Villa Erba

25 May 2013

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Lot 125

1927 Bugatti Type 37 Grand Prix

  • Chassis no. 37254
  • Engine no. 207

€750.000 - €1.000.000


80 hp, 1,498 cc single overhead camshaft inline four-cylinder engine, four-speed manual transmission, live axle suspension with semi-elliptic front and quarter-elliptic rear springs, and four-wheel mechanical drum brakes. Wheelbase: 2,400 mm (94.5 in.)

  • Highly original, well-known Grand Prix Bugatti
  • Known ownership throughout, with nearly 30 years in the hands of the current owner
  • Eligible for the world’s leading events
  • Inspected and documented by Pierre Yves Laugier


With the launch of the Type 37 Grand Prix model in 1926, Ettore Bugatti created one of the most iconic racing cars in history, and certainly one of the most instantly recognisable silhouettes in Grand Prix car design.

The Type 37 effortlessly combines both purposeful aesthetics with an understated simplicity, relying on finesse and lightweight design for its performance, rather than the over-engineered brute force that were more typical in racing cars of the period. The car’s 1.5-litre, single overhead cam engine was as compact as it was powerful, and the Type 37 was easily capable of 90 mph. Braking was effective too, and the whole package was quickly identified as a race-winning car for any serious driver on the international racing scene.

The Type 37, like its predecessor, the Type 35, is for many collectors the ultimate embodiment of a high-performance and competitive racing car, yet it is also a car that offers enthusiasts an excellent level of practicality for road-based events and rallies. The wide cockpit offers genuine two-seat accommodation for the driver and a companion, making it a wonderful choice for any driver holding the romantic notion that a car should be driven to a circuit, raced competitively, and then driven home in darkness, courtesy of practical accessories such as wings and headlights. The “Brooklands” style windscreens, the delectable dashboard gauges, and the unmistakable Bugatti wood-rimmed steering wheel all complete what is an exceptionally exciting and simply beautiful car to own and admire.

The car offered here, chassis number 37254, was manufactured in 1927 and sold on 8th October to the Baron Leo d’Erlanger, buyer for London Bugatti agent Colonel W.L. Sorel. Hugh Conway’s 1962 Bugatti Register records the first owner as Loke Wan Yat, the third son of one of Malaysia’s wealthiest residents, and known for buying many unusual automobiles for his family. This was likely the Bugatti driven by one of those relations, Loke Yaik Foo, in the Selangor Automobile Association reliability trial on 10 August 1928, in which the car had the fastest time of the day, 33.5 seconds. The Malayan Saturday Post of 18 August 1928 shows Loke Yaik Foo in a Type 37, mentioning the car’s win in its Sports Cars class.

In the Straits Times of 30 November 1929, Loke’s Bugatti was offered for sale, having “done less than 2,000 miles, new tyres. Cost over $5,000. Will accept $3,000 or near offer. Owner buying Bentley”.

The car’s history between 1930 and 1939 is unverified, but it reportedly included several hill climbs in Malaysia. In 1939, it was acquired by Lim Peng Han, of Singapore, and registered there in 1940 as “S 537”. Son of a great Chinese philanthropist, Lim originally practiced to be a lawyer, but he found his true calling as a mechanic and tuner of fine racing cars. In order to avoid the car being destroyed or stolen from the terrific Japanese occupation during WWII, he dismantled 37254 in 1942 and hid the all the parts in his house, and so it remained, until English enthusiast Diana Saint Georg visited and bet Lim four crates of beer and one bottle of Champagne that she could put the car back together again. All original components of the car were relocated and reassembled in four months, with Saint Georg winning the bet. In autumn 1962, the Bugatti was driven by Peng Han and David Williams Wynn in the Dunlop Gap Hill Climb.

The car passed on 5 August 1965 to Karel J. Mellaart, who sourced two correct side-draft Solex carburettors and a clock, and he restored the car completely. In 1967, it was passed to well-known Bugattiste Uwe Hucke, who registered it in Germany as LK-S-37, drove the 1972 Mille Miglia behind the wheel, and after a move to France, re-registered the car again, this time in Nice as 9680 TG 06. The car passed in 1980 to Jurgen Sinkel, also of Germany, and finally, in 1983, to the present owner.

The car today is astonishingly complete and authentic, and a review of all its parts, crucial for any Bugatti, is quite satisfying. The body is original, save the centre section (per Saint Georg), which was replaced in 1962, when the car was assembled again, and it is in quite good condition, finished in black, with the Singapore-era red still visible inside the frame and cockpit. The bonnet is also original, still retaining the traces of two holes for SU carburettors. The engine leg is stamped 37254 and 207, for the chassis and engine numbers, respectively. Inspecting the engine, the cambox is stamped 207, with assembly number 44 on the front face of the upper crank and on the oil filler platform, as well as on the original lower crankcase, which is not installed but is supplied with the car. The back axle and torque arm are both stamped 340, correct for this car, and the frame number, stamped 526, is in the correct series. The gearbox lid is marked 68 and the centre casing 183, a number too low to be correct, and it is likely from another Grand Prix dismantled in Malaysia.

