1947 Bugatti Type 73 Monoposto Race Car

In 1944 Ettore Bugatti initiated the designs of a new, supercharged 1500-cc car intended for postwar production. It was designated the Type 73, with variations ranging from a four-seater road model to a monoposto racing car.
Early in 1947 an artist’s impression of a streamlined, two-door saloon appeared in a Bugatti advertisement in a Continental newspaper, and an engine-less prototype appeared on the Bugatti stand at the Paris Motor Show in October, 1947.

Ettore Bugatti had died in August, 1947 and, with the difficult economic conditions in early postwar France it is hardly surprising that the projected Type 73 Bugatti was destined to progress no further. By this time all the parts except the coachwork for an initial batch of five Type 73 racing cars had been manufactured in the old La Licorne works at Levallois near Paris, although not a single car had, in fact, been bench-tested. Thereafter, the five sets of parts remained in storage for several years at Bugatti’s Molsheim works.

Belgian Bugatti dealer Jean De Dobbeleer, who assembled the parts into a complete but non-running car, had acquired one set of parts in late 1960. The remaining four sets of Type 73C parts were disposed of over the next three years, with two remaining in France, one being sold to a customer in Holland and the other set sold to the US. It should be explained that although these sets of parts were numbered from one to five, they were never allocated chassis numbers by the Molsheim factory: they were given chassis numbers 73001 to 73005 at a much later date. Thus, the major constituent parts of this report’s subject car, shown as chassis number 73002, are actually numbered “two.”

Chassis number 73002 was the first of the five Type 73C Bugattis to leave the factory, and after De Dobbeleer had assembled it, he sold it in 1961 to his American dealer friend Gene Cesari, who in turn sold it within the US to Jerry Sherman of Malvern, Pennsylvania. It is significant that this was the only Type 73 Bugatti to be listed in Hugh Conway’s comprehensive Bugatti Register, and confirmed that the car was a Type 73C with chassis number 73002. From Sherman’s ownership, it passed through several hands until 1969, when Eri Richardson of California acquired it.

English collector Tom Wheatcroft then bought the car in 1973. Around that time, Wheatcroft was assembling a large collection of racing cars, and was also in the process of purchasing the site of the Donington road-racing circuit that had remained unused since prewar times. In due course the Type 73 was restored to full running order in the Donington Collection workshops and a new body was built for it. Apparently there are two surviving factory drawings of racing bodywork intended for the Type 73C model, although there is no evidence that the factory ever made an example of either design. Wheatcroft elected to have a body built based upon the second of these two designs, which closely resembled the immediate prewar racing single-seater Bugattis with a centrally divided cowled radiator grille.

The entire car was restored to the extremely high mechanical and cosmetic standard. Although the car has never actually been raced, Wheatcroft drove it frequently and swiftly during visits to his Donington racing circuit. In 1994 ownership passed to the present North American owner.