Bugatti Type 49 Berline 2/4 portes Vanvooren 1932 For Sale by AuctionDutch title
Chassis n° 49487
Engine n° 348
Vanvooren coachwork n° 231
- Transparent history
- Factory demonstration car
- 1932 Paris Motor Show demonstration car
- Impressive state of preservation
- No reserve
Chassis 49487 was finished in January 1932 and the coachwork was fitted several months later. It was the longer version, with a wheelbase of 3.22m. The engine (n°348), the first of 18 versions, was assembled at the factory in December 1931. The body was built by Vanvooren, in Courbevoie, as recorded in the Bugatti coachwork register : " The 2/4-door saloon coachwork by Vanvooren, Courbevoie, on chassis 49487, was billed to the factory on 7 June 1932, for the sum of 21,500 fr. " This body was number 2316 in the list of Vanvooren creations, and an identical car, chassis 49488, body 2317, left the workshop in Courbevoie on 27 June 1932.
Three months later, on 1 October 1932, the Vanvooren saloon 49487 was transported by road to the Motor Show at the Grand Palais, where it served as a demonstration car for the marque. Once back at the factory, it was used by Bugatti representatives during 1933 and 1934.
On 3 November 1933, the car was invoiced to an agent by the name of Dumont, based in Nantes, for the sum of 39 000 francs. We discover from an exchange of letters in February and March 1934 between the factory and the dealer in Niort, J-B Arnaud, that vehicle " Type 3-litre 300 ex-Dumont, chassis 49487 " required the engine to be dismantled in the Arnaud garage, put in a crate and transported to the workshop in Levallois. During February 1934, the chassis was cleaned and the engine re-fitted in the car. There is letter dated 5 March 1934, addressed to J-B Arnaud by the factory, concerning " The engine belonging to chassis 49487 ex-demonstration Mr Bouchard. " This tells us that having been bought by the agent Dumont in Nantes, it was used as a demonstration car by Mr Bouchard, a travelling Bugatti representative, and driven throughout the Charentes, Deux-Sèvres and Vendée departments.
A letter dated 25 May 1935, from Molsheim to Robert Benoist, at his showroom on avenue Montaigne in Paris, tells us that the car was sold to a private buyer : " I have received your message of 23 May and have taken note of the conditions under which you have negotiated the sale of the Vanvooren 4-seater saloon N° 49487 to Monsieur Marcel Baillier. " An invoice followed, dated 28 May 1935 and addressed to " M. Marcel Baillier, 53 boulevard Saint Germain à Paris " which described the car as follows : " 1 second-hand car, fully serviced, Type 49, 3 litres 300… N° 49487, Schebler carburettor, battery ignition, 6 aluminium Bugatti wheels with 5.25 X 18 used tyres, electric lights and start. Vanvooren 2/4 door saloon coachwork. Price net : Frs 30.000. " This was less than half its price new, explained by the fact that it was over three years old. It is worth noting that at the 1931 Motor Show, a bare Type 49 chassis sold for 63 000 francs, with a 3 000 francs supplement for six aluminium wheels.
The Bugatti was registered on 25 May 1935 with the number 9747 AF 3, in the name of " Baillier father and son, Coucy-les-Eppes, Aisne. " This was changed to Marcel Baillier on 28 May 1936. Marcel Baillier's parents earned a good living, running a hotel and a business trading in grain and coal in Coucy-les-Eppes. Marcel Baillier enjoyed a comfortable life, studying law and living on the Boulevard St Germain in Paris. In 1935 he met Simone Beaudier, a pharmacy student, and they got married on 4 April 1936. Coming from the Parisian bourgeoisie, Simone Baillier could have found it difficult adapting to rural life in a small village in Aisne, a long way from her huge apartment on the avenue Henri Martin. However, the couple took over the family business and Simone Baillier founded the " Coopérative Agricole de Coucy les Eppes " which she continued to run until the age of 75. Marcel Baillier died in Courcy on 26 June 1992, and there is now a street named after him in the village.
