson of Lake Forest, Illinois, a cousin of the famed pioneering collector D. Cameron Peck.

At this point Mr. Adamson began to restore the car, and in his notes on the rebuild, he enthusiastically details his intentions, of repainting, reupholstering etc. As can sometimes happen, decades would elapse before it was completed, and the process became a partnership with the current owner. Working with the now aging Mr. Adamson, the owner vociferously researched the Bugatti to ensure that it was restored in exacting detail. With the goal of a consistent restored presentation, its original interior and roof were replaced, the chassis and body repainted in Bugatti Blue livery and the mechanical aspect carefully worked through and put back to stock Type 40 specifications with a new cylinder block.
Virtually anything that was removed from the car was retained and remaining with it still are the majority of the original leather, seat bases, crankshaft, water pump, the latter mechanical pieces are all stamped with assembly number '23' being believed to be consistent with the engine it was delivered new with, as well as the original floorboards and side screens. (The majority of this accompanies the car today).

Also, on file are a detailed set of photographs, taken during the early days of its restoration/dismantling, all supporting its authenticity and originality. It should be noted that its body number '75' can be found in various locations on the coachwork.

After nearly 40 years the car passed from Henry Adamson into the present owner's hands. On arrival with this Bugattiste, the rebuild was completed in 2016, just in time to be shown at the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance, there it completed the Thursday tour, and was displayed on the hallowed 18th Fairway, where it garnered much admiration and the delight of those that had know the car for years that it was finally returned to former glory. Following this, the Type 40 was also used and displayed at the Bugatti gathering at the Greenwich Concours d'Elegance in 2017, winning its class.

Having completed and achieved the journey, but with the car still 'running in' and only modestly used, the owner has elected to pass the car on to another enthusiast to enjoy, and owing its roots chose to bring to the UK for its sale. Here, exquisitely presented this rare British Bugatti is offered for sale nearly 90 years after it left Colonel Sorel's books.

With a fascinating, documented history, the Type 40 offers entry to the esteemed Bugatti Clubs around the world, as well as being on the list of eligibility for numerous other events, including the Mille Miglia.

Please note that although still wearing cast plates for 'MW 5884', this number is not currently on the DVLA system and would need
to be applied for.