In summary, this is a well-known and highly original Type 37 with provenance that is virtually unbeatable among 37s today. Mechanically perfectly sorted, chassis 37254 is ready to enter any rallies, and it will be sure to provide its new owner with all the thrills and excitement associated with a pure race-bred Grand Prix Bugatti.

Alexander Weaver

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+1 864 313 6844
California, United States

Alexander Weaver joined RM Sotheby’s in 2011 as a Car Specialist after graduating from Furman University in South Carolina. Born... read more

Augustin Sabatié-Garat

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+44 (0) 74 1511 4179
United Kingdom

Augustin Sabatié-Garat joined RM Europe in 2012 as a Car Specialist after more than a decade in the collector car hobby. Gradua... read more

Barney Ruprecht

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+1 203 912 7168
Ontario, Canada

Barney’s interest in classic cars began at an early age after being introduced to his father’s all-original 1965 Porsche 9... read more

David Swig

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+1 415 302 2247
California, United States

David Swig joined RM Sotheby’s West Coast division as a Car Specialist in May 2015. He is a life-long automobile enthusiast and ... read more

Don Rose

drose@rmsothebys.com

+1 617 513 0388
United States

Don joined RM in 2006 after several years of professionally trading sports and classic cars, and after earning a reputation as a noted... read more

Donnie Gould

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+1 954 566 2209
Florida, United States

Donnie Gould joined the RM team in 2002 as a partner and Car Specialist after more than two decades in the vintage automobile auction ... read more

Gord Duff

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+1 519 352 4575
Ontario, Canada

Gord Duff began his journey with RM Sotheby’s in 1998. Since then, he has gained an intimate knowledge of a variety of marques a... read more

Ian Kelleher

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+1 310 559 4575
California, United States

Ian Kelleher began his automotive career immediately following his graduation from Oberlin College with a Bachelor of Arts in Politica... read more

Jake Auerbach

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+1 310 559 4575
California, United States

Jake Auerbach got his start in the automotive industry at an early age, spending his summers during high school working at a classic c... read more

Jonathan Sierakowski

jonathan@rmsothebys.com

+1 519 352 4575
Ontario, Canada

Jonathan Sierakowski developed a passion for classic cars while working at a Connecticut restoration shop as a teenager. He graduated with a... read more

Kurt Forry

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+1 717 623 1638
California, United States

Having worked for Bonhams’ Automobilia department for over 10 years, Kurt Forry joined RM Sotheby’s with more than a decad... read more

Matt Malamut

mmalamut@rmsothebys.com

+1 805 231 6410
California, United States

A long-time car enthusiast and Southern California native, Matt studied Automotive Technology at San Diego Miramar College and complet... read more

Michael Squire

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+44 (0) 20 7851 7070
United Kingdom

Michael Squire joined RM Sotheby’s European Division in the summer of 2016. He comes to RM with a prestigious racing background ... read more

Mike Fairbairn

mfairbairn@rmsothebys.com

+1 519 352 4575
Ontario, Canada

As one of the three founding partners of RM Sotheby’s, Mike has a long-standing interest in the classic car industry. Graduating... read more

Oliver Camelin

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+44 (0) 75 0110 7447
United Kingdom

With an extensive background in exotic sports car history and sales, a particular passion for American curves, and fluency in three la... read more

Paul Darvill

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+44 (0) 20 7851 7070
United Kingdom

Paul Darvill joined the RM Sotheby’s European team at the beginning of 2015. Paul holds a degree in French and Politics from the... read more

Pete Fisher

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+1 519 784 9300
Ontario, Canada

Pete Fisher was first introduced to antique cars in high school, working for Classic Coachworks in his hometown of Blenheim, Ontario. He att... read more

Peter Wallman

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+44 (0) 20 7851 7070
United Kingdom

Peter Wallman joined RM Europe in 2007 following nearly two decades in the international advertising industry, where he was based out ... read more

Shelby Myers

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+1 310 559 4575
California, United States

Shelby Myers grew up with the classic car industry infused into every aspect of his life. He had the unique opportunity to watch the R... read more

Tonnie Van der Velden

tvandervelden@rmsothebys.com

+31 653 84 19 60
United Kingdom

Tonnie Van der Velden joined RM Sotheby’s European division in September 2015 as a Car Specialist. A lifelong enthusiast, Tonnie... read more