1931 BUGATTI TYPE 50 ROADSTER
COACHWORK BY BUGATTI
Chassis No. 50123
Engine No. 18
Dark green with black fenders, red pinstriping and brown leather interior
Engine: eight-cylinder, twin overhead camshaft supercharged, 4,972cc, 225bhp at 4,000rpm; Gearbox: three-speed manual; Suspension: front, hollow axle with semi-elliptic leaf springs, rear, live axle with reversed quarter-elliptic leaf springs and friction type shock absorbers; Brakes: four-wheel drum. Right hand drive.
The Type 50 Bugatti, introduced October 11, 1930, featured the first of Ettore Bugatti's twin camshaft engine designs, and was a luxury model based on the running gear of the previous Type 46, but initially on a shorter wheelbase chassis frame. Its supercharged 4.9 liter engine, yielding about 225bhp, was formidably powerful, so much so that the English concessionaires were reluctant to import the model, fearing that it was far too fast for the great majority of their clientele! Although available until 1933, the Type 50 is a very rare model, only 65 being produced in total, no doubt due to its considerable expense at a time of world recession. A few examples were fitted with lightweight racing coachwork and used in competition, notably at Le Mans between 1931 and 1935, but the great majority were fitted with stylish bodywork of the highest quality supplied by the leading coachbuilders of the day.
This particular car is an early example on the nimble shorter chassis fitted with Engine No. 11, and was invoiced by the factory for delivery to its first owner M. Derain of Paris on March 30, 1931. It was supplied with two-seater and dickey factory built roadster coachwork designed by Jean Bugatti, and its original Parisien registration number was 9144 RE 7. By 1935, the car was owned by Jean Trivier, the proprietor of a large brewery in the Vosges. It was subsequently imported into England by Jack Lemon Burton in June 1937, and run by him until the outbreak of the war in 1939. In approximatly 1942, he removed its engine which he sold to Eric Richardson of the USA who wanted it to fit to an engine-less Type 46 chassis he then owned.
After the war Lemon Burton obtained another Type 50 engine from France, this being Engine No. 18 from Chassis No. 50133, and installed it in the car. It was then sold and registered for road use with the number HDD 42 on January 1, 1948. This number was issued by the Gloucestershire registration authorities so the new owner must presumably have lived in that county. However in 1954, when the car was painted black, it was owned by John C. Erskine-Hill of South Kensington, London. Whether he had moved from Gloucestershire to London, or if there had been a previous owner after Jack Lemon Burton, remains unsolved.
Shortly thereafter, the car was imported into the United States where the first recorded owner was enthusiast and tire manufacturer Ann Klein. After a few years of use Ann Klein eventually sold the car to John Caperton who in turn passed the car on to John R. Hoggatt of Indianapolis, all prior to 1962 by which date the car was painted blue. The present owner purchased the car from Mr. Hoggatt's widow in 1970. The elegance of all Jean Bugatti's coachwork designs are undoubtedly shown to best advantage in two colors rather than one and this particular roadster is no exception with its green and black livery.
A little more than a decade later in 1983 the engine was rebuilt by Vintage Auto Restorations. The current owner has regularly enjoyed this lovely example of "The Big Bugatti" during his ownership over the last 27 years. It has been regularly maintained by Bugatti specialists, Vintage Auto Restorations, and is well known in the American Bugatti Club. The 50 has been featured in many publications including "The Big Big Bugatti's" by Barrie Price. It comes with an extensive file of documentation and correspondance. The original Jean Bugatti designed body is attractive (unlike many Type 50s) and is aptly fitted to the short chassis. The sporting design is enhanced by the twin mounted rear spares, and "High Speed" center mounted lamp. As one of only 65 Type 50s originally produced, with far fewer chassis in existence today, 50123 is a rare and thoroughly documented example of one of Ettore Bugatti's great models. The straight eight twin camshaft, 5 litre supercharged engine make the Type 50 one of the Pre War eras great luxury cars.