1931 Bugatti 51 Grand Prix For Sale by Auction
- In the Jean-Claude Miloé collection for the last 27 years
- Remarkable and poignant original condition
- Continuous, known history
- The car in which Maurice Trintignant won his first Grand Prix !
- One of the most desirable Grand Prix Bugatti
Following the delivery of the first Bugatti Type 51 at the end of April 1931 to Count Stanislas Czaykowski in France, the factory prepared two more cars for the French market in May. They were intended for the two most experienced and successful amateur Bugatti drivers in the country: Jean Gaupillat and Marcel Lehoux.
The Bugatti Type 51 with engine number 9 was for Gaupillat, and Lehoux was assigned the car with engine number 10, that, according to the list of orders, was chassis number 51128. It was built to the client's order and not one of the factory cars prepared for the 1931 season. It had therefore not taken part in any racing when it was delivered to Paris, on 1 June 1931, to Marcel Lehoux, who owned a large mechanics workshop at 13 rue Auber in Algiers. The Bugatti was sold to him for the significant sum of 140 000 Frs.
MARCEL LEHOUX (1889-1936)
Originally from Blois in Loir et Cher, he was born on 3 April 1889. He left to make his fortune in Algeria after the 1914-1918 war.
Here are some extracts from his biography by the journalist Maurice Henry in 1933 : "You all know this small gentleman - small in size but how great his attributes - who, for the last ten years, possibly longer, has been a frequent presence at motor races, where he has won multiple times, with no intention of stopping there. Mr Lehoux approaches racing with a competitive spirit, and a spontaneous love for a battle. He doesn't reflect on the difficulties and problems that may lay in wait, and often have. Lehoux has never been advised or guided by anyone : he has made his way on his own. Rest assured that he knows how to conduct himself - in both senses of the word. Lehoux, husband and father of two children, was born in Blois and raised in the beautiful Touraine, and he retains his nationality from here. It was just after the war that he settled in Algiers where he set up a workshop, which takes up most of his time. By the time you add his racing commitments to the hours spent managing his business, it is clear you have a very busy man. Lehoux thrives on this, as inactivity does not suit his temperament. Having taken part in some local events in his touring cars, he acquired a Brescia competition-type 1500 Bugatti in 1922, and broke all the records in regional races in the car. Two years later, with the same car, he won his first Grand Prix in Casablanca. He subsequently gave up his 1500 in order to drive a faster car, remaining faithful to Bugatti however. He has found the greatest happiness in motorsport and, even if he won't admit this, it is evident in his expression. Lehoux is a straightforward guy who doesn't get drawn into the "tricks of the trade" which are of no interest to him. Of all the organisers, there is not one who can remember a problem they have had with him ; and his participation is still keenly desired. "
On 3 June 1931, the Bugatti 51128 was registered in the Seine department, with the number 7958 RE 9. Lehoux must have had a pied à terre in the capital. His 35B - chassis 4935 - was also registered in Paris in 1929 : 2938 RD 2. Of the two type 51s built in May 1931, 51128 - engine 10 - was the first to leave the factory on 1 June, and Gaupillat's: 51130 - engine 9, was not delivered until 13 June.
And so Lehoux was able to line up his new Pur-Sang at the start of the Geneva Grand Prix on 7 June. At the end of a wonderful 150km race, which he led from start to finish, Lehoux claimed victory in 1h 47 min, ahead of A. Lumacchi in a Type 35B. The other Bugatti Type 51 (chassis 51126) entered in the race, driven by S. Czaykowski, went off the circuit and didn't finish.
On 21 June, in the 25th ACF Grand Prix in Montlhéry, Lehoux shared the wheel of 51128, race number 52, with his great friend from Rouen, Philippe Etancelin. In the 15th of 100 laps, they were forced to retire with mechanical problems having been in 6th position during the first hour of the race. During the practice session, Lehoux confided to C. Faroux : "Etancelin and I thought 10 hours was far too long for a fast race, five hours seemed more than enough."
