1928 Bugatti Type 44
Year of manufacture1928
Number of seats2
The ex-Henry du Pont
1928 Bugatti Type 44 Tourer
Coachwork by by Harrington
Chassis no. 44721
Engine no. 435
'Bugattis encapsulate concepts of engineering which, once seen, change your ideas radically and definitively. Drive them, and you realise that each car is form and engineering in equilibrium, and a work of art.' William Stobbs, Les Grandes Routières.
By the early 1930s Ettore Bugatti had established an unrivalled reputation for building cars with outstanding performance on road or track; the world's greatest racing drivers enjoying countless successes aboard the Molsheim factory's products and often choosing them for their everyday transport. Considered the finest touring Bugatti of the 1920s, the Type 44 was introduced towards the end of 1927 and lasted in production until 1930. 1,095 were built, of which around 10 percent survive today. The model was powered by Bugatti's classic single-overhead-cam straight eight engine, one of the most famous automobile power units of all time. Because of its lengthy run of success, Ettore Bugatti remained committed to his single-cam design, only adopting the double-overhead-camshaft method of valve actuation, after much prompting by his eldest son Jean, on the Type 50 of 1930. The Type 44's twin-block, three-valves-per-cylinder, single-plug engine displaced 2,991cc and produced approximately 80bhp, an output good enough for a top speed of over 75mph. Driving via a four-speed gate-change gearbox, this superb power-plant was housed in Bugatti's familiar vintage chassis featuring a circular-section front axle and rear quarter elliptic springing.
This Type 44, chassis number '44721' fitted with engine number '435', was originally ordered by London-based Bugatti agent, Colonel Sorel. It is one of just 12 Bugattis of various types ordered by the Colonel in October 1928, and was delivered on 15 November that same year. The car was delivered to London in rolling chassis form and was then despatched for bodying to coachbuilder Thomas Harrington Ltd, at that time based in Brighton, Sussex. Founded in 1897 and known to have been bodying cars as early as 1905, Harrington had become a major producer of motor coach bodies while keeping up the car-bodying side of its business, concentrating on high-quality European makes, Bugatti included.
Like many of Harrington's car bodies, this Type 44's four-door tourer was constructed using the Weymann system. This type of body construction took its name from its inventor - Charles Terres Weymann - a Frenchman whose background in aviation led to him using a lightweight wooden framework for motor bodies, which was held together by steel plates and covered with fabric. The principal advantage of the Weymann system was its inherent flexibility, which meant that it was free of the squeaks, creaks, rattles and cracks that hitherto had affected all traditional coachbuilt bodies. It was an immediate success; as well as making bodies at its factories in France and (later) England, Weymann licensed production to numerous independent coachbuilders, Harrington among them. Research indicates that Harrington produced two variants on this Tourer theme; one where the spare is on the wing, the other - such as this example - where the wheel is rear mounted and therefore aesthetically more desirable.
Originally finished in black, with red wire wheels, brown leather interior, and tan soft-top, '44721' was purchased new in England by an American, Mr Henry B du Pont of Delaware, a member of the eponymous chemicals manufacturing dynasty. Twenty-nine years old when he purchased the Bugatti, he later became a vice president of the DuPont company while at the same time serving as a board member of General Motors. Mr du Pont used the Bugatti for a honeymoon trip around Europe with his new wife, Margaret Wilson Lewis. The car's UK registration was 'UF 3321'.
Remarkably, Henry du Pont kept his Bugatti from some 34 years, surely a mark of the fond memories he had of the Type 44, only parting with the car to a family member in 1962, selling to his relative, a Mr John Riegel of Montchamin, Delaware. Within a year, the Bugatti had passed to yet another member of the family, Richard Riegel, and later in the mid-1960s was offered for sale by The Vintage Car Store, New York. In 1969, Mr Nelson Deedle bought the car, which in 1973 found a new home with one F E Davis.
Offered for sale at a London auction in July 1975, the Bugatti was purchased on one R Bell, while its next owner, from 1976, was The Honourable G H Wilson of Newton Valance, Hampshire. Wilson later sold '44721' to Graham Little, author of an unpublished 'Who's Who' of Bugatti people, and in 1985 the car changed hands yet again, passing to Geoffrey Perfect. Offered for sale at an auction in Birmingham in 1990, the Bugatti was purchased by well-known collector Peter Groh, who in turn sold it to respected Dutch dealer, Jaap Braam Ruben. Offered for sale by Braam Ruben at a Paris auction in June 1991, the Type 44 was purchased by Jean Paul Mouton, who registered it in France as '853 KAH 75'. Mr Mouton owned the Bugatti for the next 24 years, displaying it at the Centre Internationale de l'Automobile in Pantin, Paris between December 1992 and March 1993, and taking part in several events including the Bugatti-Ferrari meeting in Beaune in 2004 and also a Louis Vuitton backed rally in China. More recently, in 2016, the Type 44 was exhibited to much admiration at the prestigious Zoute Grand Prix concours in Belgium.
Throughout all this time and these many changes of owner, this Type 44 has remained outstandingly original, the only significant change in specification being the replacement of the body's original fabric covering with a more durable modern material. Well-known in Bugatti circles, '44721' is listed in four Bugatti Registers (two by Hugh Conway and two by David Sewell) as well as in Barrie Price's book, 'The 8-Cylinder Touring Cars'.
Offered with French registration papers, '44721' represents a wonderful opportunity to acquire an outstandingly original and well sorted Type 44, eligible for many of the world's most prestigious historic motoring events.