The rolling Bugatti chassis 40748 with engine 772 was built in 1929 and sold new in 1930 to Alistair Leveson-Gower, a Parisian aristocrat. It has factory Roadster bodywork designed by Jean Bugatti. At one point this Type 40A was owned by the Parisian dealer, Dominique Lamberjack. This car arrived in the US sometime after the war. By the 1950’s this Type 40A Bugatti was located in southern California, and in 1961 it was purchased by Rudi Van Daalen Wetters whose family has owned it to this day.
Noted Bugatti historian Kees Jansen has confirmed the known history of this car. The rolling Bugatti chassis 40748 with engine 772 was built in 1929 and remained at the factory in Molsheim for the next seventeen months. Shortly before it was sold, the chassis was upgraded by the factory to Type 40A specifications by the addition of a 1625 cc block with twin plugs per cylinder. The chassis was also fitted with a very handsome Jean Bugatti Roadster Luxe body with Dickey Seat. This Type 40A was sold new on June 19, 1930 to Alistair Leveson-Gower, an aristocrat related to the Duke of Sutherland and well involved in Parisian aristocratic society. Upon taking delivery in Molsheim, the new owner drove his Bugatti to Paris with the able assistance of Louis Chiron as co-driver. At the time, Chiron was a highly regarded member of the factory Grand Prix racing team.
“The Type 40 Bugatti is one of those cars which one appreciates to the full only after having driven it some considerable distance. The car is, above all, thoroughly roadworthy, and this surely is the greatest recommendation of all.”The Motor, December 10, 1929.
Not much is currently known about this Bugatti’s Parisian life. However, Dominique Lamberjack, the Parisian agent, attached a plate to the car, and so it was undoubtedly owned by him at some point. The car remained in France during the war as evidenced by two additional plates that were attached: one from the Automobile Club France du Nord in 1942 and another from the German Totenkopf and Hakenkreuz. This Type 40A Bugatti came to the US after the war and was discovered in southern California when an old house was demolished in Chavez Ravine for the development of the baseball park for the Los Angeles Dodgers. The car was purchased by Rudi Van Daalen Wetters on July 20, 1961. At that time, the car had the French license plate 69 JG 75, but it was subsequently registered in California as UBK 795. Rudi Van Daalen Wetters was a true Bugatti enthusiast and expert who had multiple Bugattis over the course of his life. With his passing in 1999, the Type 40A was inherited by Ria Van Daalen Wetters, his wife and a fellow Bugatti enthusiast. She continues to own the car to this day. The Type 40A was restored to Concours standards in 2004 and had its engine rebuilt in 2015 by High Mountain Classics of Greeley, Colorado.
The combined works of Ettore and Jean Bugatti are very highly prized by collectors today. Bugatti automobiles are known for superb craftsmanship, intrinsic character and individuality. During a period of more than thirty years, a total of only about 7,800 Bugattis were produced, and of that total, less than 2,000 exist today. The range of Bugatti automobiles produced was very broad indeed, and included the incomparable and all-conquering Type 35 Grand Prix car, the magnificent Type 41 Royale and the stunning Type 57 SC Atlantic Coupe.
The Bugatti Type 40 was introduced in 1926 as a nimble and speedy model in the current factory lineup. An improved model, the Type 40A, was produced in 1930. The Types 40 and 40A were a bit smaller and more moderately priced than other Bugatti offerings at the time. A grand total of 830 were produced between 1926 and 1930, including about 50 Type 40A’s in 1930. It is estimated that around 200 Type 40’s and Type 40A’s have survived to this day.
“They say that you must live in your own time. But for me the past, especially the works of my family, leaves me in admiration – it still fascinates me to this very day. From my perspective, the future is rooted in the creations of the past.”Caroline Bugatti, 2010.
The Type 40 was originally fitted with a Grand Prix derived 4-cylinder overhead cam engine of 1,500 cc displacement with three valves per cylinder. The later Type 40A featured a larger block of 1,625 cc displacement and two plugs per cylinder giving a somewhat better performance. The classic Bugatti designed solid front axle sat on semi-elliptic springs, the rear axle rested on reversed quarter elliptics and the wheels were 19-inch wires. To this package was added a Bugatti designed 4-speed transmission and superb cable operated 4-wheel brakes. The whole package was precisely controlled by a classic Bugatti designed steering wheel and box.
At 2,200 pounds, the Type 40A was light, well-balanced and a joy to drive. Many chassis were fitted with attractive custom bodies supplied by outside coachbuilders. Contemporary reports praised the car for its versatility and ability to reward the driver whether for touring, competing in hill climbs or contesting sports car races.
The Type 40A Bugatti Roadster is composed of all of the best elements of the classic Bugatti designs of the 1920s and 1930s. The history of this car is notable for having an aristocratic first owner, having been driven by Louis Chiron and being currently owned by the same family of knowledgeable enthusiasts for the past 55 years. Today’s high level of interest in Bugatti automobiles derives from their rarity, meticulous build, astonishing design and beauty as well as an unparalleled history of excellence on road-racing courses and highways around the world. As one of the bright stars in that history, this Type 40A is sure to be forever valued highly by all those who understand the historic importance of Bugatti automobiles.John Kleen, Vintage Consultant