Two weeks later, on 5 July, Lehoux secured a second victory in 51128, in the 7th Grand Prix de la Marne at the Gueux circuit. The early retirements of Chiron in the factory Type 51, and Count d'Arnoux in another Type 51, meant the battle of the twin-cam Bugatti was between Czaykowski and Lehoux. At the finish line, the Maserati Type 26 of Dreyfus split the two. Lehoux won on this fast circuit having driven at an average speed of 143km/h, without beating Chiron's 1928 record of 146km/h in a Type 35B. "The very fine driver from Algeria has just shown us what a great talent he is, and with luck on his side, he may go on to succeed in splendid style. He led the race in a remarkable fashion, increasing his average speed every lap. The winner was decorated and complimented by Mr Paul Marchandeau (the mayor of Reims), the Viscount of Rohan and the prefect of Marne. "
In the German Grand Prix, on 19 July, at the Nürburgring, Lehoux was with five Type 51 factory cars and the private entries of Von Morgen-51123 and Wimille-51130. Just after halfway through the race, Lehoux went off the track. " A lack of grip on the Bugatti means they have never been able to push hard in the wet...we only had to lament the retirement of Lehoux, who was working very hard and luckily the car was hardly touched. ".
The Circuit du Dauphiné, ran for the second time on the outskirts of Grenoble on 2 August, on a triangular track with a 5 300m lap. Lehoux was on the front row, in the (repaired) 51128, alongside Michel Doré in a Type 43, and just behind the two Type 51s of Count d'Arnoux and Count Czaykowski. The retirement of the polish Count gave Lehoux 2nd place behind the Monza of Etancelin.
The same protagonists were at the 7th Grand Prix du Comminges on 16 August in St Gaudens. Etancelin won again but Czaykowski crossed the line ahead of Lehoux, and D'Arnoux finished some way behind the leaders, in 4th place. " Lehoux survived this defeat with his reputation intact, as he was beaten simply by a puncture in the penultimate lap, which prevented him from rejoining the race. To have a puncture in such conditions meant giving up. The brave and spirited Lehoux suffered bad luck once more, but once more showed himself to be daring, clever and competitive, and the superb race he ran with such fierce determination earned an enthusiastic and well deserved welcome. "
On 6 September, Marcel Lehoux made an honorable appearance in the first round of the 4th Grand Prix de Monza finishing behind two official Maserati and an Alfa Romeo. In the final, 51128 was classified 6th and was the only 2.3 litre Bugatti to finish.
Lehoux won his final podium of the year on 13 September in the Grand Prix de La Baule, which took place on the beach dominated by the Hôtel Hermitage. 51128 was off the pace compared to Williams' factory-entered Type 51. " Lehoux appeared to be extremely disconcerted by the lack of visibility and what's more, his car looked slower. " Having led from start to finish, Williams won with an average speed of 143 km/h ahead of Gaupillat and Lehoux at 136 km/h. The latter pocketed the third prize of 3 000 Frs in cash.
The season did not end well for the valiant Lehoux : on 27 September it was the 2nd Czechoslovakian Grand Prix in Brno, on the Masaryk circuit. The Monegasque Chiron had a Type 51 factory car, Varzi was in its twin, and the young prince Lobkowicz brought out his new 51131. "Chiron led Lehoux by 7 seconds. Lehoux, having lightly touched the kerb, damaged the wheel, which he changed by himself, set off again and unofficially claimed the lap record in 14m 22s, before being forced to retire with a broken drive shaft, in all likelihood a consequence of the impact. " If the year finished in style for the official Bugatti team, the return to Algiers was less auspicious for the local hero.
The winter break allowed Lehoux to service 51128 following a season in which it had lined up for nearly ten events, many on the international stage, and which included two victories, at Geneva and Reims.
After a break of six months, 51128 returned to the track in Lehoux's hands. It was in Monaco, for the 4th Grand Prix, on 17 April, that the Type 51 resumed service to finish 6th overall. Lehoux finished ahead of the three official Type 51s of Williams, Bouriat and Divo !
At the Grand Prix d'Oranie, on 24 avril, Lehoux retired a third of the way through the race with a mechanical problem. After another retirement caused by an issue with the connecting rod in the first few laps of the Italian Grand Prix at Monza, on 5 June, Lehoux brought 51128 home in second place in the Grand Prix de Lorraine on 26 June.
A problem with the differential forced him to retire at the German Grand Prix on 17 July, and he suffered the same problem before he'd even started the race on 24 July in Dieppe.
During testing at Dieppe on 21 July, Lehoux filled in the entry form for the Klausen race, to take place on 6 and 7 August. Lehoux recorded the address of his workshop in Algiers and his membership of the A.C.F.
The rest of the season was marked by a series of poor results for 51128 :
Lehoux retired in the first lap of the Grand Prix de la Baule on 17 August, then in the third lap of the Grand Prix de Brno, on 4 September, and halfway through the final of the Grand Prix de Monza, on 11 September. The reasons for these last two retirements are unknown.
