The Shah of Persia’s Bugatti was among the more spectacular designs fit on a Type 57 chassis. Mohammad Pahlavi was born the son of Reza Pahlavi who was the Shah responsible for the modernization of Iran and he took a keen interest in Automobiles. Mohammad took over his father’s role and lead the petroleum-rich Iran from 1941 onwards. By 1979, conservative Muslims, led by the Ayatollah Khomeini, revolted and overthrew Mohammad’s dictatorship monarchy.
As his second of three wives, Mohammad married Princess Fawzia, a daughter of the King Fouad who ruled Egypt. The event happened in Cairo on March 14th, 1939. Since Iran had good relations with Egypt and most of the Western World, many countries sent presents for the wedding which included a royal airplane and several unique cars, but none of them were as beautiful as this Bugatti.
It was the French Government which commissioned the best talent within their country to provide a gift for the Shah’s wedding. To create one of most extravagant cars to come from their country, France chose Van Vooren and Bugatti.
Using the flowing lines of Figoni et Falaschi as inspiration, Van Vooren worked upon chassis #57808, a low slung Bugatti Type 57C. Their result was a twin passenger cabriolet of substantial proportion and style. Unusual highlights introduced by Van Vooren included a very short windscreen which could be wound down into the bulkhead and a disappearing top which was concealed by a panel behind the interior.
Bugatti contributed a Type 57C chassis that came equipped with a supercharger. It helped the car produce an impressive 175 horsepower (130kW) from a 3245cc (198 cu in) engine.
Until 1979, the Shah’s Bugatti stayed in the Royal Court of Iran. Afterwards, the Ayatullahs, who had nearly scraped the car, sold the it at a very low price. Fortunately, the buyer had the Bugatti shipped to the USA and saved it in the process. At this point the car was heavily butchered to accommodate an American V8 until later shipped to England for a full rebuild by Rod Jolly Coachbuilding and Louis Giron. After the restoration, the Shah’s Bugatti auctioned for $1,760,000 USD and has since changed owners several times.
The car currently has a good home at the Petersen Museum in California alongside some of the most important cars in world.
Specs & Performance
Limited Production Car
1935 – 1939
Molsheim, Alsace, France
DOHC, 2 Valves per Cyl
Dual Throat Updraft Stromberg UUR-2 Carburettor
3257 cc / 198.75 in³
72 mm / 2.83 in
100 mm / 3.94 in
119.3 kw / 160 bhp
49.12 bhp per litre
98.16 bhp per tonne
body / frame
Aluminum or Steel Body over Steel Frame
Worm & Gear
Rigid Axle w/Semi-Elliptic Springs, Hartford Friction Shock Absorbers
Live Axle w/Reversed Quarter-Elliptic Springs, Hartford Friction Shock Absorbers
Intriguing World War II provenance. Meticulous restoration. Multiple concours award-winner and proven rally participant. One of only 96 Type 57Cs built.
As researched by French Bugatti historian Pierre-Yves Laugier, chassis 57809 was ordered on December 22, 1938 by M. Gerand Ankerman from Paris. The chassis was dispatched to Letourneur & Marchand in February 1939. It had been registered in Paris before being sent to the coachbuilder. The completed car was delivered on April 6th, bearing the handsome three-position drophead coupe body, coachbuilder’s number 2957. The last drophead four-seater completed by the coachbuilder in 1939, it had special chromed Cibie headlamps, a large STOP lamp at the rear and a central lamp in front. Painted black, it had black leather upholstery and a cream top. All four wheels had plain discs, the rears behind fender skirts. Delivered price was 133,455 FF (then equivalent to $3,350). The original engine number was 952C. Auction Source: 2011 Automobiles of Arizona by RM Auctions
This Type 57C, chassis no. 57787, was ordered by William P. Harges, a wealthy American living in England. A supercharged model, it was fitted with an elegant, one-of-a-kind custom body, by British coachbuilders James Young of Bromley, that was crafted to Rolls-Royce standards. It was delivered to Mr. Harges in March 1939 by the London Bugatti agent, Jack Barclay Ltd. This car was one of the last Bugattis to leave France before the Germans entered Paris.
A Faux Cabriolet, this Bugatti’s many intriguing features include a sliding sunroof, very thin windshield pillars for better visibility and more graceful lines, landau irons, dual enclosed side mounts (one is simulated and it contains a hidden toolbox), illuminated vanities and folding picnic trays for the rear passengers, and a recessed tool tray. The rear seats resemble armchairs in a posh British men’s club, and the three-quarter top affords considerable privacy for rear seat occupants. The Bugatti’s chromed wire wheels accent its brilliant black finish. Chassis no. 57787 was given British registration number FXC66, which corresponds with its supercharged engine number: C66.
