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An ex­tremely rare Bu­gatti finds a new home in New Zealand where it will be the sub­ject of a to­tal re­build en­er­ally speak­ing, Bu­gat­tis are a rare and elu­sive breed on New Zealand shores, with per­haps the most fa­mous be­ing the ex-ron Roy­croft Type 35. Howev

New Zealand Classic Car - - SPECIAL FEATURE - Words: Ash­ley Webb Pho­tos: Adam Croy

Al­though de­signed and built as a road car, rac­ing vari­a­tions of the 57, the so­called ‘Tank’ Bu­gat­tis, ac­tu­ally won Le Mans in 1937 and 1939 — proof that, as far as Bu­gatti was con­cerned, the dis­tinc­tion be­tween road-go­ing and race cars was never clear. The typ­i­cally el­e­gant Bu­gatti chas­sis was pow­ered by Bu­gatti’s gor­geous straight eight — a work of art in it­self — with a ca­pac­ity of 3257cc, and ini­tial power out­put was quoted at 104kw (140bhp), later ris­ing to 130kw (175bhp) Su­per­charged vari­ants of this en­gine pro­duced around 149kw (200bhp). It was des­tined to be­come Bu­gatti’s best-sell­ing model, and many Type 57s were bod­ied by out­side coach­builders, al­though the fac­tory of­fered no less than five stan­dard bod­ies — all of them de­signed by Jean Bu­gatti — the Stelvio con­vert­ible, the four-door Gal­i­bier, the two-door Ven­toux, the At­lante two-seater and, fi­nally, the truly iconic fast­back At­lantic. Orig­i­nally in­tro­duced in 1934, the sportier and more pow­er­ful 57S ap­peared the fol­low­ing year, while the fit­ment of a Roots su­per­charger be­came an op­tion in 1937 for both the 57 and 57S — hence the birth of the 57C and 57 SC, with the ‘C’ stand­ing for Com­presseur. The S ver­sions of the car were dis­con­tin­ued in 1938, and the 57 and 57C con­tin­ued in pro­duc­tion un­til the ad­vent of World War Fit­ted with stream­lined bodywork, the 57 was also suc­cess­ful on the race track. Th­ese spe­cial 57s scored his­toric vic­to­ries at the 1936 French Grand Prix and, as pre­vi­ously men­tioned, at Le Mans. Iron­i­cally, the man be­hind the de­sign of the Type 57, Jean Bu­gatti, would lose his life at the wheel of the 1939 Le Mans–win­ning Tank in Au­gust of that same year.

For sev­eral years Tom has thought of own­ing a Bu­gatti, and fol­low­ing the an­nounce­ment of the Baillon auc­tion, he had a friend from Eng­land travel to France to give a re­port on this car, and sev­eral of the oth­ers in the Artcu­rial Auc­tion. At this point he knew that the Bu­gatti’s Gan­gloff body had been re­moved and a Ven­toux body was on the chas­sis, and he un­der­stood that this Ven­toux body had been made on July 5, 1938 — body num­ber 86 — and came from chas­sis No. 57706. A full in­ves­ti­ga­tion of the car was car­ried out to leave no doubt of its iden­tity, Tom ac­quired the Type 57 for NZ$489,260, and it sub­se­quently made the long trip to New Zealand.

While the car was re­vealed to the pub­lic in its as-found and rather sorry-look­ing state, this Bu­gatti is set to un­dergo a re­mark­able trans­for­ma­tion. Tom’s short-term goal is to re­build the Type 57 as a Ven­toux-bod­ied car, but for the long term he has more in­trigu­ing plans which in­volve even­tu­ally re­build­ing it as a Bu­gatti At­lantic, one of the rarest, most sought-af­ter cars ever made.

With only four ex­am­ples ever pro­duced, the Bu­gatti At­lantic is an au­to­mo­tive holy grail for many, as ev­i­denced by Ralph Lau­ren’s stun­ning, award-win­ning, black Type 57SC At­lantic — a car that was sold for US$40 mil­lion (NZ$58.4M) in 2010. The no­tion of a fifth At­lantic ris­ing from the ashes of this Type 57 and find­ing its home in New Zealand is ex­cit­ing, to say the least.

But for now, Tom’s Type 57 will be re­built in Ven­toux form — and we’ll be fol­low­ing this one with plenty of in­ter­est.

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