1928 Bugatti Type 44 Roadster

1928 Bugatti Type 44 Biplace Sport Roadster
Chassis No. 44581
Engine No. 327

The type 44 is widely regarded to be the best of the touring Bugatti offered by the Moslheim firm. Whilst retaining the pleasant dainty looks of a vintage car that were lost on many of the touring models it preceded, it was powered by a lusty 3-litre straight-eight cylinder overhead cam engine that was far stronger and more powerful than the preceding 2-Litre Type 38 touring model it replaced. It is the Grand Prix Bugatti that of course earned the company it reputation and provides the ultimate visceral driving experience, but it is only the foolhardy that enjoy covering long distance road miles aboard. Being a touring model, many Type 44s, were supplied with heavy coachwork not allowing for a particularly sporting performance, but when lighter coachwork is fitted the Type 44 in some ways provides the best of both worlds for a vintage Bugatti – a good deal of the GP performance and sound with enough creature comfort to cover long distances.

The interesting example offered for sale here, chassis no. 44581, is well known to both the Swiss and American Bugatti Registers. A ‘matching numbers’ example, it is the striking coachwork that immediately attracts the eye and raises questions. Clearly of a later design, it is not known exactly when, or by whom, the coachwork was fitted, but it is thought to be Swiss and have been fitted just before, during or just after The Second World War.

Chassis no ‘581’ was fitted with engine 327 and supplied new in July 1928 to a Dr. Jos Karrer of Zurich at a price of 42,639 Francs. ‘581’ was driven to Zurich from Molsheim on temporary plates, most likely without coachwork for tax purposes – an incredible thought now, but regular practice then.
It is thought that the original coachwork was a closed coupé built locally to Dr. Karrer in Switzerland. Dr. Karrer kept ‘581’ for around four years before the first change of ownership occurred. The second owner, Oskar Psfrunder, Mannedorf, registered the car in 1934 with a closed coupe body. It is thought that the second coachwork was therefor fitted at some point between 1934 and 1948 when ‘581’ was owned by Johann Trub, a garage proprietor. In 1953 ‘581’ was purchased from Trub by Peter Sager who had work carried out by Worbaufen near Bern – the invoice stating open cabriolet. There is some thought that the coachwork may have been constructed by Gangloff’s Zurich subsidiary but, while the styling is certainly similar to what one might expect of Gangloff, this cannot be substantiated. A plaque on the instrument panel displays A. Pulver, Basel. This is highly unlikely to be the coachbuilder but more likely a previous owner – a rule in Switzerland during the 1950s requiring cars to have the name of the owner and their city displayed in the car.

In 1953 ‘581’ left Switzerland. Whether or not it went straight to North America is unknown but by 1962 the Bugatti was certainly there and advertised for sale. It was purchased by a R. A. Egen of Columbus (later Long Beach CA) who retained it until the late 1980s. By the early 2000s it was owned by Steve and Anne Norman who commissioned an extensive and comprehensive rebuilt by Phil Reilly restorations in California – one of the most respected of all the North American vintage restorers. Invoices for the work carried out are on file and include a total engine overhaul with new cylinder blocks, crankshaft, connecting rods, pistons and camshaft. Steve and Anne Norman toured extensively with ‘581’ at events including the Colorado Grand, Copperstate 1,000 and a European tour organized by the CCCA. The stories of their travels and the restoration work are recounted in a feature article in the CCCA Bumper Guardian, a copy of which is included in the history file.

Since returning to Europe ‘581’ has been registered in the UK, stripped to bare metal and repainted and then reupholstered by Julian Taylor – one of the very best prewar upholstery specialists in the country.

Combining exceptionally stylish and striking coachwork with the underpinnings of Bugatti’s best touring vintage Bugatti, this fast and exciting vintage car is ideal for European touring. Viewing in person is welcome by appointment and recommended to hear the glorious sound of the fully rebuilt Bugatti Straight eight.

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