This 1927 Type 38A Bugatti, chassis number 38470, features a beautiful art deco Grand Sport body designed by Ettore. This car is one of only 39 Type 38A’s originally delivered with the inline 8 cylinder engine in supercharged form. Significantly, Bugatti 38470 has a known continuous history from new including a race at Brooklands in the hands of its famous first owner, L. G. Bachelier. That race was the start of a competition career that extended over multiple owners in Great Britain in the 1930’s. In more recent years, the current owners, the JWR Collection, have restored this car to original factory specifications, both mechanically and cosmetically. Their efforts were rewarded when this Type 38A Bugatti received an award in class at Pebble Beach in 1993.
The chassis of our subject car, 38470 with supercharged engine 333, was completed in August 1927 with a factory Grand Sport body. August 1927 was the final month of production of the Types 38 and 38A. Bugatti 38470 remained at the factory for several months before it was ordered by the London Bugatti agent, Colonel Sorel. Sorel sold the car on October 23, 1928 to its first owner, L. G. Bachelier, who registered it with British plate number PG 1593.
Bachelier was a famous Bugatti owner in Great Britain being one of the founding members of their Bugatti Owners Club. Over the years he owned a total of nine Bugattis beginning with a Type 23 Brescia Bugatti, chassis 2533. At one point he owned the ex-Junek Type 35 Grand Prix car, chassis 4613. His last Bugatti was a Type 54 Grand Prix car, chassis 54205, which featured the supercharged 4.9 liter engine. Bachelier famously converted this Type 54 to a road-going sports car by creating a roadster body for it in the style of the Type 55 Jean Bugatti roadsters. The resulting car was a stunning beauty and arguably the fastest road going automobile in Great Britain at the time of its completion in late 1937. Unfortunately Bachelier died in June 1937 just before the car was finished. This car is universally known as the Bachelier Roadster. It spent many years in the US and was raced on the streets of Watkins Glen in 1950 in the capable hands of Hal Ullrich.
Bachelier raced his Type 38 at Brooklands in the JCC High Speed Trials in July 1929. In the 1930 he sold it to Denis Evans who raced it in the BARC Open Meeting Mountain Handicap in 1931 and the JCC High Speed Trials at Brooklands in 1931 and 1932. The Type 38 then went to Child who eventually sold it to B. Rees. By this time the chassis had been shortened to convert the car to a two-seater and the engine had been replaced, fortunately with another genuine Bugatti unit, number 209, ex 38275. This engine ran with twin SU carburetors and was not supercharged. Subsequently this car came into the hands of Derby, then Gilbert and then John Anderson in London.
“Art deco was an unstoppable artistic force all through the 1920’s and into the 1930’s… It was a golden era of design during which automotive masterpieces took center stage, and deservedly so.”Peter Mullin, 2010.
Bugatti 38470 was then exported to the US, still in its shortened wheelbase form. It was first owned in the US by Steingold, then Fountain and then Kirk White. In 1973 it was owned by Walter Stedeford and then by Richard Winer of Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The next owner was Dr. Terry Bennett of Hampton Falls, New Hampshire. Dr. Bennett had an interesting collection of cars and in 1991 decided to sell the majority of them at auction with the proceeds going to benefit his alma mater, the Harvard University School of Medicine. At the auction, Bugatti 38470, still in shortened wheelbase form, was acquired by the current owners, the JWR Collection of Pennsylvania.
A major restoration of 38470 was then commissioned with the intention of bring it back to original factory specifications in all respects. The mechanical work was performed by Don Koleman’s Competition Motors in New Hampshire. The first priority was to return the original chassis to its correct long wheelbase form. Competition Motors then upgraded the car’s second engine, number 209, to supercharged form via the fortunate purchase of an original Bugatti supercharger. The body work was sent to Robert Lorkowski of L’Cars in Wisconsin, and they expertly crafted a new body around the small amount of original bits that survived.
The work was completed in early 1993, and the owners and their team were rewarded later that year when Bugatti 38470 won a prize in class at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. Since then this Bugatti Type 38A has attended many meetings and has won numerous concours awards.
“Bugatti 38470 was at Competition Motors at the same time as my Type 23, chassis 2244, now with Leo Keoshian, so I got to watch its restoration alongside mine. It was a beautiful job and they even found an authentic T37A supercharger for it, something I don’t believe one could do today. The car had a long British history and is in the 1954 Eaglesfield-Hampton “Bugatti Book” on page 66. It went through a chain of owners, and the JWR Collection bought it at the “Harvard” auction of Dr. Terry Bennett in September of 1991 for $91,000 in “shortened” condition. I remember being stunned it sold for so much at the time.”Sandy Leith, Registrar, American Bugatti Club, 2016.
“Bugatti the man was not merely a brilliant engineer, he was also an artist of rare talent. A third gift, a genius for marrying these two concepts of function and form, resulted in the Bugatti motor cars, each an intuitive creation combining purity of line, a lithe strength, stamina and speed, and, often, a show of temperament. In short, a Thoroughbred justifying the sobriquet, Le pur-sang des automobiles.”Hugh Conway, 1987.
A total of 385 examples of the Type 38 were produced from 1926 to 1927 as an 8 cylinder 2 liter model using the engine from the Type 35A Grand Prix car. This engine had three main roller bearings, unusual for Bugatti, but in other respects the engine benefited from all of the classic Bugatti features such as a single overhead camshaft, mono block construction and three valves per cylinder. Toward the end of the production life of the Type 38, the engine was also given a Bugatti Roots type supercharger in order to increase performance. This lead to the final 39 cars being known as Type 38A’s.
In other respects the Type 38A was typical of the classic and much admired Bugatti configuration of the day including the elegant solid front axle with semi-elliptic springs, the rear axle resting on reversed quarter elliptics, and wire wheels all around. To this was added a 4-speed Bugatti transmission and superb cable operated 4-wheel brakes. The whole package was precisely controlled through a classic Bugatti designed steering wheel and box. The road going and handling of the Type 38A were superb, although it was not the fastest Bugatti model on offer.
This Type 38A Bugatti has a remarkable and continuous history beginning with its famous first owner and racing at Brooklands and extending to the concours of Pebble Beach and the Elegance at Hershey. It has a genuine chassis frame, now of correct length, as well as other genuine mechanical components. However due to its early racing history, 38470 has lost its original engine. Fortunately, the current engine is a genuine Bugatti unit in the proper supercharged configuration. The original body has been largely replaced by a new one. The result is that today, following an extensive and careful restoration, this beautiful and important Type 38A is in excellent condition and ready to serve its fortunate next owner very well indeed.John Kleen, Vintage Consultant
“The very complete provenance of this remarkable car has been assembled with the considerable assistance of international Bugatti expert Kees Jansen. Bugatti 38470 was acquired by the JWR Collection at the Harvard Auction in 1991 in non-original condition. Donald Koleman of Competition Motors and Bob Lorkowski of L’Cars were assigned the task of doing a full restoration. Don converted the chassis back to its original length while Bob and his team expertly crafted a new body from the small amount of original bits that survived. The result is an award winning automobile.”Ed Fallon, Executive Director, The Finest Auctions, 2016.