In the meantime, the Bugatti left the Baillier family after three years to be acquired by Monsieur Marcel Leclerq, believed to be a doctor, who lived at 6 Passe Demoiselle, in Reims. On 18 July 1938, he registered the car in his name under the number 772 KJ 5. Less than a year later, on 1 July 1939, the Bugatti was registered in the name of Georges Ponsart, a farmer's son from Germigny, while retaining its 1938 plate in the Marne. The register of H.G. Conway, published in 1962, shows that Georges Ponsart bought the car from a Parisian doctor. This must have been Marcel Leclerq, who was not originally from Reims. George Ponsart's grandson recalls : " The Ponsart farm grew wheat and beet on an area of around twenty hectares. Georges hunted partridge three times a week and stood out for being the only Bugatti owner in the region. Georges removed the wheels during the war, so that the Germans couldn't take it. After the war, the car wasn't driven much and as children, we used to go into the barn to play in it. When it was sold to Thomassen, it had to be pulled out, in order to be taken to Holland. Georges then bought a Peugeot 203. "
Around 1955, Georges Ponsart re-registered the Bugatti in the new system, and it was given the number 333 CB 51. One of his daughters-in-law, who married in 1950, has confirmed that the Bugatti was used around this time before being sold to August Thomassen on 18 November 1957. He was a sculptor living at Wilhelmina Singel 105, Maastricht, in Holland. He had to use two carthorses to pull the car out of the barn, as seen in photos taken on the day the car was removed.
During the 1980s, a son of Georges Ponsart, on holiday with his family in Holland, made a journey to Maastricht. There he discovered the Bugatti at the back of a garage, where it had not moved for over 20 years. Thus, for over 60 years, the Bugatti Vanvooren Type 49 saloon would remain in Thomassen's garage alongside a Type 57 Graber cabriolet that had been bought in Geneva in 1960.
A current inspection of the vehicle has revealed that the mechanical elements of the car are totally original. The chassis plate, number " 49487-19cv " is original and has never been removed from the bulkhead. The engine case is engraved with chassis number 49487 and has the correct engine number " L 348 " on the front bracket. The bonnet, engraved with the engine number, and the rest of the bodywork are original. The four pillarless doors with vertical locking (Vanvooren pillarless patent), offer optimal access to the passenger compartment.
The dashboard features the large oval display, completely original, containing six gauges including a clock and speedometer, on a black background. The vehicle still has its two spare wheels on the wings and when it was discovered in Germigny in 1957, it still had its original bumpers. The two-tone yellow and black livery is likely to be the original choice of colours from when it was sold to Mr Baillier. The small owner's brass plaque, engraved with " G.Ponsart. Germigny (Marne) " is still on the dashboard.
In conclusion :
The Type 49 was the final evolution of the " single cam " Bugatti touring cars, with twin-spark ignition, 9-bearing crankshaft and aluminium Bugatti wheels. It was a powerful and reliable car, with greater flexibility at low revs than the Type 44 and a cruising speed of between 105 and 120 km/h. A test-drive published in the September 1931 issue of La Vie Automobile, written by Henri Petit, concluded with these words : " The 3L 300 Bugatti is, in my opinion, one of the best cars currently available, one of the quickest, probably the most enjoyable to drive and certainly the safest. It enjoys these qualities from new, without requiring any special development by the client. "
The example on offer has been remarkably well protected from new from any modifications. Having had just two private owners before the war, and only two since 1939, during which time it was stored for nearly 60 years, this Bugatti has been biding its time, waiting to be re-commissioned and put back on the road, complete with a special history and enormous potential.
August Thomassen was one of five children, born in Maastricht in 1923. His father was a pharmacist and his mother, of French origin, lived for painting, literature, music and culture.
