This magnificent high-performance, post-vintage thoroughbred two-seater began life as a Works-backed Bugatti entry in the 1932 Le Mans 24-Hour race. It was co-driven there by two of France’s most capable and charismatic drivers, the aristocratic Sarthois (from Le Mans) Count Guy Bouriat-Quintart and the renowned Monegasque future French Champion, Louis Chiron.
While this 2.3-liter supercharged straight-8 Bugatti originated with a spartan lightweight racing body tailored to that year’s Le Mans 24-Hour regulations, following its post-race sale to Parisian magazine publisher Jacques Dupuy, it was speedily rebodied in Boulogne sur-Seine on the outskirts of Paris by the now-legendary Italian-born stylist/coachbuilder Giuseppe Figoni.
Following an awards-rich early history in France, this Bugatti survived World War II, and in August 1963, it was acquired by its longstanding owner, leading British Bugattiste Geoffrey St John.
This magnificent car became the apple of his eye, and he was devastated in June 1994 when it was involved in a road accident in France, assailed by a speeding car driven by a youth who was both uninsured and drunk.
Frontal damage to the car was beautifully repaired in a subsequent, utterly painstaking 5,000-hour restoration, from which his Bugatti Type 55 — chassis 55221 — re-emerged, the vast majority of its original St John-ownership fabric having been successfully preserved and repaired. A photographic record of the restoration has been documented by independent Bugatti consultant Mark Morris.