There are photos clearly showing that 51128 is the car used at La Baule and Brno. We presume that it was also the car that lined up for the start at Monza.
But from August or September 1932, 51128 was joined in the Lehoux team by his new Bugatti (51144), a secondhand car, with bodywork already bearing the scars of competition.
In February 1933, the first Type 51 belonging to M. Lehoux - 51128 was officially registered, following its sale, in the name of "Louis TRINTIGNANT, wine producer in Châteauneuf-du-Pape."
LOUIS TRINTIGNANT (1903-1933)
His father, Fernand, originally from Pont St Esprit, had first invested in vineyards in 1893, when he acquired the " Domaine de Ruth " situated in Sainte-Cécile, in the Vaucluse region. This 120-hectare property looked out towards Mont Ventoux.
Mr and Mrs Trintignant appear not to have lived at their new property initially. They had five sons and a daughter, but their first three children : Raoul, born in 1898, René in 1899 and Louis on 17 May 1903, were all born in Pont-Saint-Esprit (Gard) in the large family home. The last three were born in the Domaine de Ruth, in Sainte-Cécile. Fernand was elected mayor of Sainte-Cécile in 1923.
Louis married in June 1927. He continued to live in Sainte-Cécile having inherited the family vineyard. His wife was the daughter of the tax collector in Châteauneuf-du-Pape. In February 1932, Louis acquired a Type 35C (chassis 4941) from Paul Morand, who shared his name with the writer, and was the Chrysler dealer in Nice.
Louis Trintignant competed throughout the 1932 season in his supercharged 2-litre car. During these races, various improvements were made by his mechanic Paul Sauret (1908 - 2001), known as " Paulus ", who would continue to work for the Trintignant family until 1947. He deserves a mention here as he supported Louis in his first foray into racing until the fatal accident in Peronne in 1933, and Sauret was also the first person to offer support to the young Maurice when he took his first laps round the Mirimas motor racing track in 1938.
1932 was an active year with many victories, local and national, for Louis Trintigant in his Type 35C.
With such good results and experience under his belt, Louis Trintignant was able to approach the 1933 season confidently, especially with such a formidable machine at his disposal, Lehoux's old Type 51.
The Bugatti 51128 was registered in the name of "Trintignant Louis, Châteauneuf-du-Pape", with the number 3652 ZA 2, on 9 February 1933.
It is possible that Lehoux sold the car to Trintignant in September 1932, and that the latter had no need to change the registration before the start of the 1933 racing season.
Ten days after it was registered, the Bugatti lined up for the start of the Grand Prix de Pau, on 19 February. It was on the grid with eight other Bugatti Type 51s ! The result of the first race was encouraging : Trintignant finished 4th behind the Alfa Romeo Monza of Etancelin and the Bugatti Type 51s of Dreyfus and Bouriat, all pretty much factory cars.
In the spring of 1933, Louis Trintignant entered several regional events, with decent results matching the other Bugatti Type 51s driven by Falchetto, Braillard and Lehoux in 51144.
Trintignant finished 5th in la Turbie on 6 April, in 4min 1sec 3/5, behind Braillard in 3min 59sec 4/5, but in front of Villoresi's Alfa Romeo Monza. A few days later in Nice, after a 500m rolling start, he finished 4th, behind Braillard and Canin in a Type 35B.
On 14 May, in the hillclimb des Alpilles, Lehoux set a new record in 51144 while Trintignant and Braillard matched the previous record.
With no photos available of these three races, it is difficult for us to attribute these laurels to Trintignant's Type 51, rather than his Type 35C (4941). However, the results appear to indicate that the power of the car used in the Turbie and at Les Alpilles was comparable to that of the Type 51s driven by Braillard and Lehoux.
Paul Sauret told the author in 1992 that he had put the engine from the 51 in the 35C chassis, at the request of his driver. It is logical to assume this happened in April 1933. There is every chance that in the Alpilles hillclimb on 14 May, the twincam engine, offset bulkhead and twin opening fuel tank had already been fitted ; the car matched the pace of Braillard's 51 and was in the same configuration, with a Type 51 engine in a 35C chassis, as it was four days later at the start in Péronne. It seems that L.Trintignant had been disappointed with the handling of his Type 51 chassis and found his old 35C more manageable.
During the transformation, the side exhaust, with modified bonnet, and possibly the whole bodywork was retained on chassis 4941, which was now fitted with the engine from 51128. Thus prepared the car was loaded onto the Studebaker lorry duly driven by Paul Sauret, who left Sainte-Cécile for Péronne on 18 May.
