The first of of an eventual forty Bugatti Type 51’s appeared in 1931 with a twin cam straight eight replacing the single cam straight eight of it’s Type 35 predecessor. Externally the two types are almost identical with the newer model being equipped with a larger radiator, single piece alloy wheels, and as a consequence of the twin cam head, a lower pop off valve blow whole for the supercharger in the bonnet / hood.
There were three European Championship Grand Prix in 1931 and Bugatti won the second and third. Louis Chiron and Achille Varzi sharing the win in a T51 on the 12 km track at Autodrome de Linas-Montlhéry in France and William Grover-Williams & Caberto Conelli the win at Spa, these races were over distance of around 800 miles taking a minimum of ten hours to complete, unlike the modern maximum 2 hour Grand Prix requiring only one driver.
The following season Bugatti were outclassed by ALFA Romeo in the three European Championship races which were run over ‘just’ five hours, but their cars still won twelve of the thirty less well supported non championship races.
For 1933 the European Championship was suspended, eventually for two years, but there were five Grandes Épreuves run over distances of 200 miles, Monaco, to just over 400 miles or Spain, requiring just the one driver. Archilli Varzi won the opening race at Monaco aboard a T51 with the remainder going to Maserati and Alfa Romeo equally.
According to a Bugatti Owners site, today’s T51 recreation was assembled from many original parts and a “Hoskins” frame by Christopher F. Warman in Wales with help from Tim and Ivan Dutton in the late 1980’s. The car was registered for road use by 2006 when it competed at a variety of events, but in 2007 the registration number was transferred to a Lambretta Motor Scooter which according to the DVLA website is not currently on the road.
More recently the car was said to have been offered for sale at around £500,000 and it is seen driven in these photographs, taken at last years VSCC Prescott meeting, by Derek Howard – Orchard, who has been the owner since at least 2010.
Thanks for joining me on this “It’s Not A Lambretta” edition of “Gettin’ a li’l psycho on tyres”, I hope you will join me again tomorrow when I’ll be looking at some European cars that took the start of the Classic Run in Chipping Sodbury. Don’t forget to come back now !
23/07/14 Thanks to Tim Murray for clarifying that the Type 51 ran twin cam motors and the minimum times for the European Championship Grand Prix in 1931 and 1932.