- A fascinating recreation of the famous “Baron Rothschild Type 55,” chassis 55220
- Powered by a supercharged 2.3-liter straight eight-cylinder engine and four-speed manual transmission
- Acquired directly from Pur Sang by Gene Ponder in 2018
- Incredible attention to detail, inside and out
THE TYPE 55 SUPER SPORTS
Like many premier automakers in the early 20th century, Bugatti used its success in competition to elevate the profile of its road cars. In the case of the Type 55, introduced by Bugatti in 1932, the ties to motorsport were quite explicit: it was a direct descendent of the Type 51 racecar, and was similarly powered by a supercharged 2.3-liter dual-overhead-cam straight eight-cylinder engine.
The application of the supercharger—a first for a Bugatti road car—to the Jean Bugatti-designed powerplant proved necessary due to the simple fact many of their clients were informal privateers who enthusiastically raced their cars. Since the factory’s Grand Prix cars had required additional power to remain competitive, it naturally followed that Bugatti customers might benefit from the same update to their road cars; after all, the point of racing was to win, and then recycle that success into further sales. Simply put, racing alone was not enough for any marque, and the Type 55’s supercharger is an evident artifact of this prevailing philosophy.
The 38 Type 55 examples which Bugatti produced between 1932 and 1935 typically wore sporting bodywork, often open-topped, that further emphasized the model’s racing roots. With its flowing lines, doorless cut-down sides, eight-spoke aluminum wheels, and iconic horseshoe radiator (perhaps Bugatti’s most definitive styling element), the design of the Type 55 Super Sport Roadster is surely among the marque’s most famous.
Today, these early sports-derived roadsters typically trade hands for prices upward of $2 million, making this recreation executed by Argentina’s Pur Sang a particularly accessible facsimile of the Type 55 experience.
Pur Sang builds truly extraordinary copies of vintage Bugattis and Alfa Romeos, faithfully copying every detail of these cars with exacting hand-craftsmanship and engineering equal to the originals. Each is carefully factory built, with all components produced in Pur Sang’s own facility, and is designed as not merely a recreation but a literal “new” car that is true to the original in every important sense. The firm is most famous for their Bugatti Type 35, which is visually near-identical to, and has the same performance, exhaust note, and thrilling driving characteristics as, the original Molsheim-built cars.
THE TYPE 55 BY PUR SANG
To be precise, the Pur Sang Type 55 offered here recreates chassis 55220, the “Baron Rothschild car”—considered one of the finest surviving examples of those 14 Type 55s which were originally fitted with factory roadster coachwork penned by Jean Bugatti.
Acquired by Mr. Ponder directly from Pur Sang in September 2018, our subject lot is faithfully presented in the same red and black polychrome livery as the Baron Rothschild Type 55, complete with black leather upholstery beneath a matching roadster top. An exacting set of reproduction Bugatti wheels are wrapped in period-style Blockley tires which front a set of massive 15-inch alloy drum brakes. A pair of rear-mounted spares are an additional nod to the Type 55’s road-racing heritage which has been so accurately re-created for Mr. Ponder’s enjoyment. Period-style Marchal headlamps—mechanically affixed to the front axle for optimal “turn in” visibility—are tucked beneath a set of chrome mesh stone guards.
Ahead of the perlage-decorated aluminum firewall, power is derived from an equally impressive 2.3-liter recreation of the original Bugatti unit, complete with a polished Roots-type supercharger and dual-over camshaft configuration. Invoices on file show that in December 2019, this Pur Sang Type 55 was sent to High Mountain Classics in Fort Collins, Colorado for servicing to its shifter assembly, new cam gaskets, a carburetor tuning, and fine-tuning of its ignition timing. Further, the car was re-finished in its present, attractive red and black, and a period-style ignition was sourced to replace the newer type delivered with the car.
The Pur Sang Bugatti, simply put, offers the best of all possible worlds—the exact experience of using a great vintage Bugatti, but with improved durability and ease of maintenance. It is the ideal example for those who seek to take his or her car out and actually use it as its designers intended, on road or circuit.