The ex-Count Johnny Lurani and Alec Ulmann
1927 BUGATTI TYPE 37 GRAND PRIX
Registration No. Not UK registered
Chassis No. 37240
Engine No. 151
Blue with black leather interior
Engine: four cylinder in-line, single overhead camshaft three valves per cylinder, 69mm by 100mm, 1,496cc, 70bhp at 4,200rpm; Gearbox: four speed with outside change; Suspension: half elliptic leaf springs to beam front axle, reversed quarter elliptics to live rear axle, friction dampers; Brakes: mechanical operated four wheel drum. Right hand drive.
Ettore Bugatti was one of the most remarkable manufacturers in the history of the automobile, particularly when one considers that he had no formal technical or engineering training. He had the rare gift of an instinctive knowledge of what was right and the capability to organise others to produce his designs and ideas.
In 1926 Ettore Bugatti decided to replace his highly successful 1.5 litre Brescia racer with a new car based on the existing eight cylinder Type 35 racing chassis. Although the new Type 37's Grand Prix body resembled that of the Type 35, it was given smaller brake drums, wire wheels and a more slender radiator. It's four cylinder 12-valve engine was similar to earlier Bugatti designs as there were one exhaust and two inlet valves (larger than in the Type 35) but the crankshaft was a new departure with five plain bearings and circular webs without balance weight. After some eighteen months the engine became available in both supercharged and unsupercharged form. Nimble and relatively cheap to maintain in racing trim, the Type 37 was a popular and successful racing mount through the second half of the 1920's.
It was used all over the world in voiturette events by a wide selection of amateur and professional drivers. Chris Staniland induced a supercharged example to lap Brooklands at 122 mph in the 1930's.
Chassis No. 37240 was delivered to be sold by the Turin agent, Alberto Musy in February 1927 with a batch of three other Type 37s. In the late 1960's it was purchased by Count Johnny Lurani. An article in the America Bugatti Club publication Pur Sang No 14/4 shows him with the car in this period. Count Lurani was born in 1905 and was an extremely well known figure on the international racing scene between 1925 and 1965. He was a successful amateur racing driver, record breaker, a highly respected motoring journalist and editor, team manager and became highly involved in the organization of national and international bodies of motorsport. While he undoubtedly admired racing Bugattis, he made his initial fame racing Alfa-Romeo 1500 sportscars and moved onto many endeavors with Maserati particularly in the Voiturette classes. He excelled in the Mille Miglia and won his class in 1933 (works K3 MG), 1948 (Healey Sedan) and 1952 (Porsche). Post war he became much more involved in the organisation of racing and joined the FIA. He was instrumental in the formation of GT racing and also persuaded the FIA to make Formula Junior an international class in 1959.
Undoubtedly his international connections brought him into contact with Alexander Ulmann with whom he forged a longtime friendship. Alec too was a major driving force in motorsport activity in the USA. Pre-war he visited Europe and became enamoured with Grand prix racing. In 1950 Alec suggested that Sebring Airport in Florida should be used as a sports car road racing venue and was instrumental behind the events at Sebring and bringing European sports car racing to the United States. Some years later, Alec introduced the first U.S. Grand Prix also held at Sebring.
In the early 1970s Count Lurani sold the Type 37 to his good friend Alec Ulmann. As mentioned previously the meticulous, frame-off, nut and bolt restoration was fully documented in an illustrated (35 photographs) six page article in Pur Sang. Upon purchase Alec shipped the car to Andre Binda in Nice, where his mechanic George Lutz undertook the work. Lutz had previously worked for Friderich, Dreyfus and the Bugatti Factory. While it appears that a few body parts have been replaced over the years, such as the tail and a new firewall, the Bugatti appears remarkably original and virtually all the numbers found on the car appear to be original. Matching number cars are increasingly difficult to find and many collectors have recognised the desirability for such cars. The engine mounting and cambox clearly show engine number 151, the frame number is 404, the differential is numbered 268 (as is the front axle) and the gearbox lid is no. 280 (the original is not fitted as a starter motor has been installed).
When the restoration was completed Alec shipped the car to the USA where he enjoyed taking it on a number of vintage events. At the end of the restoration article there is a picture of Rene Dreyfus demonstrating the Type 37 at speed at a Bridgehampton meeting. In 19?? Alec sold the car on to another well known collector, Dr. Ginsburg from Buffalo, New York. Alec later deeply regretted selling the Type 37 and commissioned a replica to me made. Dr. Ginsburg used the Bugatti very sparingly and in turn sold it to the current enthusiast in 1986. With a number of other cars in his stable the Bugatti again saw very little use, although a new fuel tank was made and fitted. Prior to its sale here in London the car has undergone a gentle recommissioning to ensure it is in running condition. A spare block, a few valves and springs and a spare USA Boyce motometer radiator cap accompany this lot. The earlier restoration from nearly 30 years ago has now mellowed giving the car a superb patination of age.
Very few Grand Prix Type 37 Bugattis have survived so intact, this highly authentic example has both an interesting ownership record and a very well documented restoration. It is naturally highly eligible for a host of vintage events organised by such clubs as the Bugatti Owners Club and VSCC. While perhaps less famous than the larger Grand Prix cars, a Type 37 has all the classic Bugatti ingredients and just as when new, is considerably more affordable.