1929 Bugatti Type 46 Semi-profile Coupe. Collection of Merle and Peter Mullin. Photograph © 2013 Peter Harholdt

1929 Bugatti Type 46 Semi-profile Coupe 
Collection of Merle and Peter Mullin, Los Angeles, CA

Ettore Bugatti lived on a baronial estate in Alsace-Lorraine in eastern France. His father Carlo created elegant, Art Deco style furniture. His younger brother Rembrandt was an accomplished sculptor of animals. Although he was trained as an apprentice engineer, Ettore possessed the dreamy soul of an artist. From 1911 to 1939, he built hand-crafted automobiles of sporting competence, which, thanks to the styling talents of Ettore’s young son Jean, were also hauntingly beautiful.

Working with factory designer Joseph Walter, Jean Bugatti initially designed an Art Deco Superprofile coupe with rakish, valance-free fenders, a steeply canted windscreen, a roof with a perfect radius, and dramatic sweep panels. This has been called by Paul Kestler, author of Bugatti: Evolution of Style, “one of the landmarks in coachbuilding history, made at the moment when classic lines were yielding to something more aerodynamic.” Only a few Superprofile coupes were built. One original survives in the Louwman Collection, Netherlands.

Inspired by the earlier Superprofile design, Walter and Bugatti’s Semi-profile coupes like the one in this exhibition had a more practical and equally attractive notchback rear treatment and twin exposed spare wheels. The chassis of this Bugatti Type 46 was made in 1929 and bodied in 1934 in Czechoslovakia by coachbuilder Oldřich Ulik. Originally a two-door sedan, it was re-bodied by Barry Price, with period-perfect coachwork in the exact style of Jean Bugatti’s Semi-profile coupe. The interior is elephant hide leather. In Bugatti circles, a magnificent re-creation like this one is welcomed, when it is done so beautifully.

valance-free fenders: this type of motor vehicle wheel covering did not make use of the then popular valance, a piece of metal added to the side of the fender that prevented splashing along the body

Sponsored by: Carl and Dodie George

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