A lot of Bugatti Type 44s have lived colourful lives, but this UK car features a Vanvooren body that endured gunfire from German soldiers during WW2!
It’s always special when a car has provenance, be it racing heritage or an illustrious legacy of owners. And indeed, many machines can boast a history of fame, fortune or having been raced by the greats. But few, if any, surviving cars can boast being used as target practice in WW2. This Bugatti Type 44 Vanvooren Saloon is truly one of a kind.
Later this month, the stunning 1929 Type 44, which has lived a complicated and eventful life, will go under the hammer at H&H Classics’ Duxford Imperial War Museum sale on 26 July. The 1929 model, painted in red and black, is estimated to sell for £200,000–£240,000
A total of 1095 Bugatti Type 44s were built between 1927 and 1930, making it the company’s most commercially successful pre-war model. Fitted with a 2991cc straight-eight engine, based around two cast-iron cylinder blocks, it boasted a centrally-driven single overhead camshaft that operated twenty-four valves. Producing 80bhp, this smooth and muscular engine pushed the Type 44 onto a top speed in excess of 90mph.
It’s thought that around just 10 percent of the cars built survive today, and many of these have been cannibalised and substantially modified over the years. This car is no different.
Chassis 44667 was delivered new to London, and first registered as ‘MT 1338’ by Middlesex County Council. It was later sold to Eric Tutton of Hayfield, who replaced the original 3.0-litre engine with a smaller four-cylinder ‘Brescia’ powerplant. A lightweight body was also fitted during this time, along with some shortening of the chassis.
It was bought by the current owner in 1990, when the re-birth began. The chassis was extended back to original specification, and an original straight-eight engine was sourced from chassis 441192. Rather than having a new body constructed, the owner had other plans.
Extensively restored by Wilkinson's Coachbuilders of Derby between 1990 and 1994, the owner found an elegant Vanvooren saloon body that was originally part of Jean-Jacques Peugeot’s Type 44 – chassis 44694 – which was taken off the road when war broke out. Peugeot’s chateau at Montbeliard was subsequently occupied by German forces who thought it would make great target practice.
Not that you would know it today, and since the restoration has driven just 8500 miles. Damian Jones, Head of Sales for H&H Classics commented: ‘It is beautifully detailed with unusual triple-hinged doors and among the most delightful Vintage Saloons we have encountered.’