1926 BUGATTI TYPE 51 GRANRD PRIX CAR
Engine No: Replien crankcase
Engine:straight eight, roller bearing crankshaft, twin overhead camshafts, 16 valves, Roots-type supercharger with single updraft Zenith 48K carburettor, magneto ignition, 2262cc giving approximately 185bhp at 5500rpm; Gearbox: four-speed manual; Suspension: hollow beam font axle with half-elliptic springs; live rear axle with reversed quarter-elliptic springs and radius rods; Brakes: drums integral with alloy road wheels, automatically compensated cable system; Right hand drive.
The Type 51 Grand Prix Bugatti was introduced in 1931 to replace the single overhead camshaft type 35 model which, in increasingly powerful forms, had been outstandingly successful both as a factory-entered Grand Prix car and as the mount of innumerable semi-professional and amateur racing drivers since its introduction in 1924. By 1931 more than two hundred examples of the Type 35 had been built and sold, a quite amazing figure for a font line Grand Prix car, with about half being the Type 35B and Type 35C supercharged versions introduced in 1926. This remarkable figure was supplemented by over 130 of the cheaper Type 35A version lacking the costly roller bearing crankshaft and alloy wheels and 270 of the Type 37 four-cylinder version, making a grand total in excess of 600 cars.
However, by 1929 despite the outstanding steering, handling, road holding and brakes of the Type 35 chassis the inherent power limitatins of its single-cam engine were becoing increasingly apparent and accoringling Bugatti at last turned his mind to the twin-camshaft concept which had been standard practice in most other racing engines for several seasons. To this end he concluded a deal with the eponymous American racing driver Leon Duray who that year was competing with a pair of front-drive Miller racing cars in Europe in which they were exchanged for three of his Type 43 models. Bugatti was astounded at the specific output of the twin-cam Miller engine revealed by his tests and the design of his Type 35 engine was hastily adapted to accommodate a similar layout.
The new model, designated the Type 51, was prepared in time for the 1931 racing season. Apart from the modifications to the upper parts of its engine and a few other relatively minor details the Type 51 was virtually unchanged from its predecessor, yet the enhanced power output of its twin camshft engine enabled it to remain at the forefront of Grand Prix racing for another two or three seasons.
This particular example comprises a set of parts collected over many years by Bunny Phillips. The chassis frame is recorded as being from a Type 35, Chassis No 4776, which was invoiced by the factory in June 1926 for delivery to their Paris showrooms. Its early history and how it came to the U.S.A. remain unknown but it is believed that it came into the ownership of Bunny Phillips in an incomplete state more than thirty years ago. However, it must be noted that the frame number of this chassis dates it as being manufactured in 1929, the most probable explanation being that, like numerous other examples, this car was rebuilt early in its life on a new frame following major accident damage.
Also many years ago Bunny Phillips obtained a damaged Type 51 engine, No 15 from Chassis No 51132 which had been imported to the U.S.A. in 1936 and entered for that year's Vanderbilt Cup by McClure Halley for Texan driver Dave Evans. Soon thereafter this car passed to Ralph Stein of "the Great Cars" fame and later to George Weaver who replaced its engine with a Peerless marine unit. In due course its damaged Bugatti engine found its way to Bunny Phillips who conceivved the idea of fitting it to his Type 35 chassis to produce a hybrid Type 51. However a few years ago the new European owner of Chassis No 51132 managed to persuade Phillips to part with the remains of this Type 51 engine so that it could be refitted to its rightful chassis, thereby one again leaving his long-term Type 51 project engineless.
The car remains in a partly assembled condition. Its chassis frame has already been restored and fitted with its front springs, front axle beam and gearbox and at the rear with its rear springs and rear axle complete with torque arm, radius arms and shock absorbers. A Type 51 radiator is included but as a result of the sale of the damaged Type 51 engine, the only engine components enstalled are replica upper and lower crankcase castings. Major components which are not presently fitted to the assemble include the remainder of the engine, the clutch, the propshaft, the stub-axles, the front shock absorbers and the hubs, brakes and road wheels of both axles together with the bodywork. However, some of these planned for eventual fitment may be included in this lot.(please supply details below)