Thomassen's father was one of the first people to drive an automobile in Maastricht and his eldest daughter the first woman to have a driver's licence in the town! On Saturdays, young August was allowed to accompany his father in the car, delivering medications to the surrounding villages. The car was also a feature of their holidays, transporting the family to France. Automobiles held a real fascination for August and he made his first model of a car in wood when he was eight. It was a passion that never left him.
August was an unusual child who was always running off in search of an adventure. At the age of nine, he fell from a bridge and was in a coma for three weeks. Having also survived infantile paralysis and polio, he became the 'enfant terrible' of the family during his teenage years. While his brother and sisters went to university, August preferred to spend time with craftsmen, technicians and mechanics. Although his family forbade it, his fascination for speed and movement led him into cycle racing, in which he won many victories. His sisters kept his trophies out of sight in their bedrooms. His parents allowed him to leave school at 15 and join the famous Autoschool in Den Bosch. This was also when he first took up sculpture.
War broke out. His older brother was a leader in the resistance. One evening, while helping people cross the border, he was spotted by the Germans. Following a painful interrogation, he was deported to a labour camp in Germany, where the prisoners had to make bombs. To avoid collaborating, he deliberately cut his finger. One evening, he decided to make his escape in daring fashion, by clinging to the underneath of the freight train that passed through the camp. Dressed in prison clothes, the young August travelled through Hitler's Germany, jumping on and off trains. Perpetually at risk of being shot, he finally reached the Netherlands alive, thanks to a sympathetic German train driver who kept quiet. Following a night spent in a coffin in a cemetery, he found his way back to his uncles Brand (of Brand beer) who agreed he could go and hide in their villa in Eijsden. During this period in hiding, he cultivated his second passion, sculpture. His involvement with the resistance led him to collaborate with the RAF in England until the end of the war.
After the war, he built a motorcycle from spare parts and travelled around Spain for five months. He spent three months studying at the Academy of Fine Arts in Madrid and the Prado, where he began to understand his destiny: to study the beauty of the human form through sculpture. On his return from Spain, was admitted to the Royal Academy of Fine Art in Brussels, where he obtained his degree and won a first prize in portraiture. His first commission was for two sculptures three metres high for the 'Liga' biscuit factory. With his earnings he bought a piece of land in Belgium and built a studio where his future Bugatti T49 and T57, and the Citroën Trèfle, would reside for nearly 60 years.
Commissions of his typical psychological portraits of politicians, actors and businessmen took him to Geneva, where he bought his second Bugatti T57 from the Geneva chocolatier Pertuiset. His first Bugatti T49 had been acquired in the Vosges, Germigny, from two farm workers who had been using the car to transport potatoes ! In 1958, he married the lovely Renée Van Noorden, who from the start encouraged him to pursue his passions. Together they would have two daughters. Every day he played the violin to manage his hypersensitive and restless character.
In 1963, August Thomassen bought a site in the mountains in Haute Savoie : the land of his ancestors. He built his second studio there, and considered himself to be French for the rest of his life. It was here that he worked for years restoring his beloved Bugatti T40 to its original condition, working alongside Schneider, the former master craftsman at Gangloff. Around 1985, his bust of Ettore Bugatti was bought by the National Automobile Museum in Mulhouse, and remains there today. In 1987, his bronze bust of Yehudi Menuhin was unveiled by the famous violinist at the Menuhin School of Music in London. The bust of Lips, the founder of the National Automobile Museum of Holland was inaugurated in 1990.
His Bugattis inspired him by their pure forms and lines; their eternal beauty was priceless to him.
August Thomassen worked on his two passions, Bugattis and sculpture, in his studios in Belgium and Haute-Savoie, until illness prevented him at the age of 90. It is impossible to remain unmoved by the passion and charisma of this character who shaped his life in such a determined and unusual way.
As Yehudi Menuhin wrote:
" I admire you - the great sculptor who feels so deeply. "
Photos © Xavier de Nombel
Estimation 150 000 - 200 000