Whether it is the early 2-litre unblown cars like this started out, or the later supercharged examples, nothing combines art, engineering and racing pedigree to the same extent as the legendary Bugatti Type 35. The straight 8 2-litre engine, both supercharged and un-supercharged, resembles a piece of art as much as a racing engine. With that distinctive sound that you only get from an eight-cylinder Bugatti, their raw speed, legendary road holding and their staggering racing achievements, it is not difficult to see why they captivate people’s passion and why the Type 35 would sit pride of place if I had to choose an ultimate three cars garage of all time.
The Type 35 made its debut at the 1924 French Grand Prix at Lyon and embodied all of Ettore Bugatti’s experience, talent and sense of aesthetic beauty. With its sleek streamlined body and trademark horseshoe radiator, it is one of the iconic designs of the 20th century. The Type 35’s beauty was matched by its performance.
The Bugatti Type 35 in different guises became a dominant force winning countless Grand Prix and sports car races in the late 20s and early 30s in the hands of Works drivers and amateurs alike. Convincingly winning the Targa Florio in 1925, 1926, 1927, 1928 and 1929; the French Grand Prix every year from 1926 to 1930 and what has to be one of the most significant victories in motor racing history when William Grover-Williams won the inaugural Monaco Grand Prix in 1929. So successful was the Type 35 that out of 23 cars on the grid for the 1930 Monaco Grand Prix, 14 of them were Bugattis. Type 35s are still raced hard to this day at some of the most prestigious circuits around the world including competing for the same cup that Williams won all those years ago.
This car, Chassis 4791
This stunning early unblown Grand Prix Type 35, allocated Chassis Number 4791, and Engine Number 86, was produced on the 14th of June 1926, as part of a three car order for Bugatti’s famous Paris show room. Fitted with the beautiful ‘Lyon’ style radiator and Aluminium wheels, it was invoiced for 84,000 Francs and was delivered to Paris on the 10th of July with the other three cars following over the next 18 days.
Looking at the histories of the other known GP cars registered in Paris in the surrounding weeks, it is likely that 4791 was allocated one of a series of X2 Paris registration numbers. Sadly the exact registration number is not known to date.
The first potential indication of 4791’s early racing history comes in July 1934 when Frenchmen Hervé de Berc and Serge du Roy de Blicquy entered the latter’s 2-litre Grand Prix Bugatti into a 10 hour Sportscar race hosted by the Belgium Royal Automobile Club at Spa on the 8th of July, where they took victory in the 2-litre class. Carrying race number 72 and registered 5513 RB5, this was a Paris registration dating from early 1929, which was only a few months after the French registration system was nationally revised. Two photos of the car are published in separate books, one of which being the biography of famous French Bugatti restorer Henri Novo. Novo was dispatched to Spa for the race to help look after the car.
The earliest written record of 4791’s history was when the car was sold to HRH Prince Bertil of Sweden in either 1936 or early 1937. The Swedish registration document (a copy of which is in the history file), shows 4791 was imported and registered in Sweden, in the Prince’s name, on the 31st of July 1937. In his memoirs the Prince recalls having bought the car in tired condition, presumably in France, before restoring it, taking part in a few races locally and importing it into Sweden. It is worth noting that the ownership of this car is fully documented from this point to the present day.
Born in Stockholm in February 1912, Bertil Gustaf Oskar Carl Eugén was the third son of Kind Gustaf VI Adolf of Sweden. Well liked in Sweden, Beril was a keen sportsman and was passionate about cars.
A photograph of Prince Bertil arriving in Sweden at the wheel of 4791 shows the car to have several features in common with the de Blicquy car from Spa. According to David Sewell in his extensive historical report on the car, when studying the photo closely you can see the registration 5513 RB5 on the front apron, confirming in his words ‘beyond any doubt whatsoever that is it indeed the same car’.
Although the car at Spa carried a larger radiator and wire wheels, the Lyon radiator is back on the car in the Swedish photo along with the aluminium wheels. David Sewell notes that the original radiator may well have been refitted after Spa as you can see a cut out in the front apron wide enough to accept the wider radiator fitted at that time. The front and rear wings and wing stays look exactly the same as do the twin cowls, although twin aero screens had since been added.
Bugatti had strong links with the Swedish Royal Family as it did with a number of royal families including Belgium and Spain. Ettore’s son Jean was known to deliver cars personally on occasions. As Bugatti was very much the marque to have at the time, this is no surprise.
As listed on the original Swedish registration document, 4791 was registered A1434 and remained with Prince Bertil for less than a year before the next listed owner is Kjell Georg Grauers on the 14th of June 1938. A car dealer, he sold it or registered in the name Automobilifirma Grauers on the 17th of December 1938, before it was eventually registered to Tjerk Grauers a year later on the 30th of December 1939.
The document features two notations, one on the 10th of May 1940 and the other 30th of October 1940, presumably both while still in Tjerk Grauers names, before a note on the 3rd of March 1941 mentioned the name Johansson. 4791 was then officially acquired by Gunnar Johansson who was reputedly a Baker from Stockholm. On the 1st of November 1946 ownership passed to the last name recorded on this document, Mr. Gustav Nobelius, the owner of a Stockholm ‘speed shop’. The final stamp in the document is in his name on the 13th of September 1949.
