Private pilots seek to optimize their cars, with the help of competent mechanics but without the possibility of development support. They often have several Bugatti between which they exchange equipment. It is indeed tempting : the only important innovation of Type 51 is the double camshaft. The 51 is designed for three possible engines, from 1.5 to 2.3 liters, easy to interchange for various racing regulations.
Under these conditions, the identification of a car is based retroactively around its chassis. On February 8 in Paris, Artcurial sells one of the earliest Type 51, lot 38 estimated € 4M. From 1931 to 1947 it was driven by several private champions : Marcel Lehoux, Louis Trintignant, Jules Rolland, Maurice Trintignant. Despite an abundant history of competition, its traceability has been restored.
Its bodywork is photo-matching the 35C with which Louis Trintignant died in Péronne in 1933. During that race the 35C was temporarily equipped with the engine of the 51. The cam box comes from another 51 owned by Lehoux. The original engine had a displacement of 2300 cc. It was probably exchanged in 1946 or 1947 with a 1500 cc engine that fitted a 51A. The tank was changed after 1974 : the highly distorted original equipment prevented its new owner from entering the cockpit.
The 51 that comes on sale had many successes among the circa 40 grand prix in which it participated. It is significantly in 1938 the very first car raced by the superchampion Maurice Trintignant, a brother of Louis.
During the war, the car is hidden in hay. In all logic Maurice Trintignant enters it in September 1945 in the Prix des Prisonniers at the Bois de Boulogne. Maurice must give up : the rat droppings (pétoules) had blocked the pipes of his car. Wimille gives him the nickname Pétoulet which will remain him.