|Vehicle:||1926 Bugatti Type 39A Grand Prix|
|Tune Up Cost:||$1,000|
|Chassis Number Location:||Brass tag on left firewall, also on engine|
|Engine Number Location:||Left rear mounting flange on block|
|Club Info:||American Bugatti Club, 600 Lakeview Terrace, Glen Ellyn, IL 60137|
|Alternatives:||1925 Alfa Romeo P2, 1926 Maserati Tipo 26B, 1926 Delage 155B|
This 1926 Bugatti Type 39A Grand Prix sold for $1,175,000 at the Bonhams & Butterfields Brookline, Massachusetts, sale on April 21, 2007.
The Bugatti Type 35 Grand Prix car is one of the icons of competition history. It was successful and combined a purity of form with a raw mechanical presence.
The Type 39A was one of the first supercharged Bugattis, developed from the Type 35, but with reduced stroke to meet the 1.5-liter limit. One of the drivers who took this new model into competition was Bartolomeo “Meo” Costantini. He was a WWI fighter ace born in 1889 who began his auto racing career before the war in 1914 and continued until 1927. He was successful, with results in 15 major and two minor Grands Prix, and four wins and 12 top ten finishes to his credit. Among his results were two second places and one third place in this particular Bugatti Type 39A in 1926.
Earlier changes seem to matter less
In valuing a race car such as this Type 39A Grand Prix, some of the usual rules don’t apply. The primary identifier of any car is the frame, and this car most likely has had its frame replaced. Does that make it less valuable? Perhaps not. Prevailing opinion holds that the earlier changes such as this were made, the less it seems to matter. Based on the records of the Bugatti club and other sources, the new frame was installed shortly after the end of 4802’s factory competition career and before it was sold into private hands. There is little doubt the frame it has today was the one installed then, with this serial number.
Since its first-line European racing career, 4802 has spent most of its life in the U.S., with its first American owner being Horace Dodge. Rumors suggest that he may have sponsored its entry in the Indianapolis 500, but proof is lacking. More recently it has been an active vintage racer on the East Coast, with many appearances at the Fall Vintage Festival at Lime Rock Park in Connecticut, as well as on the Copperstate 1000 vintage rally in Arizona. It is prepared to a very high visual and mechanical standard and is ready to run. As such, it represents the “working” end of the vintage race car market.
Objets d’art or sports equipment
Miles Collier, noted collector of sports racing cars, sees in this a trend. “We’ll see a bifurcation in the population of collectible cars between museum and user-quality-an objet d’art and a piece of sports equipment.” Speaking of the very original Bugatti Type 35C sold by Gooding & Company at their 2006 Pebble Beach auction for $2.6 million, Collier points out it will never see a race track again. “If it did run, a lot of its value would be compromised. On the other hand, one that has been used more and has more replacement parts can actually be driven as intended.”
While this 1926 Type 39A Grand Prix cannot be said to be the most original example of the ten made and was not driven by one of the more famous Bugatti pilotes, it’s certainly one of the most usable. Any of the Type 35 variants must be counted among the most desirable vintage race cars one could own, and this one, with a known history and superb preparation, has to be judged as correctly valued.