• Nov 17th 2006 at 7:23PM
  • 12
It's with a heavy heart that we report to you the passing of an automotive icon. Grover Berryman's Van Vooren-bodied 1935 T57 Bugatti convertible coupe (S/N 57287), is no longer with us. In a black comedy-of-errors that might have been considered hilarious if it had happened to something like the Vettamino, the classic Bug burned to the ground, taking most of the garage with it. You really need to click through the read link and discover the whole story, but we'll try to sum it up for you here.

Air Force officer Grover Berryman buys the Bug from the original owner while stationed in France in the early 1950s. He drives the T57 whenever he can around Europe. When he leaves Europe for Saudi Arabia, he decides to ship the car home to the States. His friend Ken Purdy takes care of the car until Grover returns home in 1954. Purdy had even had the engine and transmission rebuilt. The car was repainted with some fairly effective lacquer that lasts for 40 years. He drives it everywhere, but his Air Force duties lead him to park it in a Pennsylvania barn in 1960. It sits there until 1996. Berryman and the car move to San Juan Island, Washington when he retires. The Bugatti gets redone and shows up at the odd family wedding and concours. Berryman's Van Vooren T57 is believed to be the only two-owner full-size Bugatti in the United States.

And then tragedy strikes. While preparing the car for a local show, starter fluid ignites the engine, but also causes a backfire that sets the gasoline-saturated carpets ablaze. The car is pinned in and by the time it can be moved, the damage is done and only gets worse as the roof of the garage caves in on it as well. Poor Grover only had it insured for a fraction of its half-million dollar value too. The cost of rebuilding it would have to come out of his own pocket, so it is unlikely it will be resurrected any time soon. What a shame. Along with the Figoni & Falaschi Delahayes and Delages, these Bugattis were among the most beautiful cars from that golden age of coachbuilding. Our deepest condolences.

[Source: Sports Car Market]

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 8 Years Ago
      I am selling GAZ-M20 made in 1954
      • 8 Years Ago
      1935 T57 Bugatti R.I.P

      ~~~~~ 1935-2006 ~~~~~~
      • 8 Years Ago
      #2--While the damage is certainly extensive and rebuilding the car would be very difficult, please note that there are still many coachbuilders around. The value of the cars and the popularity of concours like Meadowbrook and pebble Beach have let quite a few people make a living off of rebuilding classics like this for ages and there are plenty of younger craftsmen, and craftswomen, who have apprenticed and learned the trade. I happen to know one of these craftswomen who incidentally lives in Washington state. She's just starting her own shop:
      • 8 Years Ago
      how sad, i would have loved to have seen this driving around san juan with the sundry lotus', porsches and other island road carving cars which call it home
      • 8 Years Ago
      And the sad lesson is:

      A.) if you own a REALLY valuable classic car, keep the insurance up to date.

      B.) if you are starting ANY car that has been sitting for a very long time, do it outside in a an area away from buildings and/or flammable materials. I once owned a TR3 Triumph that was notorious for backfiring when started after long periods of sitting. I made sure it was never "hemmed in" when trying to get it started with starter fluid. This car can still be saved, but it will pretty much need to be re-done from scratch. And while there are no coachbuilders, a really good restoration shop (and there are a few) can roll or press needed panels for this car.
      • 8 Years Ago
      That's terrible -- I cannot imagine how much it would hurt to lose something so special you've had so long.

      Of course, the accident with the Duesenberg is much more horrible.
      • 8 Years Ago
      Uncle Jed:

      I was thinking the same exact thing. The car that collided with Duesenberg was hit by a Volvo. I can only feel agony for the man at the loss of his family and a beautiful piece of work. I'm sorry to see the story fall out of the spotlight. Whatever happened to the driver?
      • 8 Years Ago
      The worst bit of all, to me, is that he apparently either didn't have a fire extinguisher in his garage, or the presence of mind to use it if he did.

      FIRE EXTINGUISHER!! It's even cheaper than upping the insurance!
      • 8 Years Ago
      Damn,i just found out the previous accident...

      • 8 Years Ago
      That is definitely sad but, frankly, not as sad as the story of the family killed when the Deusenberg that they were riding in (that the father had just finished lovingly-restoring for the Meadowbrook Concours) was hit by a car running a stop sign. This happened just down the street from where I work in Superior Township (just outside of Ann Arbor) a couple of years ago.

      The thing that amazed me was the number of venomous posts by people who thought, somehow, that people going for a pleasure ride in a great classic like that, somehow deserved the fate served up by being in a car never designed to protect it's occupants from reckless impact by another driver. Really opened my eyes to just how cruel & petty some people really are.

      Hopefully, we don't see that with this. As someone who loves the classics and especially appreciates those that have been cared for by their long-time owners, out of love and not speculative venture, it hurts me to see that this car is no more. I hope Mr. Berryman is able to appreciate the luxury of experience that he had with this car... And, HEY, JAY LENO! Buy the car, rebuild it and let Mr. Berryman buy it for a couple of dollars... It sounds like he needs & deserves a benefactor like you.
      • 8 Years Ago
      That's terrible. Sadly, I think it's beyond restoration at any cost. The heat would have warped the metal panels and there are no coach builders anymore. For all those years he owned the Buggati, Grover must be devistated. The money is secondary.
      • 8 Years Ago
      Sorry #6 Frank.
      I had forgotten about the coach builders of today. perhaps one would volunteer.
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