Bugatti Type 43 1929
First owned by Crown Prince Leopold of Belgium
1928 Bugatti Type 43 Grand Sport Tourer
Chassis no. 43258 (43291 - see text)
Engine no. 132
•One of 160 examples
•Continuous ownership history
•Long-term ownership in Sweden 1942-2013
•Present ownership since 2013
•Mille Miglia eligible
Built in September 1928, chassis number '43258' is the second of three Type 43 Bugattis owned in succession by Bugatti enthusiast Crown Prince Leopold of Belgium. His first, in May 1930, was a Type 43 Roadster with chassis number '43291' and engine number '143'; his second, the car offered here, collected in May 1931, was a Type 43 Grand Sport with engine '132'; and his third, in July 1932, was another Grand Sport, with engine '158'.
Thanks to his royal status and close friendship with the Bugatti family, the Crown Prince was treated as a VIP at Molsheim and granted certain privileges. One such privilege was the factory's willingness to identify the Crown Prince's next Bugatti by means of fitting the chassis plate removed from his previous one, which the factory took in part exchange, thereby allowing him to retain the same Belgian registration documents and so avoid the need for a new Customs declaration and duty payment when his new Bugatti first entered Belgium. The factory would then sell his previous Bugatti with a changed chassis number.
Accordingly, on 20th May 1931, the Crown Prince was able to collect his second Type 43 from Molsheim newly fitted with the chassis plate '43291' taken from his first Type 43. The crankcase was stamped with the engine number '132' but there was still no chassis number stamping. Being married to the Swedish Princess Astrid, Leopold naturally took his Type 43 to Sweden while staying with the Swedish royal family. In September 1931 he left the car for sale with the Lindblads Bugatti agency in Stockholm, which sent it back to Molsheim for a service and check-up, after which it was returned to them by rail on 24th December 1931 newly identified by the factory as chassis number '43258', although that same number had already been used on a car despatched to Bucar in Switzerland in December 1930 (see final paragraph).
This Type 43's subsequent history in Sweden has been comprehensively researched and documented elsewhere, notably in a report by a previous owners Göthe and Per-Olof Håkanson, but also independently by Pierre-Yves Laugier and lastly by the renowned independent Bugatti consultant, David Sewell (copies on file). The Håkanson and Sewell detailed reports, the latter dated 9th October 2009, have been used in writing this description.
The Håkansons' report traces the Bugatti's ownership from its sale by Linblads in January 1932 to an engineer, Nils Looström, the final delivery being undertaken by no less a person than Bugatti works driver Louis Chiron. The original Type 43 brochure with Chiron's written instructions is in the history file. Within little more than a couple of weeks Looström had sold the car to Einar Lindberg, who competed with it in the Swedish Winter Grand Prix at Lake Rämen on 28th February 1932, finishing 5th (see photographs in report). Lindberg also entered his Bugatti in the Grand Prix of Finland on 8th May 1932 but was forced to retire. On 3rd November 1932 the Bugatti was sold to Axel Johnson of Skyttmon near Östersund.
Johnson entered '43258' in the Swedish Summer Grand Prix at Vram in 1933 but had to retire with an engine problem after six laps. Following the Vram race, the car was shortened by 39cm, lowered by 6cm, and made into a two-seater. In its modified form, the Bugatti was raced by Johnson in an ice race on Lake Vallentunasjön 18th February 1934, finishing 2nd behind Paul Pietsch's Alfa Romeo. Following a testing accident caused by a burst tyre, in which Johnson's brother-in-law was killed and Johnson lucky to escape with his life, the Bugatti returned to active competition in 1936 at the Swedish Winter GP at Lake Rämen, Johnson finishing 3rd. In 1938 the Bugatti was advertised for sale at Philipssons in Stockholm and purchased by Göthe Håkanson, father of Per-Olof Håkanson, who became its owner in the spring of 1942 aged 25 (photograph in report). There being no petrol available for private consumption in wartime Sweden, the car was not used for several years.
In 1952 Göthe Håkanson decided to restore the Type 43 to its original specification and wrote to Jack Lemon Burton, Spares Controller of the Bugatti Owners' Club in England. A replacement chassis frame was obtained from JLB, and various engine and other spares sourced from the Bugatti factory, though it would be 1975 before a suitable 'Grand Sport' body was acquired and fitted. On 23rd November 1985, '43258' was test run for the first at a meeting at Hässelby. Following its completion, '43258' was used by the Håkansons in many International Bugatti Rallies and other events.
When inspected by David Sewell in 2009, this Type 43 Bugatti was found to retain almost all of its original major components except for those that were modified when the car was shortened in the autumn of 1933 and the beginning of 1934. The necessarily replaced parts were its chassis frame, prop-shaft, torque arm, and coachwork. Each of the first three components was replaced in 1952 by correct originals sourced from another Type 43 (see below) while in 1975 its coachwork was replaced in its entirety, except for retaining the original lid on the tail, by a replica Grand Sport body.
The car's chassis frame numbered '74', torque arm numbered '78' and prop-shaft, almost certainly sourced from the same Type 43, were obtained in 1952 by previous owner Göthe Håkanson from Jack Lemon Burton (see original letter and invoice on file). Burton's surviving pre-war stock book leaves little doubt that this Type 43 was chassis number '43259' with engine '78', the same as this car's torque arm and close enough to its frame number. Of seven Type 43s listed in Burton's records, six were sold pre-war and the seventh, '43259', was broken up for spares in either late 1938 or 1939. It should be noted that Göthe Håkanson used the shortened Type 43 chassis frame and its body to build another car using the parts and registration documents of the Type 44 '441119', as stated in the accompanying extracts from the Netherlands and Nordic Bugatti Registries.
This Bugatti's only other missing original major part is its gearbox casing, which was changed many years ago, before Göthe Håkanson acquired the car in 1942, although its original lid remains with the car. David Sewell concluded his report thus: 'Accordingly it is my professional opinion that, despite its changed chassis frame, this historic Bugatti should be identified in all future documentation as Chassis No 43258 on the widely accepted basis of its indisputable continuous history.' He also found that the car was in excellent overall condition and performed well on the road.
With regard to this car's identity, Kees Jansen states in his Netherlands Bugatti Registry (Volume IV, 2015): 'Although we have decided to use the frame of the car as (its) distinguishing feature, in this case we deviate from that general rule as this car is generally denominated as 43258. In order to distinguish from the other car with the same chassis number we call it 43258-132.' The Nordic Registry confirms these facts.
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