1925 Bugatti Type 35B Grand Prix Racer


The car was converted to aluminum wheels to bring it to 35B specs, but it is more authentic as a road car

Chassis number: BC31 (not original Bugatti number)
Engine number: 70

If ever there was a name synonymous with the Bugatti Owners’ Club, it is that of aficionado Jack Perkins. As a past editor of Bugantics, a director of the Bugatti Owners’ Club and chairman of the Competitions Committee, he knew one or two things about making a Bugatti go that little bit quicker than the competition.

Perkins was a highly successful businessman and managing director of John M Perkins & Smith Limited, drill manufacturers. As a mechanical engineer, he took a keen interest in Bugattis, owning a Type 35B and a Type 35C. This 35B is exceptionally well known, having been at virtually every Bugatti Owners’ Club hillclimb at Prescott from the late 1950s to the late 1970s, often setting fastest time of the day and breaking course records.

Perkins discovered this Bugatti in 1950 at an aerodrome in Nottinghamshire, U.K., where the ground staff were driving it around for fun. The body, original engine and gearbox had been removed, and the chassis fitted with a Vauxhall engine. Jack purchased the car from Duncan Reid, and through various contacts, obtained a correct Type 35 engine and supercharger. He sourced all the other items needed to restore the car directly from Bugatti at Molsheim.

The engine is number 70, originally fitted to unblown Type 35 chassis number 4748, which had been used extensively in period by O.A. “Bunny” Phillips of California. Phillips installed a 2.3-liter crankshaft, fitted a supercharger to convert the engine to Type 35B specification, and raced it extensively, most notably at the Indianapolis 500 and Vanderbilt Cup in 1936 and the American National Championship races in 1938.

The chassis is an original item bearing frame number 141 stamped inside the rear channel-section cross-member, and is believed most probably to be number 4721. However, the chassis number has never been confirmed, and consequently the frame currently carries the Bugatti Club number BC31.

In the early 1950s, Jack Perkins set about building the fastest possible Type 35B, and together with his mechanic Eric Mason, an ex-speedway racer, used a Type 51 crankshaft and new cylinder blocks and pistons to build a methanol-burning engine. To accommodate the single-seater configuration, HWM rack-and-pinion steering was employed while Girling hydraulic brakes were fitted to improve the stopping power. Additional suspension damping was provided by Newton telescopic shock absorbers, and to harness the extra power, Perkins specified a Borg & Beck clutch, Hardy-Spicer propshaft and twin rear wheels for extra grip. The chassis was then fitted with a streamlined single-seater body fabricated in aluminum.

aluminum. Perkins’ Type 35B made its debut at Prescott on May 9, 1954, setting a best time of 52.15 seconds. Perkins continued to campaign the single-seater until his last meeting in June 1988; by then he was 78 years old and in declining health, so he decided to retire from the sport that had given him so much pleasure for so long.

It was then decided that the Bugatti should be returned to its original two-seater Grand Prix specification, and historic racing specialist Rod Jolley was appointed to carry out the work, which was completed in the mid-1990s. After a long battle with illness, Perkins passed away in August 1992, shortly before the restoration was completed. Perkins’ widow, Jean Perkins, decided to put the Bugatti on display at the Haynes Motor Museum in Somerset, U.K., where it remained until December 2010. The car’s mechanical condition is not known, and it will require recommissioning at the very least before being returned to active service.

Historically important Bugattis come onto the open market only rarely, and this example represents an exciting opportunity to acquire a Type 35 in the model’s ultimate supercharged configuration, eligible for all categories of historic competition.

Toby Ross

SCM Contributor

Toby was born in England where his enthusiasm for fine automobiles started at a young age, preparing his father’s Aston DB 2/4 for concours events, and later using it in hill climbs. He moved to France 25 years ago, and after a couple of years working for the Aston Martin importer, became a classic car broker, mainly for Ferrari. Living in France awakened an interest in the great French marques, and a long learning curve began. Over the years, Toby has discovered some great cars sleeping in France ranging from a Ferrari Daytona Competition to a Talbot Teardrop. Toby now lives on the small island of Malta, where he helps organize races and shows for the thriving classic car community.

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