Villa Erba

25 May 2013

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Lot 127

1929 Bugatti Type 44 Grand Sport in the style of Bugatti

  • Chassis no. 441008
  • Engine no. 743

€300.000 - €360.000


80 bhp, 2,991 cc single overhead camshaft inline eight-cylinder engine, four-speed manual transmission, solid front axle with semi-elliptic springs, live rear axle with reversed quarter-elliptic leaf springs, and cable-operated drum brakes. Wheelbase: 3,119 mm (122.8 in.)

  • Matching-numbers frame, gearbox, rear axle, chassis plate, and engine block
  • Dashing Grand Sport coachwork
  • Fascinating well-known history


“Le Patron” Ettore Bugatti always offered “road” versions of his automobiles, but they were road cars for racing drivers. That changed at the Paris Motor Show of 1927, where Bugatti debuted the Type 44. This model featured an inline eight-cylinder engine, in two cast-iron blocks of four, with a single overhead camshaft and two inlets and one exhaust valve per cylinder, displacing 2,991 cubic centimetres and producing an estimated 80 horsepower. Fitted with a vibration damper and on a long, by Bugatti standards, 3,119-millimetre chassis, it was still a powerful and fast car, but make no mistake, this was a kinder, gentler Bugatti. The late dean of automotive writers, Ken W. Purdy, a man who knew Molsheim’s creations, reported that “a good one will do 80 miles an hour; it’s reasonably quiet, starts easily, is pleasant to shift, and has the softest clutch I, at least, have ever laid foot to”.



The car offered here, chassis number 441008 with engine number 743, was built in April 1929, and it was originally delivered with a cabriolet body, ordered by Bugatti from favoured coachbuilders Gangloff, of Colmar, to Belgian agent Jos Reinartz. By 1936, it was owned by Dr Eugéne Kuborn, of Luxembourg, passing in 1938 to a Belgian buyer, then back to Luxembourg, and in September 1945, to Belgian architect Albert De Lay.



In 1953, the car was acquired by John Whittaker, of Syosett, New York, bringing the car stateside at a cost of merely $360! It passed through Mike Caruso’s legendary yard in the Bronx, a source of many great classics, to W.O. Grube, of New Jersey, who chose to have the car restored by Clem Kornhoff, with a tourer body removed from another Bugatti.



In 1969, the Bugatti was acquired from Grube by a most unusual buyer, General Motors. America’s largest automaker wasn’t interested in studying the car; they wanted it for display in the Auto Pub at the GM Building in New York City. One can only assume that Le Patron’s spirit intervened in one of his little thoroughbreds being used in such an undignified manner. Whilst being installed in the restaurant, the Type 44 promptly dripped gasoline on electrical equipment and caught fire. Its new body, cam box, and radiator were lost; the rest of the car, fortunately, survived, and it was soon passed on to new ownership with Irving Silverman, of Chicago. Its place in the Auto Pub was presumably taken by lesser machinery.



The next owner, Bill McFarling, began a restoration, completed after the Type 44’s sale to Alan Grant, who had respected British coachbuilders, Wilkinson’s, craft a new body to the exact specifications of an original factory Grand Sport, installed along with a “new old stock Bugatti Molsheim” cam box. The car then passed through the hands of Dr Marcel Perlman, with whom it participated in many shows in the United States, eventually into the ownership of the present French owner.



With its history known to, and recorded by, the Bugatti Trust, this Type 44 remains a very pleasant driver today, and it retains an astonishing number of its original numbers-matching components. It would be a superb road car…just as Ettore Bugatti intended.

Alexander Weaver

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California, United States

Alexander Weaver joined RM Sotheby’s in 2011 as a Car Specialist after graduating from Furman University in South Carolina. Born... read more

Augustin Sabatié-Garat

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United Kingdom

Augustin Sabatié-Garat joined RM Europe in 2012 as a Car Specialist after more than a decade in the collector car hobby. Gradua... read more

Barney Ruprecht

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Ontario, Canada

Barney’s interest in classic cars began at an early age after being introduced to his father’s all-original 1965 Porsche 911. Barney l... read more

David Swig

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California, United States

David Swig joined RM Sotheby’s West Coast division as a Car Specialist in May 2015. David is a life-long automobile enthusi... read more

Don Rose

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United States

Don joined RM in 2006 after several years of professionally trading sports and classic cars, and after earning a reputation as a noted... read more

Donnie Gould

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Florida, United States

Donnie Gould joined the RM team in 2002 as a partner and Car Specialist after more than two decades in the vintage automobile auction ... read more

Gord Duff

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Ontario, Canada

Gord Duff began his journey with RM Sotheby’s in 1998. Since then, he has gained an intimate knowledge of a variety of marques a... read more

Jake Auerbach

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California, United States

Jake Auerbach got his start in the automotive industry at an early age, spending his summers during high school working at a classic c... read more

Kurt Forry

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Having worked for Bonhams’ Automobilia department for over 10 years, Kurt Forry joined RM Sotheby’s with more than a decad... read more

Matt Malamut

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California, United States

A long-time car enthusiast and Southern California native, Matt studied Automotive Technology at San Diego Miramar College and complet... read more

Michael Squire

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United Kingdom

Michael Squire joined RM Sotheby’s European Division in the summer of 2016. He comes to RM with a prestigious racing background ... read more

Mike Fairbairn

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Ontario, Canada

As one of the three founding partners of RM Sotheby’s, Mike has a long-standing interest in the classic car industry. Graduating... read more

Oliver Camelin

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United Kingdom

With an extensive background in exotic sports car history and sales, a particular passion for American curves, and fluency in three la... read more

Paul Darvill

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United Kingdom

Paul Darvill joined the RM Sotheby’s European team at the beginning of 2015. Paul holds a degree in French and Politics from the... read more

Pete Fisher

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Ontario, Canada

Pete Fisher was first introduced to antique cars in high school, working for Classic Coachworks in his hometown of Blenheim, Ontario. ... read more

Shelby Myers

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California, United States

Shelby Myers grew up with the classic car industry infused into every aspect of his life. He had the unique opportunity to watch the R... read more

Tonnie Van der Velden

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United Kingdom

Tonnie Van der Velden joined RM Sotheby’s European division in September 2015 as a Car Specialist. A lifelong enthusiast, Tonnie... read more