Two years after disassociating himself from remarks made in the the French Press in which Ettore Bugatti is alleged to have described the dominant Bentleys of the day as the “fastest lorries in the world” Bugatti made his first official attempt at the Le Mans 24 Hours in 1931.
The three supercharged 5 litre / 302 cui straight eight powered Type 50S models however proved unreliable and up until 1936 when today’s featured Type 57G was built the marques best result on the worlds fastest roundabout was a sixth place recorded by the privateers Jean Sébilleau and Georges Delaroche aboard there 1.5 litre / 91.5 cui Type 40 in 1932.
For 1936 Bugatti are believed to have taken four low slung Type 57S chassis fitted with Type 59 (Grand Prix car) wheels and brakes, unsupercharged 3.3 litre 24 valve straight eight motors and built aerodynamic bodies for them that did away with the prevalent cycle wings / fenders giving the whole body a unitary look more familiar to a Land Speed Record vehicle.
During testing at Montlhéry in prior to Le Mans the prototype car is believed to have been damaged. The Le Mans 24 Hours was cancelled because of a General Strike in 1936.
In preparation for their delayed attempt at the Le Mans 24 hours the three remaining cars were all entered into the GP de l’A.C.F run at Circuit Routier de Linas-Montlhéry and then again the Marne Grand Prix run at Reims in June and July 1936.
The owner of today’s featured car neurosurgeon Fred Simeone believes his chassis #57335 won both of them, with Jean-Pierre Wimille and Raymond Sommer sharing the honours driving the #84 at Montlhéry and Jean-Pierre driving the #12 solo at Reims.
This proved a powerful portent of things to come, over the winter of 1936 and 1937 chassis #57355 in particular appear to have gone on a diet.
Only two Type 57Gs were entered into the 24 Hours of Le Mans both entered by Roger Labric a driver and journalist, the #1 for Roger and Pierre Veyron while the lighter #2 chassis #57355 was driven by Jean Pierre and Robert Benoist.
The #1 entry retired just after half distance while Jean Pierre and Robert went on to win by 7 laps from the 2nd place Delhaye driven by Joseph Paul and Marcel Mongin to score the first of Bugatti’s two overall Le Mans victories.
#57355 is easily distinguished from it’s siblings by the high front wheel vents, unique to the #84, which can easily be seen in this linked black white photo of the three undamaged cars taken at Montlhéry in 1936 and confirms that #57355 won each of the three races into which it was entered.
Today #57355 is the only 57G survivor, though there is at least one copy that was finished earlier this year that appeared at Goodwood. #57355 is normally to be found at the Simeone Foundation Automotive Museum in Philadelphia, Pa. but is seen in these photographs by Geoffrey Horton at The Quail last year.
My thanks to Geoffrey Horton for sharing his photographs. I’d also like to thank The Nostalgia Forum contributors Roger Clark for debunking the “Fastest Lorry Myth” and MT Anorak for his insights into the story of the Bugatti Type 57G cars.
Thanks for joining me on this “High Front Wheel Vent” edition of “Gettin’ A Li’l Psycho On Tyres” I hope you will join me again tomorrow. Don’t forget to come back now !