Tuesday, 13 October 2020 23:11

Dacre Stubbs Photo Collection - Bugatti Type 51A chassis 51142

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The Type 51A was a further development of the Type 35s and the car in this article was delivered to London in 1926 as a Type 39A.  The Type 39 was in fact a Type 35C with a modified engine. The shorter-stroked crankshaft brought stroke down from 88 mm. to 66 mm. resulting in a 1493 cc engine capacity, a mix of regular and ball bearings were used. Just ten Types 39 were produced. At the factory in Mulsanne this car was converted from a Type 39A into a Type 51A (chassis 51142 No: 15). It was purchased by Henry Dale in Paris in 1951 from the first owner in a disassembled state and then shipped to Peter Dale in Melbourne Australia. I gather the car was re-assembled in Melbourne but I have no record of it being run in any events other than at the Easter Bathurst  in 1951 driven by Lynden Duckett. Peter Dale then set about its rebuild by organizing a team of well known enthusiasts to undertake the work which included Lyndon Duckett, Earl Davey-Milne and Bob Baker. Dacre Stubbs photographed many of the 'Dale' cars that came to Australia in this period including the re-construction of the Bugatti with chassis 51142 No.15. Further information about this Bugatti is documented in the book written by Bob King 'Bugattis in Australasia' and it now resides in the French National Automobile Museum.
I (Martin Stubbs) was contacted by Bob King, Registrar of Bugatti Club Australia & author of 'Bugattis in Australasia'. He very kindly was able to offer much more information on the car and to provide a context to those photos taken before the restoration was begun. These addition photos of the two 51As supplied by Bob were acquired from someone named Fullford.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   "Dear Martin, In regard to your late father's wonderful photos of the Bugatti, recently posted, I have photographic evidence that the car also ran at Rob Roy hillclimb, driven by Lyndon Duckett, who was the driver at Bathurst.                                                                                                                                      The original Type 39A (1500cc, single overhead camshaft, 8 cylinder supercharged) frame was numbered 4824, but was re-numbered by the factory as 51142 on conversion to Type 51A (1500cc, twin overhead camshafts, 8 cylinder supercharged) by the factory.                                                              I will send separately photographs of the two Dale Type 51A's; very similar cars with wire wheels and outside exhausts; the second car, a converted Type 35 is chassis number 4847.                            The similarity of the two cars certainly confused the Vic Police - see story, p 211, my book".                                                                                                                                                                                                       "A possibly apocryphal story is told of the two Type 51As when they were in Melbourne in the hands of the Dale brothers and "Puss" Catlin. At that time they were both blue, both fitted with wire wheels and external exhausts and, to the untrained observer, would have appeared virtually identical. One Sunday, both cars were visiting Earl Davey-Milne's property in Toorak. During the course of the visit, Puss Catlin did some rapid motoring around the fine roads of Melbourne's Boulevard but unfortunately attracted unfavourable attention from the Victorian Police. No doubt their Ford V8 had considerable difficulty in keeping up with the 51A which was spurred home to Davey-Milne's, where it was driven rapidly down the driveway and around the back of the house, out of sight. The steaming Ford duly arrived, its driver delighted by the sight of a blue Bugatti sitting outside the house. The policeman greeted the group of Bugattistes with the question, "Who owns the Bugatti?" "I do", said Peter Dale. We can leave it to your imagination to make up the rest of the conversation between the two. Apparently it was only when the policeman felt the cold radiator on Dale's Bugatti that he was prepared to believe that the car had not moved for several hours."                                                                                                                                                                                                   If anyone has any additional material in relation to these cars and Fullford, please contact Bob King, Registrar of Bugatti Club Australia, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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