Destiny lay in wait for the valiant driver from Provence :
"On 20 May in the morning, during the first test session, Louis Trintignant regained confidence in the car that he had often steered to victory. The twin cam engine was pushing hard and would probably have set a good time. But then a policeman crossed the road, the driver swerved to avoid him and hit a milestone marker causing the car to barrel roll for 50 metres. The Bugatti finally landed on its wheels, the driver was thrown out, with his throat slit by the glass windshield. His body lay there by the side of the road, with blood gushing from the wound, and was covered with newspapers. " (Extract from the Archives d'une Passion.A.R.)
The local press reported on the tragedy : "At 7 o'clock in the morning on 20 May, an explosion shook the village of Mesnil-Bruntel. The Bugatti of Trintignant left the road at full speed, on the long straight. Perhaps a tyre had burst. Had he been blinded by the sun ? The car left the track and barrel rolled, skimming the righthand side of the road by number 15 on the Grande-Rue. The car was thrown to the left and crashed into the wall of another house. The driver was thrown out and was hurled onto Mme Polleux's doorstep. A few hours later, Louis-Aimé Trintignant died in hospital in Péronne. He was 30 years old." Paul Sauret would have been the first on the scene to attend to his unfortunate friend.
The next day, during the race, the young Guy Bouriat, sales director at Bugatti Paris, was killed at the wheel of his own Type 51. Following the tragedy that claimed the lives of two of the bravest Bugatti drivers of the day, the Automobile Club of Picardie and l'Aisne set up a fund to raise money for a monument, erected in 1934 commemorating Guy Bouriat (1902-1933) and Louis Trintigan (1903-1933). On the righthand side of the monument, engraved in stone : "Louis-Aimé TRINTIGNANT, born in St Esprit (Gard) on 17 May 1903. Killed during testing at the Grand Prix de Picardie on 20 May 1933."
The poor, damaged Bugatti was quickly retrieved from the village of Mesnil-Bruntel and taken back to the garage in Chateauneuf du Pape by Paul Sauret. The chassis, the original type 35C chassis 4941, was so badly damaged that a new one was ordered from the Bugatti factory. This fact has been confirmed to us by P.Sauret. The original 51128 chassis, in the garage since April 1933, stood next to the 35C engine from chassis 4941, both elements considered to be less effective than the 35 chassis - 51 engine combination.
While waiting for the new Type 35 chassis they had ordered from Molsheim, it made sense for Louis's mechanic to fit the Type 51 engine back in its original chassis, with the holes there ready for everything to slot back in.
A current examination of the two chassis confirms the following : the chassis with engine 51128 has the original frame, from June 1931, that was delivered to Lehoux. It bears number 705. As for the current chassis of the car with engine 4941, it was discovered by Antoine Raffaelli at Gros in Robion : its frame had been built at the factory in the spring of 1933 and carries the number 730. The destroyed 1929 35C chassis, must have had a frame number of around 630.
JULES ROLLAND (1900-1996)
A little over three months after the tragedy, Louis Trintignant's widow sold the Bugatti Type 51, reunited after the event with its original engine, to the former Terrot factory driver, Jules Rolland. The vehicle was registered at his home address 3 place Jules Gasquet in Avignon, with the number 3784 CA6, on 26 August 1933.
Jules Rolland (1900-1996) was a well-known figure in motorcycle racing. Between 1924 and 1928 he was the most successful champion in the sport, as official rider for Terrot.
Rolland's brilliant career came to a halt on 27 April 1928, with a serious accident during testing for the hillclimb, la Côte des 17 Tournants, in Saint Forget, near Versailles. His injuries prevented him from racing properly again until 1934.
His return to competition in the ex-Louis Trintignant Bugatti Type 51, represented a physical challenge for Rolland and an opportunity to realise his ambition to be a racing driver. And so, from 26 August 1933, the Bugatti was stored in the garage, biding its time.
On his first trip out in the car, Rolland won the Course du boulevard Michelet, in Marseille, on 25 March 1934. He set the fastest time of the day by 30 seconds on the kilometre sprint, with an average speed of 118.421 km/h. Rolland was congratulated by the previous recordholder, the Bugatti driver from Marseille, Aristide Lumacchi.
On 6 May, at the Val de Cuech, near the Salon de Provence, Rolland set the quickest time of 2 min 51 sec on this 4.25km hillclimb. On 18 June, he took part in the Mazamet hillclimb, followed by Saffres, near Cavaillon on 15 July. On 19 July, he retired on the 7th lap of the Grand Prix d'Albi.
