Chassis Number: 50123

Described by Road & Track magazine, July 1958 as ‘a sports car of Herculean size and strength’, Bugatti’s Type 50 built on the characteristics of its sibling, the luxurious Type 46. Almost double the price of the Type 46, it seems a little surprising that the Type 50’s engine, although largely the same as the Type 46, was actually reduced in capacity. However, this was for a very good reason as it allowed for a twin-cam set up which empowered the Type 50 to reach high enough revs per minute to achieve 200 brake horsepower; truly remarkable for its time!

Made between 1930 and 1934, a mere handful of examples of these almost 5 litre, 8 cylinder supercharged sports racing cars were built by the French great. Marketed and designed as a road model, the Type 50s were nonetheless raced at Le Mans from 1931 to 1935, showing themselves to be strong and capable contenders. As Barrie Price writes in his book Bugatti Type 46 & 50 – The Big Bugattis, ‘Certainly no other production luxury car in 1930 had such an advanced ‘racing car’ specification, except the Duesenberg SJ from America.’

As one would expect for such an important car in Bugatti’s portfolio, only the best body options were offered and fitted to the Type 50. This Bugatti, 50123, was fitted with roadster coachwork designed and built by Bugatti in its Molsheim factory. As such, it is one of only four Type 50s to be clothed in Bugatti’s roadster coachwork in period and is one of just two surviving examples.

50123’s first owner was the famous artist Monsieur André Derain of Paris, although by 1935 the Bugatti had returned to Alsace and into the hands of its second owner, Jean Trivier who was the owner of a large brewery in the Vosges. In June 1937, 50123 crossed the channel to England to be with its new owner, Jack Lemon Burton. Burton used the Bugatti as his personal transport until the outbreak of war in 1939. In 1942, Burton sold 50123’s engine to American Eri Richardson to replace the damaged engine in Richardson’s Type 46 but after the war Burton installed another Type 50 engine into 50123, which he had acquired from France, returning the Bugatti to factory specification once again.

The Type 50’s next owner was John C Erskine-Hill of South Kensington in whose name it was listed in the 1954 Bugatti Book by Eaglesfield and Hamton which contained the first published register of Bugatti motor cars. Soon after this 50123 was advertised for sale in Motorsport magazine and it was believed that American tyre manufacturer and fabled collector, Ann Klein, subsequently purchased the Bugatti.

There followed a continuous American history, with the Bugatti eventually passing to the legendary collection of the late Henry Petronis, who had the Type 50’s chassis and coachwork comprehensively restored by David George, with its mechanical work being overhauled by respected Bugatti and Alfa specialist Chris Laden. The car was last shown publicly by Laden at Pebble Beach in 2010 where it received a second in class award. Its current owner was attracted to the Type 50 rather more for its potential as a strong and powerful road rally car and, as such, has spent considerable time and money with Phil Reilly and Company, really bringing the Type 50 up to its full driving potential, which includes having new wheels recast, along with chassis and shock absorber fine-tuning to get the balance of the Bugatti just right. We at Fiskens can confirm that, having driven 50123, it is all we expected Bugatti’s legendary Type 50 to be; easy to drive with beautiful brakes and steering, accompanied by lots of low-down torque. With its supercharged 5-litre engine, it offers, as one would expect, a wide range of performance!

Bugatti Type 50s are rare beasts indeed and the Jean Bugatti-designed roadster coachwork on this one makes it even rarer. The height of both luxury and performance in its day, this was truly a supercar of the era. Accompanied by a full history file and report by renowned Bugatti authority, David Sewell, 50123 would be welcomed at all the best concours, tours and rallies where it is sure to make a glamorous and dashing impression.

Year: 1931
Make: Bugatti
Model: Type 50
Dealer: Fiskens
The foremost specialist in fine historic automobiles, where the best cars in the world come to be sold. Their reputation is built on three, rock-solid principles: knowledge, trust and discretion; for the most important vintage, classic or competition cars, the only match for their own passion is that of their customers. The market for these iconic automobiles can be perplexing. Buyers and sellers are right to be wary of mediocre restoration or suspect provenance; public auctions come with their own risks and extraordinary costs. So when they founded their business, they decided their customers – buyers and sellers alike – must always be able to rely on integrity, impeccable attention to detail, and unparalleled expertise. They separate fact from fiction, the best from the merely adequate, and they always represent their clients’ cars correctly. The central London showrooms and headquarters are famous fixtures of the collector’s car landscape. Yet Fiskens is not about ‘front’. They develop close relationships with discerning collectors – they share their well-informed enthusiasm for spectacular cars of all eras. They have a talent for taking the hassle out of deals, however many cars are involved; they simplify issues of complex international ownership, ensuring satisfaction for both buyer and seller alike. Many of their customers become firm friends, choosing to come back time and again. The belief at Fiskens is that buying and selling old cars should be fun. Owning them should satisfy; driving them should thrill. Gregor Fisken Starting off his motoring apprenticeship on the back seat of his parent’s vintage Bentley, Gregor has always been at the very heart of the British historic car movement. As a teenager, Gregor was mentored by the legendary Bunty Scott-Moncrieff, a hugely respected restorer and authoritative author, giving Gregor the opportunity to obsessively build his extensive knowledge. Working for a respected London auction house established an international reputation that soon allowed him to open his own premises in the famous central London Queens Gate Place Mews they are in now. Not believing historic cars should be consigned to a museum, Gregor has piloted some of the greatest historic racing cars at circuits all over the world, as well as competing in modern motorsport at the highest level including the Le Mans 24 hour race four times. One of the most well known and recognised individuals within the industry, Gregor continues to build the market leading reputation of Fiskens.
Back to top
Translate »