Bugatti’s Type 50 borrowed most of its traits from the luxurious Type 46 and improved the design in many important ways. So much so, the Type 50 cost almost double the price of its predecessor and both were offered at the same time. Naturally only the best bodies were affixed to the Type 50 which in many ways was the predecessor to the Type 41 Royale.
Like the Type 46, the Type 50’s main feature was its one-piece engine which was actually reduced in capacity to accept a unique DOHC cylinder head. This was to provide clearance for the twin cam setup which was borrowed from Miller and first used on the Type 51 Grand Prix car.
With it’s hemispherical combustion chambers, high compression ratio and short stroke, the Bugatti Type 50 could reach high enough rpm to produce 200 bhp. This was a remarkable figure that was only matched by the Duesenberg SJ in its time.
Other than the engine, the Type 50 was completely similar to the Type 46 having three speed gearbox in unit with the rear axle. Braking was handled by large diameter drums. Spectacular cast aluminum wheels were fitted as standard and included the brake drum and cooling fins.
The chassis was simple ladder frame design that was offered in two sizes: the short wheel base sometimes known as the ‘Sports’ had a wheelbase of 3100mm while the longer ‘Touring’ with a 3500 mm wheelbase was known as the 50T.
Bodystyles for the Type 50 were diverse and usually matched the chassis high price and specification. Each car was sold as a rolling chassis and bodied by either Bugatti or a design house of the customer’s choice. In either case, many used the same radiator and hood that came provided.
One of the most distinct and dramatic bodies fitted to the Type 50 was the Coupe Profilee which used a raked windscreen and sweeping two tone paint job to great effect. Only two examples were made on the longer 50T chassis.
Despite being marketed and designed as a road model, Type 50s raced at the 24 Hours of the LeMans from 1931 to 1935. They were never successful, but usually held top positions before their retirement.
Unlike the more successful Type 46 which sold over 460 units, the expensive Type 50 only brought in 65 orders between 1930 and 1934.
Eventually, the entire Bugatti line was consolidated to the Type 57 Bugatti, considered by many to be the final true Bugatti design.
Chassis & Sales
50144-1932 Bugatti Type 50 Cabriolet. First delivered to M. Alexis Baptifaut of Paris on the rare short chassis with vane-type alloy wheels. Fitted initially with a Van Vooren Faux-Cabriolet body which was modified by Corsica into a full Cabriolet. Imported to UK for Col. Giles who had the car refurbished and modified by Corsica.
Shipped to the US in 1940, separated chassis and body. Eventually the body we reunited and became part of the Dr. Peter Williamson collection. Fully restored for the 2008 Pebble Beach Concours and subsequently sold at Gooding & Company’s 2010 Amelia Island Auction for $1,100,000 USD.
The first owner of this car was J. Lemon Burton, who enjoyed it for a number of years. In 1940, it was imported to the United States. The chassis arrived accompanied by two bodies; one was the close-coupled convertible currently fitted to the car and the other was a lightweight touring body. The touring body later disappeared and the other was later sold to Bob Heller with whom it remained for the subsequent years.
The chassis remained detached from its bodies for many years until East Coast collector A.A. Garthwaite Jr. acquired it in 1947. He was able to purchase the convertible coachwork from Mr. Heller for the sum of $250 and reunited it with the Type 50 chassis.
Dr. Peter Williamson purchased the car in the early 1970s and gave it to his father, Norris, as a birthday present. Mr. Williamson Sr. had the car restored and finished in Dartmouth green, as he was a graduate of Dartmouth. When he passed away, Peter and Susan Williamson assumed ownership.
The drop head body has recently been refinished in period Bugatti colors of Black and Yellow over a caramel leather interior. At the Pebble Beach Concours, this car received honors for its impression restoration, authenticity, dramatic styling and historical significance.