THE EX MLLE HELLÉ NICE 1927 BUGATTI TYPE 35B GRAND PRIX
Chassis No. 4863
Engine No. 111
Blue with black leather upholstery.
Engine: straight eight overhead cam, Bugatti-Roots supercharger, 2,292cc giving approximately 130 bhp at 5,500rpm; Gearbox: four speed manual; Suspension: front-Bugatti type forged steel tubular axle with trunnion mounted leaf springs, rear- axle carried on reversed quarter- elliptic leaf springs; Brakes: four wheel drum. Right hand drive.
Considered by many people to be the most beautiful racing car of its period, and an enduring classic design of all time, the Type 35 Bugatti is also one of the most successful racing cars ever built, with a string of major victories in the hands of famous drivers all over the world. In the late 1920s it was also the best car that could be purchased by an amateur racing driver and at the same time was capable of winning a Grand Prix. A good Type 35 is also one of the most exciting and satisfying cars to drive, both in competition and on the open road. It is this fact, just as much as its universal appeal as an automotive art form, which is no doubt responsible for the strong demand and high prices which this car commands on the rare occasions when a good example is offered for sale.
According to the transcriptions of the original Bugatti factory records obtained by Hugh Conway in the mid-sixties Chassis 4863, fitted with Engine No 111, was invoiced on either 12 January 1927 or 2 July 1927 for delivery to either Andrieissi or Hellé Nice, both names and dates being quoted and it being unclear which were correct. However the original delivery records which surfaced in 1991 indicate that this car was delivered by road from Molsheim to Paris on factory trade plates numbered 1763 WW5 which were valid on this car between the dates 2-12 July 1927.
However the same records indicate that the car was purchased by a customer named Andrieissi of Amsterdam and so was presumably to be collected by him from the Paris showrooms. The name Marco also appears, this no doubt being one-time works driver and long time Bugatti employee Pierre Marco who must therefore have been in some way involved in the sale. It may be that the earlier intended sale of the car on 12 January 1927 either did not take place at all or was aborted for some reason and instead the car was retained by the factory for a further six months, possibly for their own competition purposes.
It would seem that Andriessi, of whom nothing further is known, kept the car for almost three years after which it was returned to the factory and issued with another set of factory trade plates numbered 1647 WW 5 between 29-31 March 1930, during which period it was delivered again from Molsheim to Paris for its new owner Hellé Nice.
The famous and eponymous "Mlle. Hellé Nice", was a Parisien actress, dancer, and acrobat, who had taken up motor racing in the late twenties. She led a colorful life, dancing at the Casino de Paris,
performing on the trapeze, and racing Bugattis. Hellé Nice's fascinating exploits have been meticulously documented in two wonderful scrap books compiled by her and accompany her Bugatti. The files are extensive, and amazingly include the original factory invoice from Bugatti, dated March 29, 1930, for chassis 4863 totalling 40,000 French Francs.
Prior to her ownership of 4863, Hellé Nice utilised it for a record attempt at distances up to ten miles on the banked Montlhéry circuit near Paris on 18 December 1929, evidently with factory support, which again is confirmed in the scrapbook. Despite failing in her attempt she nevertherless achieved most creditable speeds, covering the flying ten miles in excess of 194 km/hr with a best and last lap at almost 198 km/hr.
This was not her only Bugatti, for she also owned an unblown Type 35 in which she competed in various other events around that time, in addition it's known that a third Bugatti, a Type 35C owned by Baron Phillippe de Rothschild was also made available for her to race in many events. Interestingly Mlle. Nice was a close friend of Jean Bugatti so perhaps she was allowed to try the car at Montlhéry prior to purchasing it. Recent research has revealed that her real name was Hèléne Delangle. Born in 1900, she remained a regular competitor in motor racing, latterly at international level, until 1936. Following her record attempt she continued to race Bugattis regularly over the next four seasons. She undoubtedly would have shared the spotlight with another notable Bugatti Type 35C owner and race driver, Elisabeth Junek.
In 1930 she caused quite a sensation in America by travelling to the USA and competing/demonstrating at a number of East Coast dirt track meetings. The press announced her as; The lady champion driver of the world, merited through her records made under the sanction of the Automobile Club of France when she made a straight away record of 133mph and a circular track record averaging 122mph for forty miles, which included one stop at the pits for a tire change.
She continued to race Bugattis until changing to a more modern 8C-2300 Alfa Romeo for the Monza Grand Prix in September 1933. The scrapbooks once again record her further exploits in the Alfa Romeo. Nothing further is known about 4863 until it was imported into England from Holland by Bugatti specialist dealer Jack Lemon Burton and sold by him on 12 August 1937 to C.L. Clark. It must have soon been traded back to Lemon Burton because he sold it again, in February 1938, to T.S. Grimshaw who competed with it in various minor events and then sold it to R.S. Shapley in early 1939. It was bought by Jack Lawrence in 1941 and owned for a period immediately after the war by E.V. Buck who in turn sold it to Jack Perkins. The car, which was then light green in color, was registered for road use with the registration number HUE 939 on 7 March 1949 but was nevertheless only rarely used. In 1974 it was acquired by well-known Bugatti personality and Midland Motor Museum proprietor T.A. (Bob) Roberts and underwent a thorough four year overhaul by the leading English Bugatti experts, Messrs. Crosthwaite & Gardiner. During the rebuild the original 88mm stroke crankshaft was replaced with a 100mm stroke crankshaft and thus effectively became a Type 35B. The car was purchased in the early Eighties by Mr. Rose who had been looking for a good Bugatti for some time. On the advice of the late Hugh Conway, Ben was able to quickly negotiate the purchase before it became known the car was available.
Mr. Rose raced the car in the ocassional vintage race meeting and was impressed with its high performance and flawless running. In 1985, Mr. Rose had the pleasure of meeting the late René Dreyfus, the former Bugatti works driver. Dreyfus fondly recalled Hellé Nice and commented on her talent as a driver. Mr. Rose was fortunate enough to get some racing tips from the great Dreyfus, who enthused that the 35 B was "perfect" and one of the best he had ever seen. A video tape interview between Mr. Rose and René Dreyfus is included with the Bugatti.
During last year, no expense was spared on a thorough mechanical overhaul. It was discovered an exhaust valve was cracked and two new replacements blocks were sourced (the original blocks and 35C crankshaft are still with this lot among quite a number of spares) and fitted along with new pistons and work to the valves. At the same time the water pump, magneto, tachometer, ignition wiring, fuel tank and fuel pressurising system were rebuilt. There are bills totalling over $100,000 that accompany the lot.
This superb Bugatti has hardly been used since the rebuild by Cooper Technica. In addition to the period photos of 4863 that are included in the scrap books, it can also be seen on page 142 of Hugh Conway's Bugatti Magnum. With a fascinating and highly documented history this is one of the most important Grand Prix Bugattis to come to auction in recent years.