1929 Bugatti Type 44
Year of manufacture1929
Number of seats2
1929 Bugatti Type 44 Tourer
Coachwork by Harrington
Registration no. UL 4703
Chassis no. 44923
'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 motor was housed in Bugatti's familiar Vintage chassis featuring a circular-section front axle and rear quarter elliptic springing.
This particular car's history is detailed in the accompanying and typically thorough 56-page copiously illustrated report compiled by independent Bugatti consultants David Sewell and Mark Morris, which prospective purchasers are encouraged to read. Chassis number '44923' is documented in the factory records on 23rd April 1929 and was delivered to Colonel W L Sorel, the manager of Bugatti's London Depot. Four Type 44s were delivered in this order batch: '44923', '44924', '44925', and '44926'.
The original coachwork chosen for this car was that of a well-appointed four-seater tourer with full weather equipment. Delivered to London in rolling chassis form, the Bugatti 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.
Though the exact number of Bugattis that carried Harrington coachwork is not known, it is believed that they completed only two or three coupés and perhaps as many as five cars with touring coachwork, of which this example is one of two known survivors.
The Bugatti's first owner is not recorded. The earliest reference found is photographs of the car carrying a 1938 New York State Licence Plate, but without a link to the owner's name during that period. The first clear record with owners' names appears in the 1979 American Bugatti Register, which lists John M Gill Jr of Massachusetts as owner at that time and Messrs John King and William W Marsden as former owners.
John M Gill owned '44923' twice, and after the second period of ownership it was sold to John North of Easton, Maryland, USA before returning to the UK in 1988 when it was advertised by London-based dealer Dan Margulies. Upon returning to the UK the car was registered as 'UL 4703'. This was from a series of numbers issued by the London County Council commencing in December 1928/January 1929.
From Margulies the Bugatti passed to Ed Hubbard and was advertised for sale by Ivan Dutton UK Limited. Copies of Margulies' and Dutton's advertisements are on file. It then came into the ownership of Peter Parkinson of West Sussex, During his custodianship the car was re-trimmed by Mike Thomas of Sidlesham, Chichester, while mechanical work was entrusted to Ivan Dutton Limited and servicing to Taylors of Chichester.
Peter used the car and attended various events including the BOC's Garden Party and Concours of 1993 and 1994, on both occasions winning the George Harris Cup for the Best Touring Bugatti (see photograph on file). He also took the Bugatti to the 100th Anniversary Harrington Gathering in June 1997. The current vendor bought 'UL 4703' from Peter Parkinson circa nine years ago and has used it sparingly, with any necessary maintenance carried out by his own mechanics.
As presented today, '44923' is a very fine touring Bugatti, capable of seating 4/5 people and equipped with full weather equipment (hood and side screens). The coachwork has been restored but retains original details such as the twin side-mounted spare wheels; the central air vent on the top of the scuttle; the scuttle side vents; and the two-piece opening windscreen with side deflectors. One of the great joys of this car is the coachwork's originality. Although it has been restored, and the main body's fabric covering replaced, some of the original fabric survives on the underside of the passenger-side rear door. These samples show the original colour to have been maroon, subsequently over-painted black. Thus, the fabric used in the body's restoration has returned the car to its originally specified maroon colour.
Another remarkable attribute of the car is the original ash frame body structure and original floorboards, all of which appear in remarkable condition. Nicely appointed with red leather trim, both front door openings retain their original Harrington nameplates, while a period-correct Jaeger instrument panel and Marchal-Vaucanson switches adorn the dashboard. A rare Schebler choke cable pull is fitted to the left of the setting column, while the ignition advance/retard lever and hand throttle are to the right of the steering column, with a Bosch horn button alongside. A battery master switch is mounted on the driver's side below the bodyline.
The car's original BugattiAlsace chassis plate stamped '44923' and '17 HP' is mounted on the bulkhead together with an original patent plate. The original Molsheim chassis frame has matching numbered components stamped '636'; these include the engine, cam box, gearbox casing and lid, plus both the front and rear axles. The bonnet, which was standard supply when Bugatti sold a complete rolling chassis, also is stamped '636', which again helps to confirm the car's correctness. The frame number is '1035', consistent with what one would expect given the chassis number. Repusseau/Hartford friction shock absorbers are fitted to both front and rear axles.
On the engine, the upper and lower crankcase are stamped with assembly number '51' and are thus an original matched pair. Although its number is obscured by the radiator, the cam box is without question an original Molsheim component. The engine number '636' is correctly stamped on the driver's-side front crankcase arm, with an additional 'C' below the number. The chassis number '44923' is stamped on the passenger's-side rear arm.
Ignition is supplied by a period Bosch distributor, and a replacement coil has been fitted to the bulkhead. The cylinder blocks still retain their aluminium cover-plates, concealing the fixing nuts on the upper crankcase/cylinder block interface. The other great rarities on this engine are the clutch under-tray and the louvered valance panel under the carburettor. The latter is an updraft Carter BB1 manufactured in the USA, rather than the standard Bugatti-issue Schebler SX 280. Originally fuel would have been fed to the carburettor from the main tank at the rear of the car via an Autovac tank. This has been replaced by a neatly installed electric fuel pump, which is mounted in the driver's chassis side rail. The starter motor and front-mounted dynamo are period Marchal-Vaucanson components, while lighting is supplied by Marchal headlights and Hella-Saturnus 'Marchal'-pattern taillights.
Outstandingly original and correct, well detailed and with its original coachwork fittings intact, '44923' represents a rare opportunity to acquire a practical and very usable example of Bugatti's Vintage-era 3.0-litre eight-cylinder touring car. Affording the fortunate next owner the opportunity to enjoy open-top touring in unmatched pre-war style, this wonderful Bugatti is also eligible for many of the world's most prestigious historic motoring events.