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originally delivered to victor rothschild, later 3rd baron r
Estimate

£6,500,000 - £9,500,000

Time left

Auction over

Description

Originally delivered to Victor Rothschild, later 3rd Baron Rothschild Motorcars from the Estate of Dean S. Edmonds Jr. 1932 Bugatti Type 55 Super Sport Roadster Factory coachwork by Jean Bugatti Design Chassis no. 55220 Engine no. 21 2,262cc, DOHC Inline 8-Cylinder Engine Single Zenith carburetor with Roots-Type Supercharger 160-180hp at 5,000rpm 4-Speed Manual Transmission Front, Semi-Elliptic Leaf Spring, Rear, Quarter-Elliptic Leaf Spring Suspension 4-Wheel Cable-Operated Drum Brakes *One of the true icons of automobile design *Matching chassis, engine, drive train and coachwork *In the Edmonds collection for 35 years *Former Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance First in Class *Mille Miglia and Le Mans Classic Eligible "I have waited for this particular car for 30 years, so that a life-long ambition was realized at Armoury House last December" – Dean Edmonds, July 1986. THE TYPE 55 BUGATTI It is said that the zenith of pre-war design in America was 1932, when fender lines, proportions and engineering technology combined harmoniously to deliver a balance of looks and performance yet seen in this country and now rightfully recognized. A car such as the Bugatti Type 55 Roadster with its in house styling gives credence to a similar theory for European design, but in actuality reflects more a peak of development and collaboration between Le Patron, Ettore Bugatti and the emergence of his son Jean as a major influence on the business. Jean's design cues are all present in the Type 55, which rides on a chassis and running gear which is all of his father's making, yet with the guiding hand of Jean in terms of its twin cam power. Designing and building this car together must have been an incredibly rewarding project for them and is a tour de force of their respective talents. On the technical side, Ettore's beautiful eight cylinder inline engine which had become the basis for thousands of Grand Prix victories had become outclassed with the advent of the Italian and American twin cams, had now followed suit, influenced heavily by Miller's Packard Cable Specials. For the first and only time, the 2.3-liter supercharged unit was used in a road car. The chassis was the beefed up, deep sided frame that was utilized in the Type 54 Grand Prix cars, all the while retaining the reverse quarter elliptic rear springing and front axle arrangement that hailed from the successful GP cars. A new format of gearbox similar to that used in the Type 49 joined the power to the road. The potent mechanics were clothed in coachwork that can only be described as iconic, a cut down no door roadster with light bustle back tail, sculpted moldings, riding on striking alloy wheels and its lines so perfectly balanced with two more at its rear. From its warm nickel silver radiator to those, the car is exquisitely designed in every respect. Production of these Super Sport Bugattis was very limited, just 38 examples leaving the Molsheim works between 1932 and 1935. Of that 3 dozen or so cars, only 14 left the factory with the definitive Jean Bugatti Roadster coachwork and today of those a mere 11 retain that original bodywork. Many of this small group reside in Institutions or collections of institutional status, the Musee National de L'Automobile which houses the collection assembled by the Schlumpf brothers holds two of them, another is in the Revs Institute here in Florida, meaning that they rarely appear for sale. In this new decade, they continue to offer a remarkable array of possibilities as they were campaigned in period at Le Mans and in the Mille Miglia, making them both beautiful and eminently usable. THE MOTORCAR OFFERED Of those eleven survivors of the esteemed, Jean Bugatti designed, factory bodied roadsters, 55220 is generally considered to be one of the very best and has a simple pedigree of English history, followed by the single U.S. ownership of Dean S. Edmonds Jr. since 1985. The car has been cherished throughout its life, from day one when it was ordered by none other than Nathaniel Mayer Victor Rothschild. The Rothschild name is closely connected with the marque as a number of family members were owners of Bugatti's machines, and Victor as he was known, who was a mere 22 years of age at this point would later in the 1930s own one of the famed Atlantic Coupes. At this point Victor was studying physiology at Trinity College Cambridge, he must certainly have 'cut the dash' in the University town. Being a British delivery, the '55 was ordered through agent Colonel Sorel. It had been built as a rolling chassis at the works in May 1932, and received its factory coachwork to be completed in August that year. The Bugatti was registered for the road with the distinctive road license plate of 'EPF 4'. One of its next owners was the remarkable R. MacLeod-Carey, who is known as much for the cars he owned as for how he carefully documented his use and how to maintain them. For the Type 55 there is the most beautifully hand typed and personally illustrated handbook which charts his ownership of the car, its prior owners and the full operational workings of it. Separated from the car in the pre-war era, it was discovered almost by accident by Bentley archivist Tim Houlding and re-patriated to 55220 in the 2000s. Carey's precise typed notes state that he purchased the car on April 12, 1939 from Arthur Baron. Of particular interest and not previously recorded is ownership by Bachelier post Rothschild and then C. I Craig, both of whom were noted Bugatti owners in this period. Carey states 'The car was not used from early 1936 to April 1939, and was not driven by the last two owners.' Over the course of 32 exquisitely typed and annotated pages, he educates himself about how the car operates, and describes a few journeys in it. On May 14 he drove to the home of the Bugatti Owners Club and up the famed Prescott Hill in a respectable 56.10 seconds, and two weeks later drove to Brooklands for the Whitsun Meeting – where the ultimate pre-war sportscar race the 'Fastest Road Car Challenge' took place. Carey was suitably proud of the handbook that he had created and appears to have mailed the finished article to S.C.H. "Sammy" Davis at The Autocar, who responded 'I think you have made a wonderful history. I don't know how the dickens you can find the time to do it all, and it is very good of you to let me see it. It is by far the most elaborate log that I have ever seen.' R. MacLeod-Carey's ownership was to be brief though