A virtual magazine for a true passion!

Editor: Jaap Horst

Volume 9, Issue 1

Bugatti T35C 4882

Chris Gardner

Racing for ‘La Marque’

The Grand Prix Bugatti Type 35C was introduced for the 1927 season. This supercharged version of the original 2-litre Type 35 racing car made it’s first appearance at Lyon for the 1924 French Grand Prix. The Rey Bugatti ,chassis number 4882, was originally a works car. This is confirmed by the fact that it was registered with the number 4131 J4 on the 2nd of April 1927 in the name of Ettore Bugatti Automobiles of Molsheim, Alsace. It was one of the five such models registered in the company name during 1927 and was used by the factory in Formula Libre events. Consultation of the racing records for 1927 show that the Bugatti factory entered three Type 35C’s for the Targa Florio and also for the San Sebastian Grand Prix , 4882 has been one of these entries.

Its original engine number 85 suggests that the car was assembled during the summer of 1926. The cars with all other engine numbers in the range 78-90 being invoiced in June-August 1926, apart from that with engine 86 which was invoiced in September of that year. It therefore may have been one of the pair of factory Type 35C Bugatti which secured 1st and 2nd places in the Milan Grand Prix held at Monza on 12th September 1926, this being the very first appearance of superchargers on the classic 2-litres Bugatti engine. For the factory records certainly list no other Type 35C Bugatti to have originally been fitted with an engine number less than 100. Other main numbered components of the car were manufactured in mid-1926, like the rear axle, with number 85, and the gearbox with number 114.

The first supercharged Grand Prix Bugattis were in fact the 1.1-litre Type 36, which first appeared at the 1926 Alsace Grand Prix; it is interesting to notice that 4882’s engine number 85 derived from those first models. From the engine, the supercharger drive from the crankshaft is definitely of Type 36 with a very low position of a secondary crank handle hole. The Type 36 had a straight front axle in front of the normal starting handle location. The very early supercharged engines should all be with this unique set up (see Conway’s ‘Grand Prix Bugatti’ second edition page 174). The first blowers used by the factory on this supercharged Grand Prix engine were the short unit of 135mm (the same mounted on the latter Type 37A). The actual 4882’s blower is the big unit of 185mm used on over 2-litres engines Type 35B, 35C and 43. We were very lucky to find a 1930 picture (see in the following) showing the engine with its original short unit blower; no doubt that for more power the blower was updated along with the upgrade to 2.3 litre prior to 1938, noted in the personal archives of Pierre Rey.

With these mechanical details so closely examined, we can be sure that this Grand Prix Bugatti #4882 is one of the earliest ex-works cars existing. Theory is currently being translated into fact and it seems that 4882 is probably the earliest Supercharged Bugatti existing having been entered by the factory for the Grand Prix of Milan held in September 1926, to finish 1st or 2nd with Constantini or Goux.

If 4882 was assembled and raced during the summer 1926, a chassis number had to be allocated. The number 4882 couldn’t be used because it was not yet in the sequence of numeration. The car had to have a lower chassis number originally. The five Grand Prix cars entered at the Monza races of September 1926 (three 1.5-litre Type 39 for the Italy Grand Prix on 5th September and two Type 35C for the Milan Grand Prix on 12th September) were driven to Italy and had to have license plates.

We know that the three Type 39 were registered in the name of Ettore Bugatti and were also entered at the San Sebastian Grand Prix, but there is no trace of the two first Type 35C in the factory records, although they showed up at the circuit entered by the works. It could be that a chassis plate from two others cars were probably used to drive the cars to Italy as was the case in many instances.

At the end of the month of August 1926, the factory was invoicing chassis with the number in the 4800’s range. By example, #4793 was invoiced the 24th of August, #4800 the 21st and #4815 the 11th of September. The records also showed that Chassis #4800 was invoiced twice with two days apart. The 21st of August with the temporary license plate number 1770 WW 5, to be delivered to Bayonne in the Basque country of France, and the 23rd of August with 3023 J4 into the name of Ettore Bugatti Automobiles of Molsheim. The chassis number 4800, according to factory records, is a Type 35A model, which is an ‘imitation Grand Prix’ and, in no way, a race car racing for the factory. In his book ‘Grand Prix Bugatti’ Conway wrote that the two first Type 35C, for the Milan Grand Prix, were tested on the road to Italy. So there is no doubt in our mind that the chassis number 4800 and the license plate 3023 J4 were mounted on one of the 35C (or both) to save some precious time.

