Ex-Le Mans Bugatti Type 55 to star at Bonhams' 2020 Grand Palais Sale

13th September 2019
Laura Thomson

Bonhams has today announced than an exquisite example of one of the most important sportscars in Buggati’s illustrious history will be the star lot od the 2020 Bonhams Grand Palais Sale in Paris.


At a media preview of the Bonhams Goodwood Revival sale, the auction house unveiled the 1932 Bugatti Type 55 – a car as coveted today as it was in its heyday. Following 56 years in the ownership of one British family, Chassis no. 55221 will be offered for the first time at auction next year. One of only 38 examples of the Type 55 Super Sports model produced between 1932 and 1935, it one of just 29 known surviving models

Powered by a 2.3-litre, supercharged, twin-cam, eight-cylinder engine – a detuned variant of the engine in the Grand Prix-winning Bugatti Type 51 – at launch, the 110,000 FF ($7,500) model boasted blistering acceleration, covering 0-60mph in 13 seconds and setting a new road car top speed of 115mph. To the discerning motor car fan, the Type 55 was a wolf in sheep’s clothing, a Grand Prix challenger in a sports car body.


This fine example started life as a works entry in the 1932 24 Hours of Le Mans, driven by charismatic French racers Louis Chiron and Count Guy Bouriat-Quintart, and fitted with a temporary four-seater body in order to meet the event’s regulations. Unfortunately, the fuel tank split after three hours’ racing, and the Type 55 was forced to retire. 

Fresh from Le Mans, Count Bouriat sold the Bugatti to wealthy French magazine publisher Jacques Dupuy, who immediately did away with the much-praised, doorless body, designed by Jean Bugatti, son of Ettore. Instead, he commissioned noted Parisian automotive designer Giuseppe Figoni to create a unique two-seat Type 55 coachwork, including full doors complete with wind up windows, providing ease of access and protection from the elements while retaining a continuous bodywork. Many argued that Figoni’s design considerably improved upon Jean Bugatti’s work.


New owner Dupuy then entered the Type 55 into the 1933 Paris-Nice Rally, La Journée de l’Elégance et de l’Automobile au Bois de Boulogne concours d’élégance. Predictably, it excelled in all three.

The Second World War put a stop to all racing activity, and in 1962 the Bugatti was brought to England by A.A. Morse, who the following year sold it to leading Vintage racer Geoffrey St John in 1963.


And in the St John family hands it has remained ever since, receiving first a restoration in 1966, and once again thirty years later following a road accident in France. Following this accident, the chassis was painstakingly repaired by specialist Gino Hoskins.

Of the rare auction piece, Director of Bonhams UK Motor Cars Sholto Gilbertson commented: “This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to acquire an extremely historic and important motor car owned by the same family for 56 years.

“Over the years, the family have resisted many offers and we are very much looking forward to presenting the Bugatti for sale in Paris next February. Everyone will now have an equal opportunity to secure one of the most important motor cars to come to market in recent years.”

Photography courtesy of Bonhams.

  • Bonhams

  • Revival 2019

  • 2019

  • Bugatti

  • Type 55

  • Le Mans

  • Louis Chiron

  • Count Guy Bouriat-Quintart

  • Revival

  • Grand Palais Sale

  • 2020 Grand Palais Sale

  • Motorsport

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