Bugatti Type 59 Sports – With the battle scars of the early Grand Prix races

The first of the six existing Type 59 Sports racing cars – produced as early as the 1930s – still exists today in almost original condition and is considered an invaluable survivor Bugattis successful racing history.

Victory is what Type 59 Sports is all about. This open two-seater was built in 1934 as the Type 59 Sports with a Type 57 chassis. A short time later he received a special new chassis for the next series Grand Prix Race where it would be raced past Bugattis brave racers.

Its racing history is fully documented – just like its famous owners and drivers. Rene Dreyfusthe top pre-war driver and hero of the French resistance, sat behind the wheel as well as racing drivers in the mid-1930s Robert Benoist and Jean Pierre Wimille. One of the later owners of the sports car was King Leopold III from Belgium – an enthusiastic one Bugatti fan himself.

Recently, at the world-famous Concorso d’Eleganza in Villa d’Este, Italy, the Type 59 Sports was awarded the prestigious FIVA trophy for ‘best preserved pre-war car’, in competition with some of the best classic automobiles from other brands.

A real thoroughbred

Bugatti Type 59 Sports - With the battle scars of the early Grand Prix races

Bugatti presented the Type 59 Sports for the first time on September 24, 1933 at the San Sebastian Grand Prix. A marvel of technology, powerful and filigree at the same time. The supercharged eight-cylinder in-line engine fits almost perfectly under its slim and low lines. The wheels with piano wire spokes minimized the unsprung masses enormously and, with new, sophisticated shock absorbers, ensured balanced driving behavior with an unusually high level of comfort for a racing car.

The Type 59 Sports is as elegant as it is fast. It’s proof of that Ettore Bugatti constant striving for more performance and better driving characteristics.

Bugatti This works Type 59 Sports with a 3.3 liter eight-cylinder engine (No. 5) was used for the first time in the 1934/1935 season. driver Rene Dreyfus drove straight away to third place at the Monaco Grand Prix in April 1934. Robert Benoist finished fourth at the French Grand Prix in Montlhéry in July of the same year, as well as a few weeks later at the Belgian Grand Prix in Spa-Francorchamps.

Bugatti Type 59 Sports - With the battle scars of the early Grand Prix races

At the Spanish Grand Prix in September Jean Pierre Wimille finished sixth. Ettor Bugatti – used to winning – retires from Grand Prix racing with the Type 59 Sports and sells four cars to British enthusiasts. One of them was converted into a racing car by the company in Molsheim itself. It’s a first for Bugatti – til today. The Type 59 Sports remains the only Grand Prix car that was converted into a sports car ex works and exists today in almost unrestored original condition as a perfect contemporary witness to its heyday.

Engineers removed the supercharger from the engine compartment and installed a new oil tank with two-pump lubrication and a four-speed, dry-sump, fully synchromesh, center shift transmission. The body was also redesigned: small motorcycle fenders, a small windscreen, small headlights positioned far down and side doors – with the new chassis number 57248.

A two-seater not only for the road, but also for the race track Jean Pierre Wimille increasingly entered the Type 59 Sports sports car from 1935 in the new 750-kilogram class. This Type 59 Sports took part in the 1937 sports car season Wimille at the wheel won, among other things, the Grand Prix de Pau and de Tunis as well as de Marseille.

Bugatti Type 59 Sports - With the battle scars of the early Grand Prix races

Affectionately called “La Grand Mère” (Grandmother) by the mechanics in Molsheim, the sports car took part in races in Africa and won the last edition of the Algerian Grand Prix. In July 1937, Jean Pierre Wimille won a Grand Prix for the last time driving the Type 59 Sports: the Grand Prix de la Marne at the Reims circuit – more than three minutes ahead of the runner-up. The Fast and Superior Bugatti caused a stir on the scene.

At the end of the season a long time Bugatti Customer bought this extraordinary sports car with a successful racing history: King Leopold III. of Belgium between 1934 and 1951.

Ettor Bugatti had the previously blue car repainted especially for the king in the king’s favorite colour, black, adorned with a yellow stripe reminiscent of Belgian racing colours. It is not known how the king used the powerful sports car in the years to come. That Bugatti would probably have been stored and little used in the run-up to the war.

Leopold III and his wife were deported to Saxony in June 1944. After the war the family initially went into exile in Switzerland. It was not until 1959 that the ex-monarch moved with his family to Castle Argenteuil in the province of Brabant-Wallonia – with the Bugatti as part of the inventory.

Bugatti Type 59 Sports - With the battle scars of the early Grand Prix races

In 1967 the former king sold the Bugatti to a Belgian collector who kept it for about 20 years, not restoring it and certainly not polishing it. In 1989, the historic racing car went to an American Bugatti Enthusiast who also leaves it in its original condition and only restores the technology of the car. After that, the sports car moved to two more garages of well-known collectors, who continued to respect the car’s past and left the bodywork untouched.

More than 80 years old, this invaluable contemporary witness with a successful racing history is now owned by a Bugatti Enthusiast who recently had the incredible patina preserved as an important milestone in automotive history. The still well-preserved but already patinated areas of paint were sealed and conserved, the damaged areas were only gently repaired. What remains: worn leather seats and scratches in the wooden steering wheel.

Bugatti, Bugatti Type 59 Sport, Cars, Concorso D’Eleganza Villa d’Este, Engineering, Ettore Bugatti, Grand Prix, Italy, Jean Pierre Wimille, King Leopold III, Manufacturing, Molsheim, René Dreyfus, Robert Benoist, Switzerland


Founded in 1909, French car manufacturer Automobiles Ettore Bugatti has made a name for itself as one of the top names in the world of high-performance automobiles. It has cemented its reputation as “the brand that combines an artistic approach with superior technical innovation in the world of supercars”.

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