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Bugatti Type 37A Grand Prix, #37316, 1928

  • This well known Bugatti was the personal car of test driver Pierre Veyron, who, in addition to contributions technical, won numerous Grand Prix races for Bugatti. Perhaps his greatest victory, Veyron won the 24 hours of Le Mans in 1939 alongside Jean-Pierre Wimille. But that aside, and so much more vitally, Veyron served as a member of the French Resistance against German occupation during World War II. Wimille, too, was a member of the Resistance, along with countless other members of the motoring community whose engineering connections proved valuable against enemy weapons planning and production. Veyron either worked with, or was part of a cell named 'Chestnut.' This sabotage unit was started in part by fellow racer Charles Frederick William Grover, a francophile Englishman often known to the history books as simply "Williams." This unit included Wimille and a fourth Bugatti racing driver, Robert Benoist. The wartime departure for these French sportsmen was obviously perilous; many were captured and some unfortunately executed, Williams and Benoist among them. Veyron himself was fortunate to elude the Germans, and in 1945 he received the French Legion of Honour for his service. Most accounts state that following the War he distanced himself from the motoring life he'd once led, and thus his name remained obscure outside of France until Bugatti—now German-owned—honored his memory with the naming of its first hypercar in 2005. And so it's a strangely woven basket of nationalistic tendencies and motoring enthusiasm that brought us the modern-day Bugatti Veyron, but the roots of the story are assuredly, appropriately French.
  • As to this Type 37A, chassis #37316 was formerly owned by the late Robert Dunlap. Dunlap was a founding member of the American Bugatti Club (ABC), originally its secretary and later its president. According to the owner of record, this Type 37A was the third car logged in the ABC club registry. As for that owner of record, it is of course Jay Leno, perhaps America's greatest ambassador for the classic car—meaning he sets the community's standard for sharing and generosity, to say nothing of the respect he displays for the preservation and real-world use of the vehicles he owns.
  • About the car, the Type 37A is the baby brother of the Type 35, though its internals are based on the more tractable Type 40. From a 1½ litre overhead cam straight four there's 60 brake horsepower. In a lightweight car comprised of a semi-hollow, belly-style chassis with a thin tapertail body held together by copper safety wire, that kind of power is good enough for speeds near 100 miles per hour. According to Jay, this car was third in the 1928 Targa Florio—perhaps its biggest stage—although in that case the driver was likely Carlo Alberto "Caberto" Conelli, an Italian count who often raced Bugatti cars.
  • Main differences from the Type 35 include half the cylinders, the use of plain bearings—meaning no rollers, and therefore a simpler and more durable motor—and a smaller supercharger. In this layout there are still three valves per cylinder—two intake and one exhaust—and bevel-drive to the camshaft. Absent, however, are the single-cast alloy wheels and brakes that were particular to Grand Prix Bugatti cars, opting for conventional wires instead. Again, this omission meant the Type 37A was less complex and less costly, making it ideal for voiturette racing.
  • Modern additions to #37316 include an electric fuel pump and horn for driving in traffic, and an alternator that runs on a pulley off the driveshaft. The alternator's position is less visually obtrusive than on some other examples used for modern driving, though of course it only charges when the car is moving.

 

Last Updated: Nov 6, 2017