Lot 673: 1926 Bugatti Type 30 Tourer
Coachwork by Lavocat et Marsaud
‘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. Introduced in 1922, the Type 30 Bugatti has a special place in motoring history, for it was the first small ‘straight-eight’ to go into production and the first to use Bugatti’s classic single-overhead-cam engine, one of the most famous automobile power units of all time. Typical of the time, the Bugatti ‘eight’ was a ‘long-stroke’ design of 60x88mm bore/stroke for a capacity of 1,991cc. The three valves per cylinder were operated by single gear-driven overhead camshaft, while the crankshaft was carried in three roller bearings with plain big ends. Breathing via twin Solex carburettors, this jewel-like power unit produced approximately l00bhp at 4,500rpm.
This engine was installed in what was essentially a Brescia type chassis, resulting in a car that was notably fast and powerful for its day, possessing many of the characteristics of the racing Bugattis. The eight-cylinder engine was very flexible and, once mastered, the Brescia-type gearbox a delight to use. Of some 600-or-so Type 30s produced, fewer than 50 are known to survive today, with original examples possessing known history especially desirable.
The car offered here – chassis number ‘4724’ – is one of only two known surviving examples of the Type 30 bodied by favoured coachbuilders Lavocat et Marsaud. According to factory sales records, ‘4724’ was produced in December 1925, invoiced to Dubuisson, of St Quentin, near Lille, presumably the local Bugatti agent, and delivered on 28th December 1925. However, the factory’s road delivery records reveal that ‘4724’ (together with Type 23 ‘2780’) was delivered from Molsheim (in chassis form, with two temporary seats) to Louis Charavel, of St Quentin on factory trade plates at some time between 28th December 1925 and 2nd January 1926. Louis Charavel was an amateur Bugatti racing driver (who raced under the pseudonym ‘Sabipa’) with close ties to the factory, so the cars may not have been his; indeed, he may merely have been helping out as a delivery driver. These same records note subsequent deliveries to ‘Charavel Dubuisson’, so perhaps the two were partners.
The superb bodywork on Chassis ‘4724’ is by the Parisian coachbuilder Lavocat et Marsaud, therefore the chassis must have been subsequently delivered to them in Paris by Dubuisson. This coachwork would typically have taken two to three months to complete, so the finished car should have been ready for delivery to or collection by its owner in about March or April 1926.
The next that is positively known of this car is its appearance (with a photograph) in the January 1971 issue of Veteran & Vintage magazine, in which it was noted as being owned in Uruguay by local Bugatti collector E J Carvallido. The car was complete but its engine was in pieces. (It should be noted that although this car has previously been associated with legendary French author and aviator, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, who was working in South America in the early 1930s and later owned a Type 44, our researches have failed to find any link to him. Opinion is that, although he was a Bugatti admirer and owner, he was not a past owner of this example).
‘4724’ was shipped to the UK from Uruguay in 1972 by Colin Crabbe, well known for his ability to find and retrieve interesting motor cars from out-of-the-way places. The Bugatti was then was bought by the immediately preceding owner, Dr Stuart Saunders, an active BOC member, who imported it to Australia in 1975.
Chassis number ‘4724’ was not included in Hugh Conway’s comprehensive 1962 Bugatti Register because its survival was not then known. However, it is listed in the ownership of Dr Saunders in Conway’s 1973 update of his 1962 Register. He also noted that the car was now fitted with engine number ‘277’ from chassis number ‘4279’, which it still has. This engine change must have occurred either in France before the car was exported to South America or sometime during its period there. Curiously, ‘4279’ is recorded in the 1962 Register as owned by Carvallido and fitted with Lavocat & Marsaud coachwork, but as Bugatti aficionados will be aware, the Register is not totally error free.
In 1974 Dr Saunders emigrated to Australia where the Bugatti’s engine was rebuilt, incorporating a special crankshaft and camshaft to change the firing order which has resulted in smoother running and an increase in permissible engine speed. This crankshaft and camshaft had been made in England in 1926 by an RAF engineer named Rhodes for his own Type 30. (The original crankshaft is available, if required).
Dr Saunders kept the car road registered in Australia, using it regularly on Bugatti events between 1980 and 1990 when it was purchased at auction in Melbourne by the current owner. While in the vendor’s care ‘4724’ has benefited from an engine rebuild and been used only infrequently, sharing its motor house with a Rolls-Royce and Bentley. The car is offered with import/export documentation, assorted correspondence, sundry invoices, camshaft engineering drawings, road fund licence/MoT and Swansea V5.
According to contemporary press reports, the Type 30 was ‘A full blooded, real man’s motor-car, by intention and performance’ and ‘4724’, with its graceful Lavocat & Marsaud coachwork, is a particularly fine example of the marque.
Collectors' Motor Cars and Motorcycles|
Bonhams, Olympia, London,
|Hammer Price (inc premium)||£298500|
|Registration number||SV 5705|
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