On 26 September, he competed at Mont Ventoux, the scene of some of his past triumphs, and achieved 6th in the over 2-litre category, behind Delmo and in front of Delorme, both in Bugatti 51s.
The local press applauded his performance : "Among the entrants, we find, after a seven year absence and a terrible accident, the motorcycle champion, former motorcycle record holder at Ventoux and overall winner in 1927, J. Rolland, driving a Bugatti 51."
In 1935, he took part in several races in his Bugatti 51128 : we find him on 27 May in the Alpilles, on 2 June in the Val de Cuech and finally on 4 August in Valréas.
After this date, his name ceases to appear in any motor racing competition.
During the 1980s, Rolland confided to respected motorcycle journalist Claude Scalet: " I had a go at motor racing in this Bugatti Type 51, but I didn't have the means to carry on with it. At the time I was approached by two French and one Italian automobile marques to race their cars, but sadly, that didn't materialise." It was not until the start of 1938 that the Bugatti 51128 reappeared at a race circuit. It probably spent two years languising in Aix en Provence, waiting for a new enthusiast to take it on.
The promising young driver who set his heart on this car, was not yet 21 years old. He had been raised in a family where the word Bugatti was mentioned in every conversation. It was none other than Louis Trintignant's brother.
MAURICE TRINTIGNANT (1917-2005)
Maurice TRINTIGNANT, born in Sainte-Cécile in Vaucluse, grew up with a view of Mont Ventoux behind the vineyards that lay stretched out towards the horizon. Born in 1917, he was the last of Fernand Trintignant's six children. At the age of ten, he spent time at his brother René's garage in Avignon, that housed several Bugatti. From 1930, he would have seen the Grand Prix cars turn up in Sainte-Cécile : the Type 35A, the 35C and the 51 belonging to his brother Louis. "I drove my first car at the age of seven, in the courtyard on my parents' estate at Sainte-Cécile les Vignes.
For Maurice, 1938 was the year that everything changed. In February, he decided to buy his brother Louis's old Bugatti Type 51, waiting for him at Rolland's in Aix.
The car was registered in his name on 15 February 1938, with the number 932 ZA 4, at his address 1 rue Henri Fabre in Avignon.
Maurice was not yet an adult, and in order to buy the Bugatti, he had to borrow from a money lender. He then persuaded Paul Sauret, the mechanic of his late brother Louis, to teach him to drive the Type 51, on the race track at Miramas. He also needed his older brother Raoul to apply for the special dispensation needed for him to enter the Pau Grand Prix taking place on 10 April. Sauret was not very keen, but the test session at Miramas convinced him : " You are up there with the fastest.". Maurice has written on the back of a photograph "Testing the car at Miramas, 173 average lap speed" and on the back of another photo taken in March 1938 at Miramas are the following notes in Maurice's handwriting : "3rd test session after rebuilding the engine. Worn left rear tyre burst on the way into the corner opposite the righthand stand, 200 km/h. Best lap average speed 204." The Trintignant's mechanic, galvanised by the youngest brother's performances, agreed to help fend off bad luck. "I didn't want another brother to die in my arms."
Maurice Trintignant used a garage, with P.Sauret, in the centre of the village of Châteauneuf-du-Pape. For his first participation in a Grand Prix, on 10 April 1938 at Pau, Maurice wore his brother Louis's old racesuit and white cap. He finished a respectable 5th, where his brother had finished 6th in the same car in 1933, and took home his first winnings, a prize of 3 000frs.
On 5 June, M. Trintignant won his first race at the Grand Prix des Frontières de Chimay (Belgium). "Lap after lap, Trintignant ran in the 4th row, then, picking up speed, he passed Tremoulet's Delahaye and caught up with the Bugatti 57S of Mathieson, setting record times: 5'11' on the 6th lap and 5'8' the lap after, which equated to 127, 052 kms/h. The public got behind Trintignant's fight back, as he improved on the best time of the day, lap after lap. On the 10th lap he was just 15 seconds behind Mazaud, and this came down to 8 seconds behind the leader on the 11th lap. At the Salles corner, Trintignant succeeded in passing Mazaud and completed his final lap in the lead, recording a time of 5'3' (129.148 kms/h), the best time of the day."
