Inside the Collection

All I want for Christmas is a Bugatti racing car

Type 37A Blue Grand Prix Bugatti
Type 37A Grand Prix Bugatti, designed and made by Ettore Bugatti, Molsheim, France, 1928. Powerhouse Museum collection, purchased 1985, B2603.

The Museum’s magnificent 1928 Type 37A supercharged Grand Prix Bugatti racing car would be on many a visitor’s Christmas wish list. The car was the work of the brilliant designer, Ettore Bugatti (1881-1947). He was said to be the greatest racing car builder until Enzo Ferrari began to dominate the scene in later years. During the 1920s Grand Prix Bugattis took to the circuits with unparalleled success the world over.

The Bugatti was the first racing car designed as an entire concept, whereas other designers often considered the chassis and body as separate entities. It combines aesthetic quality and superb craftsmanship with high performance. The car also has striking visual appeal.

The Museum’s Bugatti has an exciting provenance. It had a runaway victory in the 1929 Australian Grand Prix race at Phillip Island over a rough dirt tract. Driven by its owner, Arthur J. Terdich, its top speed was 110 mph (177 kph). The car was the first Bugatti to win an Australian Grand Prix race and initiated the winning streak held by Bugattis in that race until 1933. The car is a two-seater which provided for a riding mechanic. In the early days of motor racing the cars were notoriously unreliable so mechanics rode in the passenger seat and leapt out to do immediate repairs. They also prevented the car from turning over while cornering at speed by leaning out of their seat to help balance the car.

This Bugatti features a four-cylinder, en-block, overhead camshaft 1496 cc engine with three valves per cylinder made more potent with a Rootes supercharger. The transmission consists of a multi-plate wet clutch, straight-cut sliding pinion gears with a right-hand outside gate change lever. The bodywork is finished in French racing blue with a highly polished horse-shoe shaped radiator of German silver (Bugatti was a sculptor and devoted to horses).

Production years: 1927-1930
Total number built: 77
Chassis No: 37357
Engine No: 257
Bore of engine: 69 mm
Stroke of engine: 100 mm
Carburettor: a single updraft Zenith with a boost of 10 lb/
Tyres:27 x 4.40
Cooling: Pump
Ignition: Delco Remy

During the 1960s this Bugatti competed in numerous club events organised by the Vintage Sports Car Club of Australia in Victoria including historic racing. The Museum was lucky to acquire it in 1984 and for those of you who want to drool over the car, it’s on display in the Transport exhibition.

Written by Margaret Simpson, Curator

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