Almost 80 years after its introduction, the Bugatti Type 35 remains one of the most iconic and historically significant cars to have ever raced. Without doubt, the Type 35 was responsible for Bugatti’s rise to the heights of 1920s Grand Prix racing and quickly became the most dominant participant of its era.
The Type 35 is renowned for its featherweight chassis and low center of gravity. These factors combined made these relatively diminutive GP cars extremely manoeuvrable, especially on short tracks.
The 35C was designed to take full advantage of the new 2-liter formula and over the following years proved nearly unbeatable. The small-displacement, 8-cylinder, roller-bearing engine allowed for a much higher redline, the blower provided power throughout the rev range, and the handling was simply phenomenal. Those intimately familiar with Bugattis would argue that the 35C was the ultimate “kit” for a Grand Prix Bugatti, a perfect balance of power, weight and character.
Like the vast majority of surviving GP Bugattis, this 35C, listed in the American Bugatti Register as chassis “4935,” was essentially dismantled-the components were separated and rebuilt during an era when even the most authentic and historically important examples were “restored” without regard to their known identity, history, or originality of chassis numbers. The circumstances that led to the reconstitution of noted collector Dr. Peter Williamson’s first Bugatti, this beloved Type 35, follow along these lines and are quite typical for the era.
Prior to its acquisition by legendary Bugatti restorer Bunny Phillips, chassis 4935 was a Type 35B with a long and fascinating race record. After moving from the East Coast to California, this car resided in Phillips’s shop for some time. In the early 1960s, Eugene Kettering, scion of the famed AC Delco family and Peter Williamson’s father-in-law, purchased the T35 on the condition that Phillips would be contracted to complete the restoration.
In classic Phillips fashion, the car was disassembled and a frame was sourced-number 342-thought to be from another Type 35 he owned. With this genuine Bugatti chassis frame as the foundation, a Type 35C engine was installed, along with an appropriate driveline and suspension components. The engine is number 186, implying that it originally belonged to chassis 4940-a 35C that was first driven by Philippe Étancelin at the San Sebastián Grand Prix on July 25, 1929.