1937 Bugatti Type 57 Cabriolet
Chassis no. 57156
Engine no. 280
The records of French Bugatti historian Pierre-Yves Laugier note that Type 57 chassis number 57156 was assembled in June 1934 for Belgian customer, mill owner, and sportsman Frederic Deflandre, with engine number 48. This rolling chassis was bodied by Bugatti as their Galibier, a four-door sedan, on 29 June 1934, and delivered through Parisian agents Bucar the same day.
In 1936 the car was rebuilt for Mr. Deflandre by the factory, with a new, updated second-series frame of the same number, 57156, still noted as retaining engine number 48. This car remained with Mr. Deflandre until April 1938, at which point it is believed to have been traded to the Belgian coachbuilders d’Ieteren toward a new body for his new Bugatti.
A local Belgian coachbuilder then produced a new two-passenger cabriolet body for 57156; the identity of the shop has never been conclusively established, although it may well have been d’Ieteren themselves. Dutch Bugatti historian Kees Jansen attributes the work to Paul Nee, as does the current owner, but no documentary proof has been found. It is important to note that at this time the car was also upgraded to the latest and best specifications, including the installation of hydraulic brakes.
The car remained in Antwerp for many years, then was acquired by the famous Bugatti dealer Jean de Dobbeleer, still on a 1930–40 Belgian registration 154486. Mr. de Dobbeleer claimed that the car had been traded in by a priest, Abbé Dubois de Sévry, to whom it had been donated by a Mr. Cadans. Inspection of the car’s numbers by Mr. Laugier indicates that the rear axle and gearbox are both original and authentic replacements from other Type 57s, likely dating to de Dobbeleer’s ownership.
The Bugatti was subsequently exported to the United States in 1955 by Gene Cesari for Porsche dealer Jack Fritsche, passing next to Al Wall and, in 1958, to Joseph Fine of Silver Spring, Maryland. Mr. Fine began restoring the Bugatti but in the 1960s was distracted from the work, and the dismantled car was stored on his property until his death in 2003. It was then sold by his widow and acquired by the consignor, who elected to have it fully restored by Alan Taylor Company of Escondido, California.
As part of the restoration, the car was redesigned with new fenders, door skins, hood, and trim, beautifully hewn in aluminum by Mr. Taylor’s employee Edouard de Vaucorbeil, as well as numerous other improved details, such as the addition of a wine basket and beautifully crafted fitted luggage, which stow vertically behind the seats, and a Type 57C-style dashboard. The finish of the leather, woodwork, and paint is all spectacular and a tribute to its restorers’ craftsmanship.
The cabriolet has been proudly exhibited at several concours d’elegance, including several times at Amelia Island; the annual La Jolla Concours, where it was judged Best of Show Pre-war in 2013; and Keels and Wheels, where it received the People’s Choice award in 2014. Further, it has been a First Prize winner (no. 3176) in Classic Car Club of America National judging. It is presented in beautiful condition and is still ready for further concours appearances as a stunningly restored machine and surefire crowd favorite.
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