King Leopold III’s 1934 Bugatti Type 59 Sports Is an Exquisite Piece of Automobile History

When it comes to collecting classic cars, we all want the rarest gems. Sure, James Dean’s cursed Porsche 550 Spyder or the 1954 Oldsmobile F-88 concept would make any collector blush, but what about a car fit for a king? That’s exactly what the 1934 Bugatti Type 59 is.

Once owned by Leopold III, King of the Belgians from 1934 until 1951, this car was considered to be the ultimate Bugatti Grand Prix car. In the last 75 years, this pre-war sports car has had only five owners including royalty. The car has an estimated value on the block for above £10 million, or $13.1 million. It comes from a private collection of 16 vehicles, including three iconic Aston Martins, Rolls-Royce, Lamborghini, Bentley, and Lancia. 

Untouched in its original glory

The star of the collection is the 1934 Bugatti Type 59 Sports. Deemed a masterpiece, the Type  59 debuted in late 1933 and featured a supercharged straight-eight engine, de Ram shock absorbers, and piano-wire wheels. It was fitted with engine no. 5 during the 1934-35 season as part of the Bugatti works Grand Prix team.

It was mostly driven by French racing driver René Dreyfus, winning the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa and placing third at the Monaco Grand Prix. 

When it retired from Grand Prix racing, Bugatti developed the Type 59 for sports car events. They removed the supercharged and fitted a new dry sump gearbox. The car also underwent a revised chassis and bodywork. Under Jean-Pierre Wimille, the Type 59 Sports rose to be the fastest sports car in France, dominating in the 1937 season.

Other famous names such as Robert Benoist, Piero Taruffi, and Achille Varzi have also driven the sports car. In 1938, it was sold to King Leopold III in 1938. It’s still in the same stunning unrestored condition as it was in the king’s ownership. The four owners after the king have all resisted sending the car off for a full restoration, so this is really a unique piece of car history. Buy Here

images courtesy of Gooding&Co.