In September, the young winner took part in the 12 heures de Paris à Montlhéry, in the sport category. The Bugatti Type 51 was duly equipped with wings and lights for the occasion. After a good start, Trintignant was running in 2nd behind the Talbot of the eventual winner Lebègue. However, after 4 hours racing, the Bugatti's rear left wheel came off and he was forced to retire.
For the start of the 1939 season, the Type 51 was equipped with wire wheels to replace the aluminium ones. The mechanic Paul Sauret must have taken advantage of the winter break to fit a Cotal gearbox, before racing started again in 1939. He remembers installing it after two or three races.
The season began with a retirement at Pau on 2 April. Maurice Trintignant hadn't taken part in testing, and started last on the grid. He eventually retired on the 13th lap.
He then won the hillclimb at Saint-Europe (Orange) where Louis had also distinguished himself. Maurice recorded the best time and overall record time for the event. On 28 May, he won, for the second consecutive time, the Grand Prix des Frontières in Chimay. On 30 July, he finished 5th in the Circuit des Remparts in Angoulême, run in formula libre.
The war brought the young Bugattist's racing ventures to an abrupt halt. It was at the Mas d'Arnaud, the lovely 17th century property belonging to his step-father, that Maurice was arrested by the Germans and deported, first to Mathausen, and later to a work camp in Austria. On his return from captivity, Maurice rediscovered his Bugatti 51, which had spent the whole war hidden in bits in hay bales in Vergèze. Paul Sauret was still there ; the Trintignant team reunited to compete in Grand Prix racing once more.
In symbolic fashion, the Bugatti was brought out of the hangars at Vergèze to take part on 9 September 1945 in the Grand Prix des Prisonniers, at Bois de Boulogne. The entire Trintignant team travelled there, in the family Buick : Paul Sauret and his wife Laure, Maurice and his first wife's two daughters, as well as Fernand-Pierre, Raoul's son. The race was organised by the A.G.A.C.I. on the 2.8km circuit.
The race was won by the best and most popular driver of the day : J.P.Wimille, in the most powerful machine on the grid, a 4.7-litre Bugatti Type 50B single seater. Maurice was forced to retire, as during the car's period of inactivity, rats had made a nest in the fuel tank of the Bugatti 51 and, although it had been cleaned, the fuel pipes became blocked with rat droppings, constraining the talented driver's enthusiasm. At the end of the race, the winner, Wimille, gave Maurice the nickname "Pétoulet" (pétoules = rat's droppings).
Following the armistice, M.Trinignant had rented M. Roumestan's motor car garage in Vauvert, near Vergèze. He duly installed the faithful Sauret, and their collaboration continued until 1948. Sauret and his wife moved in next to the garage, on rue de la République, in Vauvert.
The Grand Prix de Nice 1946 was the first international race after the war. It took place on 22 April over a distance of 65 laps. Trintignant started mid-grid having set a respectable time in qualifying, but he retired on the 30th lap with a fuel problem.
In the Grand Prix de Marseille, on 13 May, M. Trintignant started on the front row in the first round, but retired with magneto problems.
The following week, at the Grand Prix du Forez, on the Andrézieux circuit, Trintignant started in last position, and drew attention for his remarkable recovery. Although he was hoping for a podium finish, he had a fuel leak and had to make do with 4th place.
On 30 June, M. Trintignant lined up once more for the start of the Grand Prix du Roussillon in Perpignan. The Bugatti finished in 5th place, despite ignition problems, and recorded a quicker lap time than the winner, Wimille, in his Alfa Romeo 308.
At the start of July, M.Trintignant retired with a fuel leak at the end of the Grand Prix de Bourgogne which took place in Dijon. He also failed to finish in the Prix des 24 heures du Mans which was contested in Nantes on 28 July, due to a problem with the spark plugs.
The 1947 season saw Trintignant take part in the Grand Prix de Marseille, on 18 May, in a Bugatti Type 51 in the 1500cc class. Maurice Trintignant and Paul Sauret told us the story of this other Bugatti Type 51A, bought in 1947 from the mechanic and racing driver from Bordeaux, Charles Huc. This was Louis Villeneuve's old Type 51A, chassis 51157-engine 31.
At the end of 1946 or the start of 1947, the 51A 51157 had been bought by Huc. Sauret recalls that the latter "lent it to M. Trintignant, for one race, as Huc had a health issue , […]. His car was a twin-cam 1500cc, with mechanical gearbox, a large supercharger and a narrow radiator that got really hot." It is possible that the race Sauret was referring to was Marseille on 18 May 1947.