as it is known to have passed to T. M. Walters in 1940. Walters would retain it through to the 1950s and in his hands it enjoyed light racing at the Bugatti Owner's Club Prescott Hillclimb certainly as late as 1950. M.H. Scott bought the car from Walters, and subsequently sold it to A.A. Morse, who in turn sold to H. B. Murphie. Murphie and his daughter kept the Type 55 for more than an decade, and were responsible for the only material changes to its appearance in its career, being the alteration of the windshield to a taller format, presumably to aid touring and it is understood that the back axle was changed to a 15x54 ratio at this point (note today it still retains its original 13 x 54 casing). In Murphie's latter years the family decided to part with the car and it was brought to the attention of Bonhams colleagues Malcolm Barber and Stewart Skilbeck, in their former employ. At a ground-breaking auction in 1985, at the Honorable Artillery Company in London, the Bugatti came under the hammer. As Dean Edmonds would recount many times over the course of his ownership, this was a most memorable event, it is hard to better the way which he relayed it to Howland Blackiston who would put it in print for Classic Cars magazine: "Many people consider the Type 55 with the Jean Bugatti bodywork the most beautiful sports car ever built, and I agree as evidenced by the fact that I fell in love with this particular car about 40 years ago and followed it through a string of owners" "until a man by the name of Murphy (sic)" put it up for auction. "There was at that time a very eminent restorer (among the first in the business, I believe) named Peter Seferian, who ran a shop with the intriguing name of the Seferian Escadrille" "He knew of my passion for this particular automobile, and accordingly one day he called me in my office at Boston University and simply said 'Get over here, I have something to show you!' Now this was in the middle of the work week, but I had a very capable secretary who was able to reschedule a few things." As I approached Peter's shop, I saw him standing out in front holding a postcard with a picture of "my" car on it. The card announced an auction to be held at the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company Armory in London the following week. Nothing would do but I must attend, and so made arrangements to hop the Concorde after class on Thursday. I ascertained on Friday that it was really "my" car that was (among others) to be auctioned the following day and I was ready for action on Saturday." "The auction was pretty dramatic, as this Type 55 is a fairly rare, not to mention desirable automobile, and there were various brokers, museum curators, and other bigwigs bidding" he continued. Recalling that the auction "people were wonderful. They seemed to sympathize with the lone little college professor who had loved this particular car for years and who was obviously out of his depth among all these high-powered professionals. Malcolm Barber, the auctioneer, did everything he could to favor my effort, even jumping the bid up a couple of times (he knew my limit) in the hope of driving other people out. Finally it came down to me" and one other "I was over my limit by this time and I thought to myself. "If he bids once more, I'm out! I cannot commit financial suicide over a car!' There was a dead silence in the room, and I could see Auctioneer Barber with his gavel raised wondering how long he must wait before he could bring it down to end the show. Time seemed to stand still..." "and finally the gavel came down and the car was mine!", emanating the fictional Indiana Jones character he finishes "I was back in class Monday morning". Today, both Malcolm Barber and Stewart Skilbeck have fond recollections of the Bugatti as a dream find, the ultimate 'sleeper' that they thought might make £70,000 or £100,000 initially when consigned but quickly saw the interest grow. And the figure? A massive £440,000. Which at that point considerably eclipsed the £270,000 paid a year earlier for the Barnato Gurney Nutting Speed Six, then known as the Blue Train car, as the most valuable car ever to sell in the UK. An article compiled pre-sale but printed after the auction in the British publication The Automobile, would suggest that a clinical static future awaited 55220, and precipitated a tort rebuff from Mr. Edmonds "the fact is that nothing could be further from my mind than making this car an "exhibition piece without oil in its sump and tyres that never roll on tarmac". Quite the contrary, I am a lover of engines in particular and machinery generally and would consider it most disappointing to limit myself looking upon this car as no more than a piece of sculpture, although it qualifies in that department far more than much that I've seen that claimed to be nothing else." Naturally, having secured the roadster at his suggestion Peter Seferian was the logical choice for Mr. Edmonds to commission its restoration. Very sadly he would lose his friend and restorer within a year or so and at that point it was transferred to Donald Koleman's Competition Motors Ltd. of Salem, Mass for the majority of the work to be undertaken. An exhaustive, but wholly sympathetic rebuild was carried out, during which the windshield was returned to its original height, and the dashboard layout to the standard configuration. In conversation with Donald Koleman he recounted this 'wonderful' car and how a friendship blossomed with Dean Edmonds. Its debut post work was at the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance in 1993 where it took First in Class, testament to the quality of the restoration. Dean Edmonds was true to his word, and the Bugatti was never considered a 'trailer queen', he followed up the Pebble Beach win with a run at the Mille Miglia and International Bugatti Rally in 1994, and it would later be shown at various events, including Meadowbrook Hall Concours d'Elegance and here in Amelia Island in 2001. Mr. Edmonds passed in 2018 being the only reason that the car reemerges from 35 years of loving ownership. His custody and careful investment in a proper restoration has ensured that the car remains in such intrinsically authentic order. A thorough report on 55220's history has recently been completed by respected authority Mark Morris, but the pertinent essence is that it is a fully matching numbers car. Bonhams is honored to present the car from Dean Edmonds Estate, where it was the highlight of a fascinating group of cars. It may no longer be possible to 'hop on Concorde' to attend this sale, but it is certainly a generational collecting opportunity not to be missed.