1935 Bugatti Type 57

Tourer "Paris-Nice"


  • Year of manufacture 
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German title
Chassis n° 57300
Engine n° 57300/154
Gear box n°154
Axle n°154

- Outstanding competition history
- Just one owner between 1940 and 2004
- Restored to original configuration

Presented in 1933 and equipped with a brilliant 3.3-litre twin-cam engine, the Bugatti Type 57 was one of the best Grand Touring machines on the market, while not claiming to have particular sporting pretensions. At the Paris Motor Show in 1934, the constructor made an initial attempt to give it a more dynamic image by presenting a " Grand Raid " version with several modifications to the chassis. One of the most notable of these was the driving position, moved further back to allow sportier coachwork to be fitted. In total, it is believed Bugatti built 10 examples of these special versions.
It was one of these chassis that caught the eye of Gaston Descollas, who was then the Bugatti agent in Marseille and an amateur rally driver : in 1934, he won the French Rallye des Alpes and the international Coupe des Alpes at the wheel of a Type 57 Galibier, and no doubt the more sporting character of this new version is what appealed to him. He bought chassis n°57300 and had a lightweight and minimalist torpedo body fitted, in aluminimum over a wooden structure. According to a friend of the Descollas family, this was carried out by the coachbuilder Dubos, from Marseille, and the car was registered on 3 January 1935 with the number 5822 CA 7.

Once the car was ready, it took part in the Ladies' Paris-St-Raphaël rally on 27 February, driven by Gaston's wife, Claire Descollas. This was a very popular event amongst women drivers, and over the years many well-known names have taken part, including Hellé Nice, Betty Haig, Claudine Trautman, Annie Soisbault and Marianne Hoepfner. In 1935, the winning driver was Olga Thibault in a Peugeot 201. Soon after this Gaston Descollas entered the 'Critérium international de tourisme Paris-Nice' known simply as the " Paris-Nice ", which set off on 13 April. There were over 100 participants, and this was a rally attracting experienced drivers. The previous year it had been won by Jean Trévoux who, at the wheel of a Hotchkiss 20 CV, was just beginning an impressive career that would see him win the Monte-Carlo Rally. Gaston Descollas performed magnificently, winning the event, before clocking up two other victories in the Rallye de la FNCAF and the Alpes Françaises. He had less luck in the Liège-Rome-Liège, in August, when he was forced to retire.
In 1936, the Bugatti was fitted with a closed Ventoux body, built by Gangloff, more comfortable for touring. On 24 March 1936, the car was registered in the name of Mr Giniès, with the number 4473 ZA 3 (Vaucluse), before returning to the Bouches-du-Rhône a few months later. It was registered in the name of Mr. Vives on 6 May 1936 with the number 6426 CA 8. Vives was a Spanish businessman, and it is possible that he imported the car into Spain. The Bugatti was still there on 18 December 1940 when it sold to Mr Senchermes, based in Barcelona, who registered it B-67.700.
Astonishingly, this Bugatti then stayed in the same ownership until 2004, the year it was bought by the current owner, a German enthusiast. By 2004, the Ventoux coachwork had been replaced with an open body. Using photos sourced by the Bugatti Trust, the owner was able to restore the car to its torpedo configuration at the time of the 1935 Paris-Nice rally.

Apart from the rebuilt bodywork, most of the components are original, including the gearbox and the rear axle n°154, with assembly number 024. The engine block, which had been damaged, was replaced with an original block, and various parts were sourced through the Bugatti Owners Club. The bonnet is original and the car was repainted by the Matzner workshop. This is a piece of history, the 'missing link' between the Type 57 tourer and the future 57 G competition model that would win the Le Mans 24 Hours. Having rediscovered its original configuration, it is a stunning testimony to a period when an amateur driver could take part in an international rally without extensive race prep, and win.

For more information and photos: https://www.artcurial.com/fr/lot-1935-bugatti-57-torpedo-paris-nice-3980-41

Photos © Alex Penfold