by Rosemarijn Atalante Veenenbos and Waimak Classic Cars

This 1934 Bugatti Type 57 Gangloff Roadster with chassis number 57217 and engine number 122 is a very special car. It is a prototype and it looks quite outrageous with its burgundy and pearl colors and straight eight engine.

The Bugatti Type 57 is almost unequivocally one of the most revered models in the history of the automobile. The cutting edge engineering (for the time) in all aspects of its chassis, suspension, engine, and driveline, allowed for unparalleled levels of performance and on road refinement – all match perfectly to the car’s flowing lines. Those lines were the handwork of Ettore Bugatti’s son, Jean, whose skills were more than a match for the best coachbuilders Europe had to offer. However, amongst those coach builders, Gangloff is one whose name and reputation have weathered the test of time.

This 1934 Type 57 Gangloff Roadster is a prototype, which generated great interest at the Paris Motor Show and was the only one produced in that year. 1935 saw between 5 -10 similar Bugattis being produced  following the success generated by this T57 Roadster.

From 1934 up to 1956 this prototype had been in the hands of several French owners, but a big part of the history happened in New Zealand after it was imported into the country of endless an rough landscapes. It had been delivered new in France in 1934 to Bugatti Agent Friederich in Nice. Not much later, in 1936, the Gangloff was sold to Gaston Docime and in 1937 another French owner, Bernard Pinault. In 1956 it went to its 4th owner, also French, but little is known about him, except that he was the one to ship this special Bugatti to New Zealand. In 1956 Charles Black, K.Hemus and J. McDougall imported the Gangloff. From 1956 the T57 stayed in NZ and the last owner was Bob Turnbull, who became its proud owner in 1958. We all get older and the day comes when we have to pass these wonderful automobiles on to the next generation, giving them the responsibility to keep these jewels alive and to take care of them so that they will last forever.

Between 1958-1960 restoration work started on the car whilst it was still being rallied and driven throughout NZ. In Februari 2015 the prototype was finally completely finished after an intense restoration/rebuild. I always prefer cars with patina, but I must admit that it looks magnificent and it is a  real concours bolide! I wonder if this prototype will continue its history in NZ, but somehow I doubt this…

But let’s sum up its specifications to better understand what we are looking at and to what extent it is original, so that you can judge the car by yourself.

•The chassis brass plate is on the firewall and it is the original one for this vehicle. Both the front and rear axles are also the original ones for this vehicle

•No. 96 is the registered front axle number, which is always the same as the original engine number

•This vehicle does not carry its original engine, but the engine is to original specification – Bernard Pinault changed the original engine No.96 with No. 122 in France

•The starter on this vehicle is electric Scintilla, motor no. 84618

•The ignition type is dual coil Scintilla, generator no. 10892, and is to original specification

•The carburetor make is Stromberg, type UURZ, and is to original specification

•The gearbox is four speed and it is the original one for this vehicle

•The braking is four wheel cable operated and is to original specification

•The frame number is unknown

•The Borrani wheels are to original size and specification, 18×550 inch rims – tyres are Michelin

•The body type is a Roadster and the present body is the original body that was made by coachbuilder Gangloff at Colmar in France in 1934

•Two new front guards, stiffened rolled centre rib and 100mm longer front edge

•The interior is to original specification with minor stitching improvements, reupholstered – English leather and carpets

•Instruments and accessories are original to period specification with the addition of the clock and the tachometer in France

•This 1934 Bugatti is a truly amazing piece of machinery – it is a unique and jawdroppingly gorgeous piece of motoring history with 96,560 km on the clock

•French coachbuilders Gangloff were consulted during its restoration

•This car comes complete with proven provenance and history

•There are many parts, including another engine and hand built tools, which will all accompany the car once sold

•Car works, sounds and drives very well

•All doors close properly and the car’s geometry is beyond compare

The owners of such cars are often as intriguing as the cars themselves and so was the last owner Mr Bob Turnbull. Born in Alexandra (New Zealand) in 1930, Turnbull was a twin (his brother, Bill, is alive but in poor health, living in England). Raised on a 17ha farm at Galloway, near Alexandra, which their parents, Alistair ”Bill” Stuart Turnbull and Mary (nee Thompson), bought in the late 1920s, the boys had to deal with the death of their mother in 1937. Then, having already had a succession of housekeepers for three years, their father was called up for action in World War 2, an aunt arriving to look after the boys and the farm. On his return in 1943, the boys’ father sold the farm and sank everything into their education.

Mr Turnbull was a highly talented Kiwi mechanical engineer attaining his degree from Canterbury University in 1953. Notes Turnbull made after he retired in 1987 say he began working for CWF Hamilton, Hamilton Jet’s parent company, in 1955, designing everything from hydro-scheme gates and oil hydraulic equipment to a mobile crane and concrete agitator trucks. But it was his work with Hamilton’s jet-propulsion units that earned him praise in John Walsh’s recent book, Hamilton’s Jet: The Biography of an Icon.

Members of the Vintage Car Club refer to Mr Turnbull and credit him with being as resourceful and ingenious as Kiwi motorbike legends John Britten and Burt Munro. In accordance with Mr Turnbull’s wishes, the proceeds from this vehicle will be used to benefit and establish a scholarship for young Kiwi engineers in New Zealand. A lovely initiative and wouldn’t it be great to see this prototype shown in a fine automobile museum, or seeing it gallivanting at prestigious concourses…? It even seems this Bugatti is a great rally car, as it drove all the way thru NZ!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Photo courtesy Waimak classic cars