Apparently Mr. Harges did not own the Type 57C for long before it caught the attention of Colonel Godfrey Giles, President of the Bugatti Owners’ Club and one of the foremost Bugatti owners of his day. As a measure of his admiration for 57787, Colonel Giles convinced Mr. Harges to trade his lovely cabriolet even across for Giles’ spectacular 1938 Type 57SC Corsica-bodied roadster, chassis no. 57593, which he called “La Petite Suzanne.”
Colonel Giles, who liked naming his Bugattis, called no. 57787 “Charmaine,” and according to the American Bugatti Register, he said it was “…the most luxurious car of any make he had ever owned.” But Giles, as well, did not own “Charmaine” for very long. The car’s next owner, the Hon. Dorothy Paget, daughter of Lord Queenborough and Pauline Payne Whitney, was a celebrated British thoroughbred horse racing personality. Her stable won 1,532 races and included Golden Miller, five-time winner of the Cheltenham Gold Cup from 1932-1936. Miss Paget sponsored Bentley racing teams that competed at Le Mans, and she financed the development and competition of Sir Henry “Tim” Birkin’s famed 4 ½-litre “Blower” Bentleys.
The Bentley connection continued. Charmaine’s next owner was three-time consecutive Le Mans winner, “Blue Train” owner and former Bentley Motors owner and chairman, Woolf “Babe” Barnato. Bugatti authority Geoffrey Battersby was the next owner, and he sold no. 57787 to a Mr. R. Newsholme, from whom it passed to British industrialist Alan Haworth, who kept the car for thirty years on his Isle of Man estate.
Noted British collector and vintage racer Terry Cohn bought Charmaine and kept the car in his collection, which included several significant pre-WWI Rolls-Royce Silver Ghosts and a selection of 8C Alfa Romeos. Cohn had the car fully sorted mechanically by a Bugatti specialist before bringing it to the United States fifteen years ago, where it has remained ever since.
Extensively documented in the Bugatti Trust Archives, featured in countless Bugatti books, including 57: The Last French Bugatti by Barrie Price, and written about in the Bugatti Owners’ Club publication Bugantics, “Charmaine” has always been properly maintained, preserved and stored by a series of distinguished collectors.
This lovely car remains in exceptional condition, with its original chassis plate and all of its original components, including the supercharger, intact. The one-off James Young Faux Cabriolet coachwork exhibits fabulous patina throughout, especially with respect to its completely original interior where the tan leather remains soft and remarkably supple. In the course of this car’s long known history, some exterior trim and paintwork was apparently done over, but every effort was made to keep restoration at a minimum so the car could be shown in the preservation class at top concours events, including the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance.
Custom-built, a supercharged Series III Type 57C with a unique and luxurious James Young Faux Cabriolet body, one of the last Bugattis built before the war, owned by a remarkable series of famous British personalities and a fabulous patina from decades of careful nurturing, the offering of this rare and lovely Bugatti represents an unusual opportunity which is unlikely to be repeated. Auction Source: 2009 RM Auctions’ Automobiles of London
The 1936 Bugatti Type 57 Stelvio presented here is finished in two-tone blue with coachwork by Gangloff. The Type 57 was originally purchased in February 1936 in Belgium by a man named M. Soler. Early photos show the car in Belgium with the chrome “B” on the boot signifying its nationality for European roads.
Over the years the Bugatti has changed ownership several times, entering the well-known collections of DeDobbeleer, Gene Cesari and Juli Sano to name but a few. For nearly thirty years and until recently the car belonged to Henry Schafer of Princeton, New Jersey. During his ownership, Shafer successfully campaigned this car in several East Coast rallies.
Included in the sale is a comprehensive folio documenting a complete body-off restoration undertaken by Mr. Schafer in the late eighties, which includes an abundance of photographs. Today the Bugatti retains its original body, gearbox and motor and a documented history from new. Auction Source: 2009 Automobiles of Amelia Island RM Auction
This lovely car remains in exceptional condition, with its original chassis plate and all of its original components, including the supercharger, intact. Its odometer reads just 55,000 miles, and the one-off James Young Faux Cabriolet coachwork exhibits fabulous patina throughout, especially with respect to its completely original interior where the tan leather remains soft and remarkably supple. In the course of this car’s long known history, some exterior trim and paintwork was apparently done over, but every effort was made to keep restoration at a minimum, so the car could be shown in the preservation class at top concours events, including the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. Auction Source: 2008 Monterey Preview