1935 3.3-litre Bugatti Type 57 Tourist Trophy Torpedo
The Ex-Earl Howe, Pierre Levegh, 1935 RAC Tourist Trophy
1935 3.3-litre Bugatti Type 57 Tourist Trophy Torpedo
Chassis No: 57264 (originally 57222 – changed by works)
Amongst all the sports-racing Bugattis, the Type 57 series with its straight-8-cylinder, twin-overhead-camshaft 3.3-litre engine is per-haps the most illustrious. Here we are proud to offer what at heart is an unusually original example of a competition Type 57, one which has survived a long and not always sympathetic life within the Australian road racing scene with its original chassis structure largely intact, housing its original engine crankcase, its original gear-box and original axles - front and rear - amongst myriad other less critical components. In short, the ex-Earl Howe 1935 TT Torpedo offered here has been described as the most famous Bugatti ever to have resided in the Southern Hemisphere, having in fact spent no fewer than 79 years of its long and active life there...
Detailed research by the foremost French Bugatti authority Pierre Yves Laugier has confirmed this individual machine's subsequent history as he related in his 2004 book 'Bugatti, Les 57 Sport'. He de-scribed how "The first mention of the car is in the August 1935 list of bodywork at the Bugatti factory which contains the entry '2 Voitures Course 24 Heures, moteurs 223 et 224'. While no chassis serial num-bers were recorded for these two cars, on August 29 that year – in the factory's list of cars sold – the chassis serial number '57222' Torpedo Tourist Trophy with motor number '224' is mentioned. Francis, Earl Howe, drove Bugatti Type 57 TT, engine 224, to finish third in the Ulster TT race, run on the Ards road circuit in Ulster on September 7, 1935.
In its report upon that race the British magazine 'Motor Sport' re-ported: "The Bugattis driven by Lord Howe and the Hon. Brian Lew-is were models of light construction with their duralumin shell bod-ies, and weighed only 26 cwt, with driver, fuel and water. De Rham shock absorbers were used and the engines were said to develop over 160hp at 5,500rpm, which sounds rather fantastic. At any rate the compression ratio was well over 8 to 1 thanks to the efficient shape of the twin (sic) combustion chambers. Lord Howe's car did close on 120mph while Lewis's car was somewhat slower....".
During the first practice day Francis, Earl Howe, had in fact made fastest lap time in 10 minutes 16 seconds which was some six sec-onds faster than his RAC handicap time. During the race Brian Lew-is – the younger man and a faster driver than Howe – led the race, before his Bugatti developed clutch slip due to an oil leak from the gearbox. This left Howe leading, only to make an immediate refuel-ing stop. He subsequently fought his way back onto the leader board, 'Motor Sport' commenting "Howe had been making splendid pro-gress on the Bugatti, and on the 33rd lap caught the two Aston Mar-tins to secure third place..." – behind winner Freddie Dixon's fleet Riley and Eddie Hall's very special 3.6-litre Bentley.
By January, 1936, the car was listed for sale with dealer Dominique Lamberjack back in Paris, the asking price being 60,0000 Francs. The car was also referred to in period as chassis serial '57264/.moteur '224' Torpedo TT since the factory had re-allocated serial '57222' to a new Competition Torpedo "with its gondola shaped Type 57S chassis".
There is a possibility that 57264 car was entered for the Le Mans 24-Hour race of 1936, but the event was cancelled due to political un-rest in France at that time. On June 11, 1936, this car was co-driven by Yves Giraud-Cabantous and Bugatti company salesman Roger Labric in the Belgian 24-Hour race at Spa-Francorchamps. Labric was a friend of Bugatti's who managed the marque's showroom at the Avenue Montaigne in Paris. Unfortunately, during the 24-Hour race he overshot the circuit's Stavelot Hairpin, and burst its radiator. The damaged car was repaired and then returned to Paris, where it was promptly offered for sale at the Avenue Montaigne showroom.
It found a buyer on April 8, 1937; the enthusiastic and talented French gentleman owner/driver Pierre Bouillin. He had been born in Paris on December 22, 1905, the son of an antiques dealer, and had become the director of a brush factory in the town of Trie Châ-teau in France's Oise region. This Bugatti Type 57 was his first sports car.
Bouillin idolized an uncle - Alfred Velghe - who had been one of the pioneer racing drivers before World War 1. Bouillin shuffled the let-ters of that surname to adopt the nom de guerre 'Levegh' for his own racing exploits. He would become obsessed with the ambition of winning at Le Mans, and in 1952 would come very close – over-revving his Talbot-Lago and blowing the engine apart after 23 hours of a solo drive...while well-established in a probably uncatchable lead. His misfortune gifted the race to the two works Mercedes-Benz 300SL 'Gullwing' Coupe works cars which finished first and second. When Mercedes-Benz returned to Le Mans with a full works team of 300SLR sports-racing cars in 1955 they invited 'Levegh' – by that time 49-years old – to drive for them. It was a well-meant gesture – but one the Mercedes-Benz management possibly never expected the veteran French driver to accept. However, he did, and it was in the works SLR that he became involved in the terrible collision which would claim the lives of over 80 spectators, in addition to the luckless Bouillin himself.
However, in happier times during 1937, Pierre Bouillin - or 'Levegh' -paid 32,500 Francs in instalments to purchase '57264' for his mo-tor racing debut. On May 15, 1937, Bouillin drove the car in the Grand Prix des Frontieres road race at Chimay in Belgium and fin-ished third overall. The Bugatti ran as No 16, with licence plate '4320RK9' but without mudguards. On June 6 he reappeared with the car in the Marseille 3-Hours race, finishing eighth on aggregate.
