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Bugatti Type 51


The Type 51 series succeeded the famous Type 35 as Bugatti's premier racing car for the 1930s. Unlike the dominant Type 35s of the prior decade, the Type 51 (and later Type 53, Type 54, and Type 59) were unable to compete with the government-supported German and Italian offerings.

Bugatti Type 51

Type 51

The original Type 51 bowed in 1931. Its engine was a 160 hp (119 kW) evolution of the supercharged 2.3 L (2262 cc/138 in³) dual overhead cam straight-8 found in the Type 35. A victory in the 1931 French Grand Prix was a rare case of success for the line. About 40 examples of the Type 51 and 51A were produced.

1933 Bugatti Type 59 Grand Prix racer from the Ralph Lauren collection


Type 54

Another 5.0 L Type 51 was the Type 54 Grand Prix car of 1932. Also with 300 hp (223 kW), 4 or 5 were built.

1933 Bugatti Type 59 Grand Prix racer from the Ralph Lauren collection

Type 59

Bugatti Type 59

The final Bugatti race car of the 1930s was the Type 59 of 1934]. It used an enlarged 3.3 L (3257 cc/198 in³) version of the Type 57's engine sitting in a modified Type 54 chassis. The engine was lowered for a better center of gravity, and the frame was lightened with a number of holes drilled in the chassis. The signature piano wire wheels were attached to the brake drums. 250 hp (186 kW) was on tap, and 6 or 7 were made.


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