At the beginning of the 1927 season, the car, now with the chassis number 4882 then available, was registered as works car just three weeks before the XVIII Targa Florio, which is usual for a car entered in such an international race. In all the pictures of the car from 1929 to 1958, we can notice the high position of the hood buckle latch, one of the characteristic of the cars fitted with a second spare tire on the right side: a Targa Florio characteristic. The entry in the San Sebastian Grand Prix in July 1927 is not very simple to prove, but the works registered two Type 35C before the race (4889 and 4890) and entered three 35C, so maybe 4882 was the third car.

The actual frame of the car doesn’t have the extra holding holes on the right side for the spare tire support. But in the bulkhead we found the hole for upper leather strap to hold the spare tire. In all likelihood the frame was replaced at the factory before been sold to Francois Forest in April 1929 during it’s reconditioning. The reason is probably to hide from the buyer the long works racing history of the car. Forest bought a ‘’new car’’ in 1929, but the Bugatti delivered was mostly from 1926, with its special hood (high compressor release hole), the small brakes gave up by the factory in mid-1927. The rear tail is original and very special with the three louvers (instead four) that we can find in the very early Grand Prix Bugatti. We can see this 3 louvered tail in the 16MM film of Rey racing the car.

In July 1998 our research project defining the complete history of 4882 was awarded with the introduction to the survivors of the Forest family, the Rey family’s sole survivor, and the visit with the 2nd owner , Mr. . In the attic in wooden boxes we discovered family photographs, 16MM film and documents showing how the Bugatti was part of the life style of the Forest/Rey friendship. In the autumn of 1998 we made contact with the sole survivor of Pierre Rey, his sister. She collected Rey’s racing dairies, photos and the awards from his wins that finally proved to us that he raced pre-war with a full T-35B 2.3 litre conversion. The examination of one picture taken in 1929 clearly showed the ‘’naked’’ frame of 4882.

With this one photograph we can clearly see the replacement frame and the rest of the important ex-works details still surviving on 4882 after 72 years. Now the history was all in order and the chain of ownership was confirmed along with the discovery of the over 108 races the Bugatti had been entered into after it’s factory use from the personal diaries of Rey and news papers that we found with the family Rey.

The Bugatti of Pierre Rey is likely the most extensively privately entered GP car existing today and certainly the only ex-works Grand Prix Bugatti that has had continuous use in the hand of it’s 4 owners. The Rey Bugatti with its very important works racing history is witness of all the Grand Prix Bugatti evolutions and was, in fact, refurbished by the factory to be sold as a new car to Francois Forest.

The frame number of 4882 is 684. That number was available in the winter of 1929 when the car was rebuilt at the Molsheim factory. The chassis 4929 invoiced in July 1929 has the frame number 682. Knowing that the factory only produced 23 Grand prix in 1929 and mostly in the first month of the year, it is possible that the assembly of 4929 started at the same time 4882 was refurbished, at the beginning of 1929.

Rey, 1929

The factory records showed that 4882 was subsequently invoiced on 14th February 1929 to a man named Lam of Hong Kong, or possibly of Saigon, although it remains doubtful that the car was actually ever delivered to the Orient. As we know the car was sold again by the factory on 5th April 1929 to Francois Forest from near Avignon and registered with the number 3399 ZA. In fact, the year 1928 is a real enigma in the history of 4882.

It is interesting to notice that chassis number 4881 was also sold in February 1929 (like 4882) to a racing driver living in the Vaucluse (Like Forest) named Lamy (very close to Lam) and who’s father, Louis Lamy, was living in the little town of Saignon, France (very close spelling to Saigon). It is possible that the two cars were switched in the factory records. Then the chassis 4881 would have been sold by the factory to Lamy in February 1929 (making sense the buy directly at the factory because, it was his third Bugatti) and chassis 4882 sold through the Marseille’s Bugatti Agency of Giraud & Hoffmann, to Francois Forest who was living close to Marseille.

