Selected Motor Cars from the Oscar Davis Collection
Oscar Davis has been a car enthusiast his entire life and has been collecting cars for over thirty years. His father was a toolmaker and Oscar spent many hours being trained by him in the machine shop and learning about mechanics. His collecting started in the mid-1950s, firstly with a Triumph TR3 and shortly thereafter with a Lancia Aurelia. During the war BMW's caught his attention and when the 507 was introduced he went to buy one. Unfortunately it was just too expensive. However the dealer did manage to sell Mr. Davis a pre-war 328 for $200. He restored this car himself and enjoyed it for about 18 years. By the early 1980s his collection was still quite modest and included a 507, two 503s, a 327 and the Lancia.
In the early 1980s the BMW 328 was sent to Chicago for a full restoration, but four years later the car was still in pieces and going nowhere. To keep Mr. Davis happy the restorer gave him a 1937 Bugatti Type 57 as collateral. This Bugatti was the beginning of a great passion for these beautiful vehicles and it soon led to an interest in other European sports cars of similar caliber such as Alfa Romeo and Ferrari. And so the focus of Mr. Davis' interest shifted and his collection developed accordingly.
Oscar has been a familiar and highly popular attendee at numerous car events both in the USA and Continental Europe and regularly participates in events such as the Pebble Beach Concours. He also enjoys driving his cars on road rallies such as the Colorado Grand and Mille Miglia. Recently Oscar has realized that his car collection has grown larger than he can usefully enjoy and drive on a regular basis. He has therefore decided to reduce the size of his fabulous stable of motor cars. Christie's is delighted to have been chosen to offer these eight cars that reflect his early interest in the great European marques of Bugatti and Alfa Romeo.
BUGATTI TYPE 55 JEAN BUGATTI ROADSTER REPLICA
Chassis No. 157628
Engine No. AR 00512. 14536. (Alfa Romeo)
Black and yellow with tan leather upholstery
Engine: four cylinder, twin overhead camshafts, 8 valves, two Dellorto DHLA40 twin-choke carburetors, 1,962cc., circa 130bhp at 5,500rpm; Gearbox: five-speed manual, center change; Suspension: beam front axle with semi-elliptic springs, live rear axle with reversed quarter-elliptic springs; Brakes: four wheel drum. Right hand drive.
The Type 55 'Super Sport' Bugatti comprised a slightly detuned Type 51 Grand Prix engine installed in the same chassis frame as utilized for the 4.9-litre Type 54 Grand Prix racing car. Its supercharged 2.3-litre straight eight twin-camshaft engine produced about 140bhp.
A dry multi-plate clutch passed the drive to a mid-positioned four-speed touring gearbox with center change and thence to a typical Bugatti rear axle mounted on reversed quarter-elliptic springs, the whole chassis usually being enveloped in highly attractive two-seater doorless roadster coachwork with flowing fender designed by Jean Bugatti.
This was inevitably an expensive motor car and its introduction in late 1931 in the midst of a world recession must have further limited its sales, a mere 38 examples being built before production eventually ended in 1935. Nowadays original examples very rarely appear on the open market, and when they do they command extremely high prices. As a result of the increasing interest in classic cars over recent years a number of replicas have been constructed, this particular example being possibly the first.
The basis of this car is a replica Type 59 Bugatti chassis frame produced in the U.S.A. over thirty years ago which Eric Koux of Denmark then purchased from Dutch Bugatti dealer Bart Loyens before it had been assembled into a car. He soon concluded that his original intention of producing a replica Type 59 was too ambitious a project so decided instead to build a replica Type 55, for which purpose he first had to lengthen the frame from its original 2.6-meter wheelbase to the 2.75 meters which is correct for a Type 55.
Complete original front and rear axle assemblies numbered 361 and 115 respectively were sourced from a Type 44 Bugatti, but no correct engine was readily available so he instead selected an all-alloy four-cylinder Alfa Romeo unit of the type fitted to the 5 Series 2000 production models. Being much shorter than a straight-eight Type 55 engine it was easily accommodated under the hood complete with its integral five-speed gearbox. In order to maintain appearances the propshaft to the rear axle was made to pass directly through a correctly located but dummy Type 55 gearbox casing just ahead of the seats.
The chassis also features an authentic Type 55 Bugatti bulkhead and dashboard assembly complete with its now redundant magneto cradle, while its replica Jean Bugatti roadster coachwork comprises an aluminum hood with the remainder in fiberglass finished in primrose and black. The wheels are accurate replicas of the original well-based aluminum Type 55 units and the dashboard displays a full set of standard Type 55 instrumentation.
The overall appearance of this car accurately mirrors in all respects that of a genuine Type 55 Bugatti and a new owner could, should he so wish, install a replica Type 55 engine and gearbox, an option not available to Eric Koux at the time of its construction. And even then the total cost incurred in purchasing and modifying the car in this way would be many times less than the current market value of an original example were one available. Alternatively, remaining in its present form this car still provides many of the considerable pleasures of ownership of such a classic model.