Waimak Classic Cars finds home for Bob Turnbull’s 1934 Bugatti Type 57
Any Bugatti badge commands a certain level of approval, admiration and respect, so it’s good news that Bob Turnbull’s much-loved 1934 Bugatti Type 57 Gangloff roadster has found a permanent home in New Zealand.
In 1956 the car was imported into New Zealand for a price of £350. It was in 1958 that Bob Turnbull took ownership of the T57, and transported it to the small, quiet township of Ophir, where it has been for the past 50 years.
Bob Turnbull was undoubtedly one of New Zealand’s greatest talents, and a meticulous engineer. He was a quiet, retiring sort of chap, a reclusive man, who enjoyed nothing more than spending time in his shed just out of Alexandra in Central Otago, working on complex projects, including this Bugatti.
'”A genius,” one friend says. “A legend,” says a former colleague, who compared Turnbull’s abilities with those of the late John Britten, the New Zealand mechanical engineer best-known for his radical motorcycle designs.
A recent book on Canterbury company Hamilton Jet, written by John Walsh, credits Turnbull with developing a key element in the firm’s jet propulsion units, a twinducted reversing mechanism now used worldwide. Founded by sheepfarmer-turned-engineer Sir William Hamilton, Hamilton Jet might be synonymous with fast boats, but it is the water-jet propulsion system itself that has led the company’s success, its range of units being used around the world, from naval and coastguard patrol boats to fast ferries. Bob also designed a 1031 jet unit, which was aimed at the shallow-draft fishing boat market in New Zealand.
Bob had a terrific mind. Everything had to be done according to a theory. He was marvellous at doing drawings of designs he wanted. In an imperfect world, it seems Turnbull sought solace in precision. Bob Turnbull died in 2012, yet his legacy lives on — memories and tales of a mechanical engineer who had a mind as strong as the blocks of steel with which he played.
This Bugatti T57 underwent a ground-up restoration to what is believed to be its original colours of pearl with burgundy trim and carpet, and pale tan upholstery.
The Bob Turnbull Charitable Trust is delighted that the Bugatti is staying in New Zealand, and that as a result, Bob’s legacy will live on not just in the Bugatti, but also through a trust he established to help potential engineering students facilitate improvement of the social, cultural, educational, economic and spiritual lives of the community, and to carry out other such charitable purposes in New Zealand.
The vehicle is now under the proud ownership of Steve Lockwood, an Auckland businessman, whose intentions for the car are as noble as those of Bob Turnbull. The Bugatti will be offered on display around prominent New Zealand car museums so that all Kiwis could enjoy and learn about this unique vehicle, its provenance and the legend behind it — Bob Turnbull.
The sale of the Bugatti was managed by Waimak Classic Car. Thanks to Gloria and Jesmond for providing this information, and keeping such an amazing piece of motoring history on our fair shores. For photos and more information on the Type 57, head to themotorhood.com and search for 'Bugatti'.