Marius Giraud was a racing enthusiast and the owner of the spark plug factory Nerka and the sponsor of the young race driver Louis Chiron. We believe that 4882 was used by the Marseille Agency for the 1928 season and driven in the local events of the south-east of France. The early history of 4882 is a study of 3 seasons of Bugatti works races, this research is currently continuing.

Works history of 4882:

12 September 1926 - Milan Grand Prix
24 April 1927 - XVIII Targa Florio
24 July 1927 - San Sebastian Grand Prix

Pierre Rey, 1930

1931 - From Europe to Tunisia

After a very good 1930 season , the Grand Rey received all the confidence from Forest and was granted exclusive use of Bugatti 4882. No doubt that it was with his sponsor Rey took a boat to Tunisia at the end of March 1931 to enter the Tunisia Grand Prix. Before the departure he participated the Paris-Nice final events in Nice, finishing 1st ex aequo with Zehender on his Alfa Romeo 1750GS at the 500 meters sprint. He recorded good time at the La Turbie hill climb against all the best works drivers.

On the African continent, Rey was not very lucky at the 6 hours of Tunis, he had to retire after only 50 kilometers. The following day, for the Tunisia Grand Prix, Rey didn’t have enough time or money to prepare the car, and had to retire before the start. This first experience aboard is a real fiasco and even his participation of the Esterel Speed Circuit, held in the city of Saint Raphael on 6th April was canceled. Remember, Rey was racing for prize money, and he was his own support team.

It took one month to Rey to prepare the car to be ready for the Grand Provence week where three important hill climb races were held in the same week; Alpilles 1st in 2-litres class, Val de Cuech 2nd in 2-litres class, Camp 1st in car class. The rest of the season was also successful with numerous victories in hill climbs and good results in Grand Prix events, including a 4th place at the Comminges Grand Prix and second place in Sport class behind the legendary German Carraciola at the Mount Ventoux hill climb. The 6th of September Rey tried again a foreign event when he entered the Formula Libre Monza Grand Prix, with no luck he had to retire at the third lap.

1932 - The European Mountain Championship

Having the burden of being a one-man show with Scuderia Rey , Rey opted to go for prize money he could easily win. He was great in hill climbing with 4882 and he tried to score some points at the European Mountain Championship. To get a maximum chance he had to participate at particular hill climb races like the Klausen in Switzerland, Mount Ventoux, Ars and all the local races were entered. He would race more than a dozen events and finished in good standing at the international races. The Grand Prix season was interesting with a third place at Nice against the best drivers and a second place at Thorvilliers driving 245km in 2 hours and 30 minutes.

1933 - An half season

After a very good 1932 season, Rey started the year with the Boulevard Michelet hill race to finish 1st in the 2-litres Sport class. The Bugatti was tired and only the local events in the Vaucluse county were considered. No doubt that the money coming from the sponsors slowed down. Forest went back to his first hobby the motorcycle and founded the Pernes Moto-Ball Club. The Club would latter be France’s champion. The Bugatti needed more mechanical attention and Rey could not afford to fix it to race condition, so he borrowed a Bugatti Type 37A from the Lyon race driver Rousselet to finish the season.

1934 European Mountain Championship

As a repeat of 1932, Rey decided to enter Hill climb races for the European championship. This time with very good results in the main events, Klausen, Alpilles, Ars where he finished each time 1st in his class. Only the Mount Ventoux was for once difficult and he had to retire. For the Grand Prix, he entered the Albi Grand Prix to secure the 5th place behind the well known driver Veyron. We discovered a 16MM movie exist of this event that clearly shows Rey both driving and adjusting the fuel mixture while dueling with other GP Bugattis.

The 1934 year is an important year in the 4882 history, because the 7th June Rey became the owner of the car. Pierre was the Forest’s mechanic and was taking take of all his vehicle, the Bugatti was probably a trade for all the services, and after six years for intense racing the car was probably in need of an overhaul.

Pierre Rey, 1934

1935 - New security rules

The security regulations changed that year and most of all the little local events had to be canceled. Rey and 4882 were at the start of all the organized events. He drove 4882 one more time to the first place for all the Hill climbs that he knew perfectly.

From restriction to the war

Since the beginning of 1935, the new security regulations set for all automobile events made difficult the organization of such races by the local club and associations. Adding to that the beginning of the Nazi party in Germany, the social agitation’s and the unknown of the late 30’s most of the events were canceled.

