Bugatti Type 51 Grand Prix
The Bugatti Type 51 Grand Prix two-seater is a pre-war classic car built by French car manufacturer Bugatti. It was specifically designed and built as a grand prix racing car, and succeeded the famous Type 35 as Bugatti’s premier racing car for the 1930s.
Only 40 type 51 Bugatti were produced between 1931 and 1935, and about ten of these were in fact earlier models which the factory converted to twin-camshaft specification.
In 2008 a Bugatti 51 (converted from a Bugatti type 35A for the French Grand Prix) sold at a Gooding & Co. auction in Pebble Beach, California, for a price of $907,500 (including buyer’s premium).
RM Auctions sold a 1931 Bugatti Type 51 Works Grand Prix Racing Car for $2.75m in August 2010; this fell well short of its high estimate of $4.5m.
In February 2011 the Bugatti 51 owned by the late Chairman of the Bugatti Owner’s Club, Fitzroy John Somerset (the fifth Baron Raglan) was sold by Bonham’s in Paris for €943,000.
Lord Raglan had purchased the car in 1979 and painstakingly restored it for two years before racing it in events around the world.
The Type 35 Bugatti was the most famous and successful grand prix car of its time, winning over 1,000 races between 1924 and 1927 during its years of production.
The Type 51, however, soon found itself outpaced and overtaken by the developing German and Italian grand prix cars such as the Alfa Romeo and the Maserati, and was unable to match the successes of its predecessor. A victory in the 1931 French Grand Prix was one of its few highlights.