Trintignant subsequently agreed to sell 51128 to Huc. Maurice remembers : " I sold my 51 to Huc from Bordeaux. He owned a 51A single seater, but he never paid me. My car (51128) stayed with me, equipped with the engine from Huc's 51A single seater (51157). " And so there was an exchange or mix of the two engines 51128/51157. Sauret adds to the puzzle : " Huc's mechanic and his wife came to our garage. We had put the 2300cc engine from 51128 in the 1500cc single seater, then after the race, the 1500cc engine was put back ". Sauret recalls also having gone to Bordeaux to fetch the 51128 that Huc hadn't paid for. It had been taken from the garage in Vauvert, and was found in bits at Huc's.
After 1947, 51128 remained in Trintignant's hands, still with the 1500cc engine. Huc's single seater 51157, equipped with the 2300cc engine, left for North Africa shortly afterwards and disappeared. Maurice Trintignant held onto his Bugatti Type 51 which was on display in his livingroom in Mas d'Arnaud until 1974.
The car was then acquired by the collector Jacques LEFRANC who owned a small automobile museum in Surry le Comtal in the Loire. His mechanic Marc Defour was given the task of restoring the car with the aim of preserving its originality as much as possible and retaining the exterior appearance of a Grand Prix Bugatti marked by history.
An intial inspection revealed that the chassis was slightly warped, probably twisted by a violent shock to the wheel against a kerb. It was decided not to straighten the frame as it would not have been possible to replace the body. Defour adjusted the arc of the springs, diagonally, so that the car was balanced on the four wheels. The hollow front axle was not damaged. The steel bulkhead was out of shape, as if it had been crushed, to such an extent that the magneto was no longer in line with the camshaft. There were small pieces of wood used to wedge the axle into position.
The 1500 engine had lost the upper crankcase, and a wooden model, made by Pierre Dellières replaced the missing piece. Through the assistance of Geoffrey Saint John, Lefranc had an upper crankcase sent over from England, complete with crankshaft and pistons. During the reassembly, it was discovered that the 1500cc crankshaft had the number 31 engraved at one end and on a bearing, the number that was also on the lower crankcase of engine 51128. According to Marc Defour, this engine part almost certainly came from Trintignant's car. Maurice admitted to having lent a bugattist friend the crankcase and shaft that was in 51128 at the time it was in the 1500cc configuration ; and these parts were never returned to him. It is worth noting that an old case, probably the pre-war factory replacement, stamped 51128, was then fitted. It will be passed on with the car.
The engine work by Defour allowed the original crankshaft and pistons, with the correct dimentions, to be kept. He installed new piston rings and pins, and had to remachine the bearing face of the cam shaft case. The ignition set-up was the same as for the 2.3 litre.
The car hadn't had an original Bugatti gearbox since before the Cotal box was fitted at the end of 1938. However, Trintignant had installed a wooden copy of a Bugatti gearbox, fixed with wood screws, which had an original cover fitted onto it. Defour had to change the gearbox support rails that had been modified for the Cotal box. He found an old case and fitted it with new ratios. Concerning the original gearbox, Trintignant apparently told A. Chomienne : " I lent it to a guy from Marseille who never returned it. I must get it back. "
It has the original rear axle housing and a new differential, 14X54 was fitted. The enormous fuel tank of over 150 litres was completely corroded. Its bulky shape impinged on the passenger compartment. This hadn't bothered Trintignant, who was small, but Lefranc couldn't get into the cockpit, so a standard tank was fitted. New Bugatti patented aluminium wheels were fitted for safety reasons.
There had been no alterations to the period coachwork ! It conformed to the car as seen in photos of Louis Trintignant at Péronne in 1933. It is likely that following the accident that made the chassis of the 35 (4941) unusable but didn't affect the bodywork, the body was refitted by Sauret to 51128. The paintwork shows traces of a dozen successive layers, including one white and three different shades of blue, one fairly light. Today the car retains the dark blue paintwork, in superb original condition.
An old upholsterer from Surry le Comtal restored the original seats, while probably renewing the padding. The dashboard was re-turned, the dynamo with its old mounting, was kept. On the lefthand side, the missing auxiliary lubrication pump was replaced. The radiator core, no longer in honeycomb form, was redone.
The restoration was finished in a few months and Defour decided to run the car in on the 7km road between the garage and his home. To his surprise, the 1500cc engine had good torque at low revs. In first gear on tight bends, he thought the clutch was slipping, so he adjusted it and set off again. The two rear wheels had been slipping. Before and after the restoration, the car was exhibited at the Musée de Surry le Comtal.
