The 51 retains the 2.3 liter volume of the 35 B while increasing its power with an engine layout copied from Miller. Intended for competition, this model is divided between the factory team and private owners.
One of them began its race history in July 1931 as a factory car at the Belgian Grand Prix. At the end of that year, it was sold to the young driver Jean-Pierre Wimille for 80,000 francs, a large sum for the time. In 1932 Wimille ran it in two Grand Prix in North Africa, winning the Algerian Grand Prix in Oran.
Before Wimille sells it a few months later, Bugatti reinstalls its equipment on a new frame without changing the chassis number. I guess this was a simple service after its short African career : satisfied with its condition, Bugatti has assembled another body on the original chassis.
The 51 ex Wimille is used intensively in Grand Prix in 1933 and 1934 before becoming the only Type 51 to enter American competitions, without much success.
Like most racing cars of its time, this Bugatti had several crashes and incidents as well as equipment substitutions. This second chassis is currently equipped with its original body, its original engine returned to operation and reinstalled around 1986 and its original gearbox retrieved in 1989 by its owner of that time in an auction of spare equipment.
It is estimated $ 3.2M for sale by Gooding at Pebble Beach on August 24, lot 48. I had discussed it in this column before it passed at RM Auctions on August 14, 2010. Meanwhile the Bugatti Type 51 ex Lord Howe was sold for $ 4M including premium by Bonhams on August 19, 2016.
SOLD for $ 3.74M including premium