Restoration Versus Preservation: A Tale Of Two Bugattis
Photography by Alvaro Pinzón
As I was going to cover last year’s AutoClásica (the most important and largest classic car event in South America) for the first time, my expectations were a bit low bearing in mind that so many of the interesting cars we once had in South America have been sold and brought back to Europe or into the United States, as had happened with most of the Mercedes-Benz SSKs and the 300SLs that had once lived in Colombia and Venezuela.
Lately the tendency is that the rarer classic cars in South America are being sold to go to other, richer countries, however I discovered something int the way of an antithesis to this hypothesis at AutoClásica, as the three finalists for Best of Show were all cars that lived here, and some pretty good ones at that: a Ferrari 250 Boano, a Hispano-Suiza H6C, and the winner, a Bugatti Type 57c Gangloff. The lines of this car caught my attention immediately, it was the clear winner, and immediately i was intrigued by the possibility of having a more in-depth look at this car. So, after the celebrations, I found an opportunity to talk with the owner, it went well, and he invited me along to see his private collection.
A few days after, I was heading to the location in Argentina. Once you enter the space, words have a way of escaping your mental vocabulary when you try to describe to yourself what your eyes are seeing. It’s a simply amazing collection Bugattis, Pegasos, a couple legendary race cars, and a long list of other rare machines that I wasn’t allowed to take pictures of. It was a mightily impressive spread, let’s leave it at that. However, the anchoring pieces of the collection were waiting for me to take as many photos as I liked in the special room made for the most luxurious and unique pre-war cars in the collection: side by side were two Bugattis 57s, appearing quite distinct from one another despite sharing a name.
It’s hard to start talking about these cars without delving into the larger backstory of Bugatti, so I’ll just start with my personal favorite, the blue 1935 Bugatti 57 TT wearing its original paint. 3,300cc, twin camshafts, it was an advanced piece of engineering, and I was treated to hearing about it from the man who currently owns it: “As the first owner described it, is fast, silent, with terrific acceleration, and yet so docile that thick traffic can be negotiated at speed and with ease.”
But what is the story behind his car? The Bugatti was originally was ordered by Colonel G.M. Giles (the founder of the British Bugatti Owner’s Club) and was affectionately named “Térèse.” The colonel purchased it in 1935 and went to collect his car at the factory before a drive back home to England. The unique four-seater convertible coachwork was done by Enrico Bertelli. An aside about that family: Enrico, sometimes known as “Harry,” was responsible for the majority of Aston Martin’s coachwork for a time, and his brother Augustus raced and worked on Astons in the ‘20s and ‘30s.
Back to the car. The TT designation of this Bugatti Type 57 was acquired as a result of its successful racing history in the Ulster Tourist Trophy, but this car was more than just a runner. Today it’s looks are what separates it from the restored models, and it looks as stunning as it did in the ‘30s, albeit for slightly different reasons. No longer the cutting-edge of sports car shapes, the Bugatti still casts a strong presence in terms of originality, both of the design, and of how it’s been kept.
The colonel moved on from the Bugatti as the ‘30s were turning into the ‘40s, and after having been owned by the same person for more than 50 years it finally found its way to this collection in the 2000s. Since then it has participated in the concours at Villa d’Este and Pebble Beach, and paid a visit to Goodwood. In its current home of Argentina, it won Best in Show at AutoClásica 2011.
Sat next to the blue Bug was a sister car of sorts, a 1939 Bugatti Type 57C Gangloff. Known as a “Gangloff Atalante” for its unique coachwork (the distinctive tail section is the most notable point of diversion from this and other Type 57s), its twin-cam 3,257cc engine is fitted with a Roots-type supercharger, and as you can see, the whole car is fully restored. It has a long history of competing at concours, and back in 1959, at Pebble Beach, this car won Best in Show under the ownership of J.B. Nethercutt. That name isn’t really important though, for the lasting impact of the win was the fact that it was the very first Type 57 to earn such a distinction. After its restoration in the year 2000, it came over to Argentina to join this collection, and the other unique Type 57 that it spends its days with now.