Jacques Lefranc never used it.
Many years later, the Bugatti was bought by Christian Pellerin, before being sold at auction on 14 December 1992, in a sale held by l'Etude Poulain-Le Fur at the Palais des Congrès de la Porte Maillot, in Paris. Since that date, the car has belonged to Jean-Claude Miloé. It has been maintained by the garage Novo, the Bugatti specialist in Marolles en Hurepoix (Essonne).
During the commemoration of the Grand Prix de Péronne in 1993, the current owner had the honour of allowing Maurice Trintignant to drive the car, at the exact spot where his brother Louis had died some sixty years earlier. At this occasion, Maurice inspected the car closely and passed on the following information to J.C. Miloé : " I got Sauret to carry out several modifications to the car. The holes in the bulkhead show the low setting I had for the steering, as I was short. I had this opening made to the right of the steering wheel, to get a little air in the car as, being small, I was too enclosed. The hump on the the lefthand side of the bonnet, near the fixing for the holding strap, was there to help with cooling the dynamo which gave me a problem in some of the races. The sleeve visible on the front right arm of the chassis was added to provide reinforcement after an accident. The foot on the rear brake flanges prevented the brake cable from jumping out. I had a rearview mirror fitted on the right and the fixing holes are still there. "
We have studied the 51128 belonging to J.C. Miloé and have found that it has :
- The chassis frame number 705 original to 51128.
- The suspension strut number 30 -ex 51157 ;
- Rear axle number 9, from 51128 ;
- Gearbox number 380, ex-stock Musée Lefranc ;
- It can not be the original gearbox from Louis Trintignant's 35C - chassis 4941 which would have had a number around 420, and the original gearbox from 51128, number 10 is still in chassis 4941, today in Switzerland.
- The transmission pinions at the front of the engine number 31, ex -51157 ;
- The cambox numbered 23, ex-51144 (the second type 51 belonging to Lehoux) ;
- The car possesses the bodywork conforming to the configuration of 1933.
The historic parts being sold with the car comprise:
- The lower part of the crankcase which used to be fitted on the car.
- The 1500cc engine block with cylinders and cylinders heads, with pistons, valves and pieces previously fitted in this block.
- The original small 1500cc supercharger (number 14) which was from 51157
- In a case is the original crankshaft ex-51157, number 31, which was fitted to 51128 when Maurice Trintignant raced in the 1500cc class with 51128
- The Cotal gearbox fitted in 1938 which was kept by Lefranc when he had the car restored.
- The gearbox cap mounted in the car before the adaptation of an electric starter.
- A pair of lights, the car being electrically equiped for this use.
The car has retained its exterior appearance, identical to photos taken in 1933. In 1993, the excellent Michel Magnin refurbished the engine and a 2.3 litre crankshaft was installed, therefore adding greater originality to 51128.
It should be pointed out that almost 90 years after it left the factory, 51128 is presented in a remarkably authentic condition: The chassis frame number 705, the rear axle and other parts have belonged to the car from new. The coachwork is also in superb original condition, and conforms to the configuration of Louis Trintignant's car in photos taken at Péronne in 1933.
Components such as the gearbox, suspension strut, cambox and pinion mounting at the front of the engine, have been replaced with original Bugatti parts.
The continuous history of 51128, and the significant lot of spare parts, illustrating its glorious past, are exceptional elements of a car that took part in over forty Grand Prix races in its heyday.
Later, the car was acquired by the renowned real estate developer Christian Pellerin. His name is associated with some outstanding creations, such as the Carrousel du Louvre, the Citeé des Vins in Bordeaux and above all the renovation and extension of the famous business district " la Défense " in Paris, which earned him the title " King of la Défense ". It was no coincidence that the international presentation of the Bugatti EB took place on the Esplanade de la Défense on 14 September 1991. This developer gave the car to Maître Hervé Poulain to be auctioned on 14 December 1992 at the Palais des Congrès de Paris.
It was acquired by the collector Jean-Claude Miloé who has kept it until today, along with another gem, one of the Delage 1500 GP World Championship cars and a remarkable collection of Porsche.
Our gentleman driver has distinguished himself at the wheel of this 51, notably in the
Grand Prix d'Angoulême, and the Grand Prix de Monaco Historique.
Participating in the auction on this lot is subject to a special registration process. If you would like to bid on this lot, please get in touch with the bidding office or the motorcars department at least 48 hours before the sale.
Photos © Christian Martin
Estimation 4 000 000 - 4 500 000 €
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