1927 BUGATTI TYPE 40 TWO SEATER
Chassis No. 40490
Engine No. 390
Blue with dark blue wings and tan upholstery
Engine: four cylinder, single overhead camshaft, 1,496cc., 12 valves, twin Weber carburetors, coil ignition, estimated 70bhp at 5,000rpm (see text); Gearbox: four-speed manual, center change; Suspension: beam front axle on semi-elliptic springs, live rear axle on reversed quarter-elliptic springs, Hartford-type friction shock absorbers all round; Brakes: four wheel drum. Right hand drive.
The Type 40 Bugatti was an entirely new model introduced in 1926 to replace the touring versions of the 16-valve Brescia range which had remained in production with progressive specification changes over the previous six years. The new car was the least expensive of the new range, the concurrently introduced two-litre eight-cylinder Type 38 replacing the Type 30 while the 1500cc Type 37 replaced the racing version of the Brescia.
Initially the Type 40 utilized the same chassis rails as the superseded 2.55-meter wheelbase Type 23 Brescia, but later a slightly longer chassis, which was actually a shortened version of the deeper Type 38 frame, was substituted. The engine used was a detuned version of that fitted to the recently introduced Type 37, and was likewise equipped initially with splash but later with full pressure lubrication to its five-bearing crankshaft.
As with all Bugattis the cylinder block and head were in the form of a single casting, while the four valves per cylinder which were a feature of all the Brescias were replaced by three-valve heads, with two inlets each smaller than on the Brescia together with a single larger exhaust valve. This nevertheless yielded slightly better breathing which, combined with the robust bottom end, produced a particularly sound and reliable engine. The gearbox was almost identical to that recently introduced on the Type 38 while the front and rear axles and other major components were also very similar but of slightly reduced scale.
Between its introduction in June 1926 and production ending over five years later, around 900 examples of the Type 40 were built and although not particularly fast and relatively modestly priced, it nevertheless retained all the many other virtues for which the marque had already rightly become renowned.
Although often thought of as carrying factory bodywork along the lines of the Type 43 at first Bugatti produced only the finished chassis to be fitted with bodywork by outside coachbuilders to clients' choice, which we feel was most likely the case with this car.
Marque historian David Sewell has kindly confirmed from factory records that chassis 40490 was originally fitted with the engine number 390, as it has today. The Type 40 was ordered by Bugatti's Paris agency on 29th July 1927 and was promptly delivered to them as a rolling chassis and invoiced for 27,000 French Francs. Sadly, no further details are known of the car's early days.
Hugh Conway's 1962 Bugatti Register cites the car as being in the ownership of Ken S. Hogg of Saginaw, Michigan. By this time the car wore a black and yellow standard boat-tailed two seater body, with special wings and headlights faired into its body, and it is described in the Register as 'a superb Bugatti factory-modified example of the Type 40 model'. It was understood at that time to have been brought to America by Roy W. Pitman, who had acquired the car in France - then registered with the number '2452 Z33' - but while working in Wiesbaden, Germany. Prior to bringing it to the States, Mr. Pitman had returned the car to the works at Molsheim in 1957 and had it rebuilt. At a similar time Pitman also sourced a spares car, chassis 40168 crated in 8 packing cases, and from then onwards the cars would change hands together.
From Mr. Pitman the 40490 passed to Patrick Mason, whose enjoyment of the car was brief, since its oil pump seized only 175kms after this rebuild! It would from then onwards spend some time in storage, passing next to Eri Richardson in 1961, then to Hogg. Mr. Hogg parted with the car in around 1973 to Virgil Exner, and he in turn sold to Mr. Stone in 1979, who retained the car until his death earlier this year.
On inspection it is quiet clear that the coachwork is old, and further most evident where it had been modified at the factory with slightly heavier than vintage fenders, which are reminiscent of a Type 57 and are fitted with a central driving light. Cosmetically the car may be described as presentable but a little tired and in need of freshening. At the time of writing we had not had the opportunity to run the car.
Type 40s have a strong following, this car from its long term Bugattiste ownership represents an interesting variation on the standard theme, but nevertheless an entreé to the Molsheim marque, which with a little attention will provide a usable touring car.