During his ownership he reduced the cars capacity to 1500cc, presumably to meet a class requirement at the time. It is not known whether he did this by shortening the stroke or lining the bores. He also fitted a supercharger at this time. He raced 4791 in the 1947 Winter Grand Prix at Rommehen, but soon after suffered damage to the upper crankcase when a connecting rod let go. A poor quality photograph exists of the car at the time showing it without wings and what may well be a supercharger blow-off hole on the bonnet.
Nobelius prepared the engine with parts from Type 38A Chassis Number 38477 / Engine Number 377, effectively uprating 4791 to 35C specification. Reputedly replacing the cylinder blocks and presumably the upper crankcase, the numbers 377 can still be clearly seen on the cam box, blower tower and blower drive on the engine to this day.
After further engine problems it was eventually fitted with a Wolseley engine and remained, de-registered (on the 13th of September 1949), for a long time with a Stockholm based car dealer called Gösta Forslund. Forslund sold 4791 to a man named Jansson who managed to obtain some original engine parts to aid its repair and it was eventually sold to Lars Sjöström of Gävle in whose name 4791 is recorded in Hugh Conway’s original 1962 Bugatti Register.
In the entry it is noted as having Engine Number 86, with previous owners Jean Bugatti and Prince Bertil of Sweden (who raced under the pseudonym “mr. Adrian”). It had a narrow Lyon-type radiator, wire wheels and large drum brakes, and was under restoration.
In the accompanying history file there are numerous original correspondence and invoices to Sjöstrom from Bugatti Automobiles from 1955 to 1960, presumably to aid in its restoration. Sjöström eventually sold 4791 to fellow Stockholm resident, Per Larsson in 1966 and it was registered in his name, EOK 251. After completing the restoration he used the car on numerous rallies throughout Europe over the next 30 years. 4791 is listed in Hugh Conways 1973 Bugatti Register update which was published in Bugantics. On the 1st of December 1978, Hugh Conway as the Bugatti Owners Club Registrar, issued Larsson with a replacement chassis plate.
In the early 1990s Larsson moved to live in the South of France where 4791 was re-registered 445 BQN 06. It is from Larsson in the South of France where 4791’s current owner was lucky enough to be able to purchase the car privately back in 2013.
A man who enjoys using his cars properly, the current owner had well known preparation and restorer of pre-War cars Geoff Squirrel prepare 4791 for use. Geoff took the original engine out, stripped and inspected it all thoroughly. Upon inspection it was thankfully decided that all of the parts were so original that it would be a shame to restore the engine to the level required for racing. Better to keep it safe and complete for posterity. As such the engine was reassembled and placed in a custom stand, in which it remains to this day. They then sourced a brand new and complete supercharged Grand Prix engine from Pur Sang in Argentina for the car. Once prepared he has used 4791 extensively on the road both in the South of France and the UK. It is worth noting 4791 now has a removable luggage rack to go over the tail for touring.
As well as enjoying 4791 on the open road, he has also raced it at Goodwood on a number of occasions. 4791’s last outing was at the 2022 Goodwood Members Meeting where sadly one of the cylinder blocks sustained some damage. Upon hearing of the damage Pur Sang sent up two new cylinder blocks with new valves and valve springs and the engine was rebuilt by Geoff Scott-Coomber in the UK.
As it stands today 4791 remains remarkably original. The chassis is clearly stamped with its correct frame number 275 at the rear, as well as the frame makers mark, and it retains all of the unique features one would expect to find from an early 2-litre roller-bearing Grand Prix Type 35.
4791 sits on original front and rear axles and original springs. The correct three bolt rear axle is stamped 84 as is the original torque arm, both of which are most likely to be original to the car. The front axle, although original, is of the larger diameter hollow GP configuration found on Type 35B, 35C and 51 and has probably been fitted at some point in the car’s history. The front axle retains original stub axles and original larger diameter brake back plates.
The gearbox is numbered 122 and is again likely to be the original to the car. Although the car retains its original gearbox lid it is currently fitted with a replica lid incorporating a starter motor.
The original engine, as previously mentioned, is removed from the car in its entirety which gives you the perfect opportunity to admire it in its full glory. The lower crankcase is stamped 4791 and 86 as you would expect. The beautifully cross hatched upper-crankcase may well be a replacement according to David Sewell, although there are signs of a number on the oil filter mounting. The cam box, tower and supercharger drive casings are all numbered 377. This is the engine number from Type 38A 38477 from which the parts were used to repair this engine back in the late 1940s. The original cylinder blocks are numbered as is the supercharger, which is numbered 97.
To summarise, this is an incredibly rare and stunning example of Bugattis legendary Type 35 Grand Prix. Wonderfully complete and original throughout. Remarkably its history is accounted for all bar the first three years of its 97 year life. Raced in period and with a well documented ownership history, including HRH Prince Bertil of Sweden, 4791 has not been offered publicly for sale as far as we are aware, certainly since 1966.
Anyone following Grand Prix Bugatti over the years will know how few such complete and original examples of these early GP cars are left in circulation and how rarely they become available for purchase.
Not only does 4791 retain all of its fabulous originality, it also comes fitted with a new and freshly rebuilt 2.3-litre supercharged Grand Prix engine, allowing you to race and drive the car as hard as they were intended, without risking detracting from any of the cars overall originality.
A car with originality and a history such as this will surely be at the front of any queue for the most prestigious events such as the Mille Miglia and Monaco Historic Grand Prix, as well as the numerous tours, rallies and events across the globe. This is your chance to see for yourself, first hand, why these cars have held their position at the pinnacle of motor racing history.