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134: 1928 Bugatti Type 38 Tourer

Lot 134 View Catalog

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Chassis #: 38444

60 bhp 1,991 cc inline eight-cylinder engine with single overhead camshaft and three valves per cylinder, four-speed manual gearbox, solid front axle with semi-elliptic leaf springs, live rear axle with reversed quarter-elliptic leaf springs, and four-wheel cable-operated drum brakes. Wheelbase: 123"

- From the Estate of John M. O’Quinn
- One of only about 385 T38s built
- Dismantled, assessed and partially restored by specialists

The Bugatti Type 38 chassis clearly benefited from the lessons learned on the racetrack and entered production in 1926, replacing Bugatti’s first eight-cylinder road car, the Type 30, which debuted in 1922 and saw total production of some 600 units. While similar in many ways to its predecessor, the new Type 38 refined the Type 30 concept even further with a longer 123-inch-wheelbase chassis and a two-inch wider track, providing the ideal canvas for a variety of comfortable, spacious and sporting bodies from the finest custom-coachbuilders of the era.

The two-litre, eight-cylinder engine of the Type 38 was largely based on the competition-oriented Type 35 design, with two blocks of four cylinders each, non-detachable cylinder heads and the ball bearing-supported crankshaft of the prior Type 30. Single overhead camshaft actuated twin inlet valves and one exhaust valve per cylinder provide the remarkably free breathing characteristics in the typical Bugatti fashion. Enlarged engine mounts located the engine within the new T38 chassis. The T38 engine was equipped with dual Solex carburettors and a coil-type ignition, providing output of 60 bhp in basic tune and up to 100 bhp in supercharged Type 38A form.

The engine’s power was transmitted to the road with a new four-speed manual gearbox derived from the T40. The radiator and axles were based upon those of the T43, while the T40 also contributed the large, cable-operated brakes, with their drums visible though the T38’s centre-lock wire-spoke wheels.

Only about 385 examples of the T38 chassis were ultimately built, including 39 supercharged T23A models, during an abbreviated production run of less than two years between 1926 and 1927. Remarkably advanced for the era, The T38 offered satisfying performance and sporting open coachwork, with each one remaining highly coveted and desirable today.

The Type 38 offered here, chassis number 38444, is offered from the highly respected O’Quinn Collection. Recently, it was shipped to the specialist firm Carrosserie Tessier in France for a complete teardown and restoration. The car was dismantled, assessed and restoration was underway, but it is unfinished and only provisionally assembled for the sale.

According to a detailed report from Carrosserie Tessier, the body’s wooden structure has already been completely restored, with the damaged wood carefully replaced and 70 percent of the original wood framing remaining with the car. The body’s sheet metal has already been extensively repaired and half of the original body panels were retained. The wooden trim pieces must still be fabricated and finished. The front and rear fenders, as well as the hood, are not yet restored, and consequently, they must be stripped and repaired. The upholstery was found to be inconsistent with original specifications and remains to be restored. The T38 is also equipped with a convertible top, but it lacks the support bows, which will need to be replaced.

The eight-cylinder engine remains in working condition, and in fact, it has been started and run on a test bench. The restorers have noted that the electrical system has been converted to 24 volts at some point in the car’s history and that it should be returned to the original 12-volt specification. A thorough inspection of the chassis reveals that it remains in good overall condition, but of course, the brakes, front-axle pivots, leaf springs and wheel bearings must be overhauled prior to road use.

While only provisionally assembled for the sale, this 1927 Bugatti Type 38 affords an excellent opportunity for astute collectors. Honestly presented with the aforementioned assessment from the current restorer, it will provide a wonderful touring experience with spirited performance once completed, as well as the opportunity to resume its show career at a variety of concours events.

Bill of Sale


Please note that should this vehicle remain in the UK, HMRC has verbally confirmed that this vehicle is eligible for the reduced Import Tax Rate of just of 5% collected on the full purchase price of the vehicle.

Buyer's Premium


Estimate £120,000 – £170,000
Starting Bid £60,000

Your maximum bid will remain private.

live auction started on
Us Auction
8:00 AM - Oct 27, 2010
RM Auctions


5536 County Rd 11A
Auburn, IN 46706
United States