Despite this Pierre Rey took good care of 4882 and kept it in racing condition all the time. He repainted the car in a darker blue between 1935 and 1936. Even with the economic restrictions, he entered the car in all the local events. But this ten year old Pur Sang is now overtaken by the new models with more power and handling better. Rey was still able to win his Sport class switching on and off weather equipment and even taking off the supercharger and running in the un-supercharged class.

For the 1936 Mount Ventoux race, the number 35 was allocated to the Rey’s 35. This number painted on the radiator would stay visible for the next 22 years, until 1958. On our discovery of the personal racing dairy of Rey we can confirm that by the time of the Saint Eutrope Hill climb held on 14th March 1937 4882 was powered to full 2.3 / T-35B specifications, these specifications still remaining in the car today. Rey became known to Ettore Bugatti as a reliable addition to the private entries of the Marque. He was asked by Ettore to deliver the T-53 to the Klaussen event, for which he was awarded a special lapel pin.

In 1939, the Grand Rey was 42 years old and for the Saint Eutrope race of the 21st May, he gave the Bugatti wheel to the Avignon race driver, and mechanic, Challes. He drove the car to its last Sport class victory before the WWII. Challes would have another chance to drive the Bugatti when the automobile competitions resumed in 1947.

1947 - 1958 : peaceful days

To avoid the requisitioning from the army, Pierre Rey hid the Bugatti during the war in his little Carpentras’s garage. After the hostilities, the war restrictions forced Pierre to sell the 35C to M. Gerent of Pernes les Fontaines. To put the car back on the road before the sale Rey had a lot of trouble to find correct tires to match the aluminum rims, on the period pictures strange truck tires can be noticed.

The 27 July 1947, the Mount Ventoux races resumed after nine years of interruption. The cars and drivers were different than in the 1930’s, but still the 35 won the race. M. Gerent was not a race driver so he gave the wheel to Challes. The car was probably not race prepared and the engine developed a problem although was able to finish the race and win one more time its class. The supercharger was disconnected for the race, to save gas.

After this problem, M. Gerent drove the Bugatti only occasionally, and he didn’t even register the car to his name. In 1948, he repainted the car in a very dark blue. The last noticeable event of the car was in fact a motorcycle race during the summer 1949 and the Bugatti did the opening of the circuit. Everybody was there to see the car, Rey and Forest.

Mrs. Gerent didn’t really like the Bugatti. It was not useful and she forced her husband to sell the car in June 1958 to M. Malartre. The money of the sale was spent for the daughter’s graduation gift, a motorcycle! M. Malartre had a big junkyard in Lyon, and was well known for his antique car collection. He bought the 35C because he had a buyer for it and less than two weeks after the sale he sold it back to M. H. Poe, an American living in Switzerland. Some cosmetic works were undertaking at the Malartre garage, a new paint job (with the correct Bugatti blue), new belly pans, and used seats, for a final bill of 117,750 French Francs.

To be able to resell the car the Henri Malartre company, 136 Avenue Berthelot, Lyon registered the car on 31 july 1958 with the number 1558 AY 69. M. Poe took delivery of the Bugatti in August, but the mechanical conditions of the car were poor and he decided to send the 35C to England to Robert & Partner Ltd., well known Bugatti mechanic. Once fixed, the Bugatti was sent to USA in 1959, to M. Poe’s Connecticut Estate.

Same owner for 37 years

Living most of the time in Switzerland, Richard Poe never used the Bugatti that was parked in the Connecticut garage. Poe decided to sell 4882 and ran an ad in the New York Times in November 1960. Through this ad , M. Schiff, a Bugatti enthusiast, bought the car. Schiff used the Bugatti in many events through the 1960’s and did not disturb the originally of the car in any way. The Rest of the story of Schiff’s custodianship is documented in the club magazine of ‘’ Pur Sang ‘.

In 1998 I prepared the Bugatti for racing use removing all the electrical systems applied in the 1960’s. I won class at the 1999 Klaussen Hill Climb and went on to first 9th place at the Monaco Grand Prix in 2000.

Special Thanks to Mr. T. Bizon for his work on this bullet proof historical documentation .



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