March 12, 2005 One of the most important pre-war racing cars to come to the market in recent years will top this year's Goodwood Festival of Speed sale on June 24. The 1933 Bugatti Type 59 3.3-litre Grand Prix Two Seater, Factory Team Car 'Voiture Moteur No. 3' is surely the quintessential French Grand Prix car of its era. Ettore Bugatti's designs set speed records in trains, boats, planes and the cars which made his name famous. Bugatti also built the most successful racing car of all time and his Royale (1927-31) remains the most expensive automobile in history - the chassis without a body was despatched to the coachbuilder of the buyer's choice, and cost around $30,000 in 1930.
To own a Bugatti is a badge of success of the highest order - a Royale changed hands recently for US$17 million. When the first Royales were released, Bugatti said he would only sell to royalty but he later relented and legend has it that he refused King Zog of Albania due to his "poor table manners." Only a few were built due to the onset of Great Depression. Remaining 14 litre engines were used to power trains.
Bugatti's Type 35 was the most successful racing car of all time, with over 2000 wins to its credit including five straight Targa Florio victories from 1925-1929.
Of the eight Type 59 racing cars built, only five have survived and the example on offer at the Goodwood sale is the first ever to come to auction. 'No 3' has been owned by a life-long Bugatti enthusiast for 55 years and during that time has only been seen in public on a handful of occasions.
The exquisitely engineered Type 59 Grand Prix Bugatti, initially equipped with a 2.8-litre engine in essentially a shortened version of the Type 54 chassis, was launched in 1933 in time to participate in the Spanish Grand Prix at San Sebastian on 24 September where a team of four cars was entered. This car, No.3, driven by René Dreyfus and carrying race no.26, finished in a creditable 6th position. At Monaco in April 1934 Robert Benoist drove No.3 spiritedly but, after equalling what was destined to become the fastest lap of the race, he crashed in practice and was unable to drive the following day.
In March 1935 the Team Cars were prepared for sale to four British amateur racing drivers. No. 3 was given chassis no.59121 and sold to C.E.C. 'Charlie' Martin. The car was campaigned with considerable success by him that year and during the following years by the Duke of Grafton, Arthur Baron, George Abecassis and Kenneth Bear before passing into the present ownership in 1949 where it has remained for 55 years. During that time it was carefully rebuilt, returning to the road in 1982 and appearing in public only on very rare occasions since that time, notably the Type 59 Reunion at Prescott in 1993. Famous auction house Bonhams has a fantastic line-up for this year's sale at the Goodwood Festival of Speed, with top entries in tune with the 'Racing Colours' theme. Highlights include the 1911 'La Coupe de L'Auto' winning Delage Type X (UKP320,000 - 360,000) and the ex-Prince Bira 1932 MG F2 Magna.