There are some people who believe the Type 55 Bugatti was the most beautiful sports car ever built. They are not necessarily all confirmed Bugattistes. From the trademark horseshoe radiator in front to the neatly truncated rear deck, the car is perfectly proportioned and elegant in its simplicity. And that fender line is pure poetry.
Verses have been penned about the Type 55’s performance too. Road tests of the era tell of 0 to 60 times of less than 13 seconds. One tester was still accelerating at 98.9 mph at the quarter mile, and yet another held his foot to the floorboard for 115.
In essence, the Type 55 was the twin-cam supercharged 2.3 liter engine of the Grand Prix Type 51, fitted into the foot-longer chassis of the 4.9-liter Grand Prix Type 54. It was clothed in a breathtaking new body designed by Jean Bugatti, son of Le Patron and fitted with the familiar aluminum wheels.
Speaking of the man, the eminent Charles Faroux commented in the thirties “Bugatti is Bugatti, which is saying everything.” Imperious to a fault, Ettore Bugatti wore his arrogance as a banner, and most certainly insofar as his cars were concerned. When a customer complained that his Type 55 was a balky starter in cold weather, Le Patron replied that surely if the man could afford the car, he could also afford a heated garage.
Purchasers of the Type 55 during the thirties paid approximately $7500 for the car. Twenty-eight were produced, twenty-eight survived. The Type 55 supplies demonstrable evidence of the pity it is that sports automobiles can no longer be built out of Grand Prix cars.
Photos – Peter Harholdt
Briggs Cunningham was one of the first to use two-way radios at Le Mans in 1950 by installing them in both the LeMonstre and the Petit Pataud. You can see both cars at Revs. Learn more