Car of the Week: Bugatti Type 54
Bugatti Type 54
Picked by Tim Scott – Photographer
There’s one manufacturer whose name repeats again and again in pre-war motorsport victories: Bugatti. During the ‘20s and ‘30s the French marque won multiple Grands Prix with its Type 35 model in Spain, Italy, France, Germany and Monaco.
But from the mid-1930s, Bugatti was facing increasingly fervent competition from Alfa Romeo and Maserati, not to mention the government-backed Mercedes-Benz team. As a result the Type 35 was enhanced in every way to produce this car, the Type 54.
The 4.9-litre supercharged straight-eight engine produced around 300hp, and could propel the Type 54 to around 150mph. It showed incredible pace at its first Grand Prix outing, but thanks to two burst tyres it was only able to finish third. Soon after, tragic accidents and rule changes brought the Type 54’s racing career to an end not long after it began, robbing it of the chance to explore its full potential.
This car, coming to Concours of Elegance in 2017, is perhaps the most mechanically original Type 54 in existence today. Finished in Bugatti Bleu de France, it’s a perfect reminder of what the pinnacle of motorsport looked like more than 80 years ago, and I can’t wait to see it – and hear it – roll into Hampton Court Palace later this year.