On September 19, 1937, on the second day of the AGACI event at Montlhery Autodrome, Paris, Pierre Bouillin entered the Bugatti in the 'Autumn Cup' sports car race, the car equipped with larger De-lahaye-style mudguards but not featuring amongst the finishers.
Bouillin advertised the car for sale in the daily newspaper 'L'Auto' issue of March 15, 1938, describing it as: "Type 57, unique car, capa-ble of 190 km/h. write to owner at 54 Avenue de Choisy".
The car was seen at Brooklands for the first time during that period and was clocked at a speed of 192 km/h , which confirms Bouillin's note. It had already been modified with the addition a 40-gallon rivet-ed aluminium fuel tank behind the driver's seat, different doors, an additional oil cooler ahead of the radiator and further modified fend-ers. It also featured cable-adjustable Repesseau shock absorbers.
Contemporary references are confusing but it is possible that Boullin
sold the car to Jean-Pierre Wimille who used it as road transport be-fore passing it on to an unknown purchaser who shipped it to Brooklands in England but sadly died before he could compete there. It then passed to London based sports car specialist J.H. Bart-lett who advertised it in the May 1938 issue of 'Speed', as: "Bugatti special 3.3 litre 120 m.p.h. competition 2 seater, fitted late series 57S engine, special electron body, special streamlined wings, spare tanks, etc..£450."
It was then acquired by visiting Australian enthusiast Duncan Ord who made his Australian racing debut with the car at Pingelly on January 29, 1939. Clutch trouble relegated him to a fifth-place fin-ish. Whilst in his ownership Ord fitted hydraulic brakes and moved the radiator forward to lower the bodywork while also perhaps im-proving cooling. Ord subsequently excelled in the car at Pingelly and Albany into the World War 2 years, and in 1946 reappeared in it racing at Caversham aerodrome.
In March 1948 South Australian Durrant 'Durrie' Turner paid a de-posit on the car, but Ord damaged it slightly when trying the car for Turner after having broken the lap record in it at Caversham. It seems that Turner did not proceed with the purchase...
The car passed to Jeff Phillips and in 1952 to Phil Hind. During Hind's ownership in an effort to keep the car competitive it was modified with the chassis being shortened by 2 feet 6 inches be-tween the rear 'kick-up' and the cockpit, the original body was dis-carded and replaced by a contemporary styled slender racing ver-sion, coil-springs were fitted at the rear in place of the original cart-springs and the cars hectic racing life continued. In 1954 the car was acquired by David Van Dal who ran it in the 1957 Australian Grand Prix - '57264' thus becoming the last Bugatti to compete in the na-tion's major international road race. In 1958 Van Dal then sold it to the current owner then a junior motor engineer in Perth, Western Australia, in whose care it has survived the 51 years since.
The new owner had seen '57264' advertised for £600 in 'Australian Motor Sport' magazine, and offered Van Dal £400 payable in instal-ments. Van Dal had already been offered £400 by Melbourne-based Bugatti Type 51 owner Peter Menere, but since this would cost him a good deal more in transport he accepted our current vendor's local offer.
He ran the Bugatti in a couple of sprints before deciding to rebuild it in Maserati 300S style, but time passed and upon marriage in 1962 Bugatti '57264' was mothballed as bought.
Restoration work to original 1935 form finally commenced in 1973 and the work continued until 2010 - the vendor completing almost all the work himself. This included re-lengthening the chassis using works drawings of the Type 57 and painstakingly re-making the body and road equipment from many archive photos. The brakes were re-converted to mechanical operation, the original radiator was acquired from Van Dal while the car's original starter motor, dynamo and radiator shutters were reacquired from Ord. The radia-tor shell came via Wolf Zeuner and had come from Australia, it is in fact believed to be the original from the car. Original Type 57 rear springs came from Barry Swann in Malaysia, replacement original cylinder block and crankshaft were also sourced from Malaysia (the cars originals included with the lot), the spring hangers came from Zeuner, while the rear torque arm is old stock Molsheim spares. Original pedal pads were obtained from Henry Posner – and when Gavin Sandford-Morgan re-bodied the sister '57627' he sold nu-merous original parts to this car's present vendor including the fuel tank, cast aluminium dashboard brackets and bonnet catches. The Repesseau adjustable friction shock absorbers now fitted at the rear were the fronts when the car arrived in Australia in 1938, the ven-dor having fitted original de Rham dampers on the front as fitted for the 1935 TT.
The only replica mechanical parts used in '57264''s rebuild are- the rear-brake back plates, the brake cross shafts and the dashboard in-struments while original parts offered with this Lot but not used in the rebuild include gearbox internals, crankshaft, cylinder block, steering wheel, steering drag link, oil pump, Stromberg carburettor - two SUs are mounted presently on the original manifold – while in addition there is a spare radiator ex-Sandford-Morgan.
Bugatti authority Pierre Yves Laugier has personally inspected the car with our personnel and produced a detailed report on the car, perusal of which we strongly advise. From this we can confirm cor-rect number stampings identify the engine crankcase, gearbox, chas-sis, front and back axles as being original to this car. The Earl Howe history, the known perfect provenance and ownership-succession from at least 1937 – and now the matching numbers – what more could any Bugatti connoisseur require? We recommend this fine-history sports-racing Bugatti as being worthy of the closest consid-eration and of course potentially eligible for the world's finest mo-toring events.
Should the vehicle remain in the EU, local import taxes of 5% will be applied to the hammer price.