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Automobile of the Week: This 1938 Bugatti Is an Artwork-Deco Dream That’s Now up for Grabs

Automobile of the Week: This 1938 Bugatti Is an Artwork-Deco Dream That’s Now up for Grabs

One of the most renowned and focused car collections of this century was assembled by Peter Mullin, who passed away in September of 2023. He was a personality known to enthusiasts and exhibitors as a man with a taste for the finest automobiles, most of them French. The Mullin Automotive Museum, founded in 2010, featured not just European cars and automobilia, but furniture and other expressions of great design, especially from the 1930’s Art Deco era. Gooding & Company will offer select vehicles and objects from the collection—all to be sold at no reserve—on Friday, April 26.

Although Mullin’s eponymous museum, in Oxnard, Calif., officially closed in February, the auction will be held at the location. Among the featured lots is this Bugatti Type 57C Aravis “Special Cabriolet,” which would be an exquisite piece of art even if it weren’t an automobile, as this is a car whose form stirs as much passion today as its performance did when it was new.

This 1938 Bugatti Type 57C Aravis “Special Cabriolet” will be auctioned at the Mullin Automotive Museum in Oxnard, Calif.

Michael Furman, courtesy of the Mullin Automotive Museum

The variety of Bugatti models is bewildering to anyone but a marque specialist. But for cocktail-party conversation, the one to remember is the Type 57. Under that moniker were built the most beautiful and collectible automobiles from Molsheim, and the Aravis is among them. The Type 57 was the company’s most successful road-going model, and the Type 57C upped performance with a factory supercharger. The engine is Bugatti’s 3.3-liter straight-eight, a gear-driven DOHC design with two valves per cylinder. With a single Stromberg carburetor, it develops 170 hp and allows the car to reach about 95 mph.

The steering wheel and dashboard of a 1938 Bugatti Type 57C Aravis “Special Cabriolet.”

The car was restored by Sargent Metal Works, in Vermont, after being acquired by the Mullin Collection.

Michael Furman, courtesy of the Mullin Automotive Museum

Bugatti’s two-seat Aravis cabriolet was named after a mountain pass in the Swiss Alps. Designed and styled by Jean Bugatti, son of the automaker’s founder Ettore Bugatti, just 11 examples were produced from 1934 to 1939. Coachbuilders Gangloff and Letourneur & Marchand fabricated five bodies each, with another by Albert D’Ieteren. Three Gangloff-bodied examples survive today, and chassis No. 57768 is one of only two originally fitted with a supercharger.

The 170 hp, 3.3-liter straight-eight engine inside a 1938 Bugatti Type 57C Aravis “Special Cabriolet.”

Bugatti’s 3.3-liter straight-eight engine makes 170 hp and gives the car a top speed of about 95 mph.

Michael Furman, courtesy of the Mullin Automotive Museum

A 1938 model, the vehicle was ordered new by Avignon agent Granat & Fils for Maurice Trintignant, Bugatti’s acclaimed team driver who raced it in period at the Grand Prix du Comminges in 1939. Featuring ivory bodywork with dark blue fenders and trim, the car was restored by Sargent Metal Works, in Vermont, after being acquired by the Mullin Collection.

A 1938 Bugatti Type 57C Aravis “Special Cabriolet.”

Only three examples of the model that feature a body by coachbuilder Gangloff exist today.

Michael Furman, courtesy of the Mullin Automotive Museum

The car is known in concours circles and was awarded First in Class at the 2005 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. It was later on display at the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles, taking a prominent position in the Peter and Merle Mullin Artistry Gallery. Although offered with no reserve, it’s estimated to fetch as much as $3.5 million.

See Also

Click here for more photos of this 1938 Bugatti Type 57C Aravis “Special Cabriolet” in Photos.

A 1938 Bugatti Type 57C Aravis “Special Cabriolet.”

The 1938 Bugatti Type 57C Aravis “Special Cabriolet” being auctioned through Gooding & Company.

Michael Furman, courtesy of the Mullin Automotive Museum

Source: Robb Report

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