1926 Bugatti Type 38

1926 Bugatti Type 38

The replacement for the Type 30, the Type 38 first appeared in March 1926 during a period of great activity at Bugatti. With its new frame, well designed axle and details; the engine drove through a newly designed more conventional central mounted gearbox. With a lengthened wheelbase from that of the Type 30 and 50mm more track it gave the cars a more rakish look. Riding on Bugatti’s hallmark rear reverse quarter elliptical springs, the front axle and springs passed through the forged axle as with the Type 35.

Like many of the successful car manufactures of his time Bugatti constantly built on the incredible interest and notoriety gained from the success of his racing cars. The close ties to the legendary Type 35 did not end with the suspension and axles. The engine was almost identical to that of the Type 35A. The crank case casting is the same that was later used on the Type 43 with the lower crank case arms being the same width front and rear. The upper crank case casting was the same on all four models the Type 35, 35A, 38 and 43. The only difference being in their machining, with the Type 35A and 38 running a plain bearing crankshaft and the other two a roller bearing example.

Often supplied as a rolling chassis to be bodied by one of the leading coach-builders and stylists of the time. 385 examples were produced between early 1926 and 1927, 39 of which were fitted with the Type 37A supercharger and were subsequently known as 38A.

This stunning and original example was one of a batch of ten Type 38 chassis ordered by Bugatti’s Paris Agency on the 21st of August 1926. Invoiced for delivery on the 5th of October 1926 it was fitted with this elegant and sporting body by none other than Lavocat et Marsaud. One of Bugatti’s favourite coach-builders, they had bodied a number of Type 30 as well as being responsible for the single seater bodies of the Indianapolis cars.

Whilst little or nothing is known at this point about its early history, respected Bugattist and the American Bugatti Registrar Sandy Leith believes this car to have been exported to America as a new car. Andy Rheault’s 1979 American Register lists the car in the ownership of Mayer Pollock of Pottstown, Pennsylvania who had purchased it from a dealer in Nantuet, New York, in 1974 fitted at the time with a Ford V8 which Mr. Pollock subsequently replaced with the engine now fitted.

The original engine for this car was fitted to a well known Type 38 special that can be traced back to American Hudson Mills immediately before the war. The second edition of the American Bugatti Club (ABC) Register, published in 1988, shows the ownership as having changed from Mr. Pollock to internationally renown collector Arturo Keller of Tiburon, California. Now fitted with a Type 38 engine and equipped with non standard large-braked alloy road wheels. A photograph in the history file shows the car otherwise essentially as it is today.

The Third edition of the ABC Register, compiled by Sandy Leith in 2003 lists the car as owned by David van Schaick of Newtown Square, Pennsylvania, with the former owners since Mr. Keller as Dan Margulies and well known Bugatti collector Oscar Davis of Elizabeth New Jersey. Now back on its correct wire wheels the engine Type 38 engine number is recorded as 371, sourced in Eastern Europe by Mr. Pollock. From Mr. Schaick, ownership passed to well known American Bugatti restorer Donald Coleman before returning to the UK in 2007.

Inspected by Bugatti expert David Sewell, he can confirm that the engine is original. From its part No.s and other markings, the lower crankcase is undoubtably original but is believed by Mr. Sewell to be a Bugatti factory replacement some time in its early life. The original factory numbering of 371 in the usual place on the front face of the cambox and the machining on the upper crank case confirm that the engine was at one time fitted with a supercharger. This also fits in with the factory records that show that Engine No. 371 was originally fitted to the Type 38A, Ch.#38473.

The last owner had the engine rebuilt in May 2010. Running a new pressure fed crankshaft and a set of Carillo rods. The pair of original blocks have been rebored and fitted with oversized pistons taking the car and its performance to Type 35T specification. The gearbox is original and has been fitted with the popular dog box modification for ease of use. The rear axle stamped No. 140 and ratio 12 x 56 is believed to matching to the car. The original front axle has been nickel plated as have the original and stamped steering arms.

In its current ownership this stunning example has been the recipient of around €70,000 in preparation and maintenance, with Bugatti specialists Ivan Dutton Ltd. and Thomas Feierabend. A very neatly executed hood was fitted in the UK before the car was delivered to Germany where it has been extensively maintained by Feierabend GMBH. Work includes an extensive overhaul of most of the technical components, the wiring, fitting of a new drive shaft and a complete overhaul of the brakes with the replacement of the brake drums with another, rare, original set of Bugatti brake drums.

Accompanied by a full (split) tonneau cover, eminently usable hood, extra spare wheel and an extensive history file that includes; a David Sewell report, the cars FIVA passport, invoices, registration documents and a very rare original Bugatti Type 38 owners manual.

In recent years 38 221 has competed in the Klausen Rennen,the Schloss Dyke Classic and two international Bugatti Rallies in both Scotland and Germany. With its discreetly fitted overdrive making it ideal for long distance touring, this is the perfect car for the wide array of prestigious Bugatti events, tours and rallies worldwide including the prestigious Mille Miglia. It is not every day that you get to experience the performance of Bugatti’s straight-eight engine in such a sporty four-seat open tourer as this.