• Apr 29, 2010
Bugatti Type 64 Coupe Chassis - Click above for high-res image gallery

Bugatti buffs know that only one Type 64 was ever built way back in 1939. What they may not know is that an extra two Type 64 chassis were stamped at the factory in Molsheim but sadly never finished. That is, never finished until now. One of the two Type 64 chassis wound up in the hands of car collector extraordinaire Peter Mullin and is currently on naked display at his new Mullin Automotive Museum in Oxnard, CA. Thanks to a design contest at Pasadena's Art Center, Stewart Reed Design will be building a brand new body for chassis #64002. A new gullwing body, we should add. Continue reading, after the jump.

Photos by Drew Phillips / Copyright ©2010 Weblogs, Inc.

Following up a smash hit like the Bugatti Type 57 with a worthy successor is as difficult as creating part two of the Godfather. It can be accomplished, but it sure ain't easy. Bugatti built more than 700 Type 57s between 1934 and 1939 and several of them (the Atlantic and Atalante, specifically) are among the most desirable and valuable cars ever built. Despite that, by 1939 the Type 57 was getting a little long in the tooth. A successor was needed, and the task fell into the more than capable hands of Jean Bugatti, Etorre Bugatti's eldest and without question most talented son.

Jean's planned sequel was the Type 64. Slightly wider than the Type 57 though featuring the same 130-inch length, the broader chassis was also stronger and lighter than what underpinned the Type 57. The Type 64 came with a larger 4.5-liter DOHC straight-eight good for 170 horsepower and a 120 mph top speed, solid numbers for the day. Plus, there would have no doubt been a supercharged version called the Type 64C.

The sole factory Type 64 is fitted with handsome, albeit somewhat staid bodywork – when compared to an Atlantic – reminiscent of the Type 57 Ventoux. But we're fairly certain that even sportier coachwork would have resulted in a true classic, maybe even rivalling some of the fancier Type 57s. Sadly, the Type 64 never got the chance to succeed. Jean Bugatti was killed in 1939 while swerving his Le Mans winning Type 57S "surbaissé" (aka Tank Car) to avoid a drunken bicyclist and crashing. Then World War II happened.

The Mullin Automotive Museum in conjunction with Art Center and Stuart Reed Design will be building chassis 64002 a new body. Based heavily on Jean Bugatti's sketches and notes, eight different student submissions were presented before Mullin and Stuart Reed selected a winning design and finalized it. Based on nothing more than a clay model and a couple wall-sized renderings hanging next to the bare chassis, we think the proposed design is fantastic. Retro, deco, very French yet somehow very modern despite the oh-so-classic proportions (giant hood, short, tapering deck) Oh, and it's a gullwing.

But here's the thing, the new designed-in-2010 body is a gullwing not because gullwinged cars are trendy (AMG SLS anyone?), or even a particularly good idea (short people can't shut the doors, don't flip over). No, the new Type 64 body has gullwings because that's what Jean Bugatti intended for a future variant of the Type 64.

For you non-gullwing buffs out there, the original gullwinged car – the 1952 race car Mercedes-Benz 300 SL – got its funny doors because of a loophole in some racing rules. Mercedes racing chief Alfred Neubauer famously declared, "Nowhere is it written that a door can only open sideways." See, the 300 SL was a tubular space frame design, and cutting through said tubes to allow for more normal, "sideways" opening doors would have greatly reduced the car's rigidity. Because the 300 SL had to have doors, it got gullwings. Yet fully 13 years before Neubauer's declaration, Jean Bugatti was dreaming about top-hinged doors.

The question then is should they be doing this? Should Mullin, Stuart Reed and Art Center be building a partially legit but in some ways inauthentic body for the Type 64 chassis? Be sure to consider this: When Fritz Schlumpf's private stash of insanely exotic cars was discovered in the 1970s, one of the most mesmerizing finds was the "Seventh of Six" Bugatti Type 41 Royale. The Seventh of Six was built on a Bugatti factory Royale chassis, but with leftover parts as well as some pieces manufactured by Schlumpf. However, Schlumpf's parts were fabricated using tools and dies from the Bugatti Molsheim factory. Still, to the purists, not good enough to fully be a real Royale. Guess they figure it needed Etorre's sweat. However, we'll pose another question to you: Is the car world a better place if Type 64 chassis #64002 is left bare or if it's covered in modern, winged metal inspired by a true design genius? You can make a good case either way.

Photos by Drew Phillips / Copyright ©2010 Weblogs, Inc.

I'm reporting this comment as:

Reported comments and users are reviewed by Autoblog staff 24 hours a day, seven days a week to determine whether they violate Community Guideline. Accounts are penalized for Community Guidelines violations and serious or repeated violations can lead to account termination.

    • 1 Second Ago