1937 Bugatti Type 57C Ventoux
$700,000 - $850,000
- Used as a factory demonstrator and driven by Pierre Veyron
- Documented by marque historians David Sewell and Pierre-Yves Laugier
- 1998 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance ‘Elegance In Motion’ Award winner
- Formerly owned by Bruce Meyer and Judge Joseph Cassini III
- Superbly restored in the 1990s by Ivan Dutton Ltd.
The Type 57, perhaps the most celebrated roadgoing chassis of Bugatti’s illustrious history, made a name for itself by being the last word in French automotive luxury. As it was beautifully appointed and often wore coachwork from Europe’s most notable coachbuilders, ownership of a Type 57 Bugatti when new was perhaps the best statement of fashion that money could buy. An experienced driver can ascertain hints of the company’s sporting nature through the Type 57’s chassis, and while this vehicle is often associated with the utmost levels of luxury, there is no denying its inherent athleticism.
This particular Type 57C Ventoux is in fact a tale of two Bugattis, chassis 57584 and chassis 57664. Although it is equipped with the engine and firewall tag from 57664, the car itself has been confirmed to be 57584, a car with its own fascinating story to tell. Inspection of the numbers stamped on the body panels and chassis, along with research undertaken by Bugatti historians David Sewell and Pierre-Yves Laugier, have helped to confirm this car’s identity, and both of their invaluable reports are on file.
Laugier confirmed that chassis number 57584 was built in early October 1937, and at that time, it was fitted with Ventoux coachwork and engine number 421 and finished in Metallic Blue. The car was driven from Bugatti’s facilities in Molsheim to Paris on October 15, which was in the same week as the Paris Auto Show. As the car was not seen on Bugatti’s stand at the Grand Palais, it is believed that it was instead used as a factory demonstrator for potential customers, similar to the “test drives” held by luxury manufacturers at modern concours.
Afterwards, the car was retained by the factory and saw further use by Pierre Veyron on 21 January 1938, when the car was driven to Belgium for a demonstration, one perhaps given to an interested customer. The car was then driven by Adrien Paul, another factory employee, to Geneva on 11 February 1938, and it was subsequently delivered to Mr. Bierlein. After the war, in 1949, the car was registered in Paris to an unknown owner, possibly still Bierlein, as he never formally imported the car from France to Switzerland.
On 27 June 1950, this Bugatti was registered in Paris under Albert Hervey, a garage owner in Paris who was the owner of two other Type 57 Bugattis at the time. He sold the car one year later to an American student living in Paris, artist Kenneth Hassrick, who also happened to own multiple Type 57s. Upon his return to the United States a few months later, he decided to bring chassis number 57584 with him.
The car was then bought from Hassrick by W. Hudson Mills. Mills was a well-known enthusiast of the era and had owned a Duesenberg and several other Bugattis, one being chassis number 57664, a Gangloff-bodied four-door saloon.
Under his ownership, chassis number 57584 was fully restored. The engine was completely rebuilt, and a new Honduras mahogany dashboard was fitted with Jaeger instruments. It is believed that during this restoration, Mr. Mills exchanged both the engine and data plate of 57584 with those of 57664, leaving this car with engine number 507, which had been fitted with a supercharger. Because the data tag of 57664 was also installed on this car, it was incorrectly known by that number for many years; in fact, it was known by that number until 2015, when RM Auctions’ Research Department was able to learn its true identity from Laugier and Sewell.
In H.G. Conway’s 1962 Bugatti Register, 57584 (cited as 57664) was listed as being owned by Mills, but by 1973, it had passed to W. and John Gelles in nearby Scarsdale, New York, as stated in that year’s Bugatti Register. It was also further documented by the 1979 and 1988 American Bugatti Register by A.E. Rheault, which stated that it was owned by Allan Stone, an art dealer known for his expertise in abstract expressionism, who also owned nearly 30 Bugattis. Yet another artist, Armand Pierre Arman, a noted painter and sculptor, purchased the car in 1988.
Chassis number 57584 returned to Europe after being sold to Peter R. Bruppacher, of Zurich, Switzerland. According to Laugier, Bruppacher found a license plate in the car, number 755 AH 78, but he was unable to connect it with 57664. In fact, this plate, which was titled in Paris, was originally titled to chassis 57584, under Hassrick’s name, back in 1951, further attesting to the car’s true identity.
In the mid-1990s, this Bugatti was restored to concours standards by UK-based Bugatti specialists at Ivan Dutton Ltd., of Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, England. Approximately $450,000 was spent on the restoration, truly catapulting this Type 57C Ventoux into one of the finest examples in the world. Of course, the restoration was not just skin deep, and the owner at the time demanded that the car be a statement of cosmetic and mechanical perfection.
Following the completion of the car’s restoration, which arguably brought it to exemplary condition, this car and then-owner, renowned collector Bruce Meyer, received an invitation to the 1998 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. Pebble Beach veterans will know that this was the first year of the Tour d’Elegance, where cars invited to the concours were encouraged to take to the roads surrounding Pebble Beach so spectators could admire both their mechanical and cosmetic beauty at speed. This Bugatti was perhaps the perfect candidate for the tour, as it was graced with the first-ever Elegance in Motion Award—awarded to the car “deemed to be most elegant in motion” while seen on the tour—testifying that this car truly embodies both automotive elegance and engineering working together to achieve breathtaking results. While speaking with Bruce Meyer about his ownership of the car, he commented, “I enjoyed the car immensely and drove it frequently with confidence,” echoing the judges’ opinions of its elegance in motion.
Following its departure from Bruce Meyer’s collection, the car was purchased by Judge Joseph Cassini III in 2007, and it remained in his world-class collection until 2011.
Over the last four years, this exquisite Bugatti has resided in the collection of a noted European sports car enthusiast in Northern California, where it has benefited from regular enjoyment and meticulous maintenance. Accompanying handwritten service records substantiate the extent of care provided. Notable items include the installation of an electronic fuel pump, electronic ignition, “vintage-look” ignition wires, and a new 12-volt battery, along with service including valve adjustments and careful fluid changes. With regular maintenance attended to, the consignor has found the Bugatti to be a capable roadgoing companion, completing approximately 1,500 miles during his ownership.
This Bugatti has an amazing story to tell, as confirmed by the research undertaken by RM Sotheby’s, Pierre-Yves Laugier, and David Sewell. That history includes use by the Bugatti factory and by one of the most legendary racers of his age, Pierre Veyron, as well as more recent ownership by some of the most prominent collectors in the United States. This Type 57C offers its next owner membership into a fantastic community of enthusiasts--one that holds events and rallies which celebrate the Molsheim marque worldwide. The aforementioned research documentation, service records, restoration invoices, and spare wheel are to be included with this lot.