In its long series of 1920s Type 35 models, Bugatti produced the quintessential vintage sports car. The original roller-bearing unsupercharged straight-eight Type 35 made its debut in the Grand Prix de l’ACF race at Lyon-Givors in 1924, and the production plain-bearing unsupercharged Type 35A soon followed.
This intriguing example, chassis “4771,” was invoiced for delivery to UK agent Col. Sorel in Brixton Road, London, in June 1926. Its ledger entry lists engine number “93A,” but no record has been located of its early ownership history before 1958 when it was imported into the USA from France.
In 1962 Hugh Conway listed its owner as a “J. Ruzella of Sunland, California, engine 93A, blue, fully restored.” By 1973 it had passed to Grant White of San Jose, and later Salt Lake City, before being brought to the UK in 1988.
In preparation for its sale, Brooks auction company had this car closely inspected by independent marque authority David Sewell who reported, “The chassis is standard Bugatti in all respects but includes several features more commonly found on the roller-bearing Type 35 models. These comprise the early narrow Lyon style radiator.ignition by magneto rather than by coil and distributor, a (brass) oil tank below the passenger seat and oil transfer pump in the panel appears to be new, but otherwise all major components seem to be original.”
Sewell reported that the front axle beam was not numbered while steering wheel, box and all linkages were correct and original, as were the front springs and the alloy wheels all round which “.are fitted with elderly-looking Dunlop 710 x 90 beaded-edge tires.”
The engine’s lower crankcase is stamped with “chassis and engine numbers 4771 and 93A which looks authentic,” while the gearbox casing “although not numbered, appears to be an original.The complete rear axle is original, as are the radius rods, rear springs and shock absorbers.”
While it is extremely difficult to be certain about the provenance of Bugatti body panels Mr. Sewell considered that “this one is most certainly not a recent replica although some parts, notably the scuttle, appear not to be original.”
The car was offered for sale in pure race trim lacking a battery, starter motor, lights and wings, and is not currently registered for road use. However, Mr. Sewell’s full report – copies of which were available to interested buyers – concluded, “overall this car is most attractive and delightfully devoid of replica components.”
Its several early Type 35 features have led to past claims that it is not really “4771” at all, but instead an extremely early example and perhaps even one of the original 1924 Lyon works team cars, Mr. Sewell concluded this is not so and that this “is very probably Chassis No. 4771 after all. Nevertheless.it does incorporate desirable aspects of the true Type 35.genuine alloy wheels.” and he concluded, “although technically a Type 35A, it comes much closer in specification to the far more sought-after Type 35 model.”
It is certainly a car of great period charm and potential which appears to include a far higher proportion of unsullied original components than many alternative Bugattis one sees today.