Eight decades since it last appeared at the Prescott Hill Climb, the works Bugatti 59/50B will be back this spring.
Want to see it? The date for your diary is the weekend of 25-26 May when the Gloucestershire venue will host its annual La Vie en Bleu event – a celebration of all things French and Italian – that this year will be marking the Bugatti Owners’ Club 90th anniversary. And it’s hoped that over 90 Bugattis will come and join the party.
But this 59/50B will surely be the star of the show, 80 years after its last run up the hill.
Back in July 1939, Jean Bugatti accepted the invitation to compete at the first Bugatti Owners’ Club International meeting.
Works driver Jean-Pierre Wimille was enlisted and the works monoposto Type 59 readied. Indeed, it was fitted with twin rear wheels for the event.
Wimille, accompanied by mechanics Robert Aumaître and Lucien Wurmser, prepared to take on the hillclimb for the first time.
His initial run in the eight-cylinder supercharged 4.7-litre type 50B-engined Bugatti saw him clock a time of 47.50 secs, which he improved to 46.69 secs on his next run, enough for him to secure second place.
Ahead of him was the victorious Raymond Mays who took an ERA up the hill in 46.14 secs.
Bugatti wrote to the organisers afterwards, apologising for sending an unsuitably large car and promising to bring a new 1-litre car the following year; but, of course, this never happened due to the outbreak of WW2.
And other than contesting the 1945 Coupe des Prisonniers in the Bois de Boulogne in Paris, once more with Wimille, the 59/50B wasn’t driven again.
The factory kept the car before it joined the Schlumpf brothers’ collection and, as such, it’s usually housed at the museum at the Cité de l’Automobile in Mulhouse, France. Until September, however, it will be on loan to the Bugatti Trust so it can be included in its summer exhibition ‘Jean Bugatti and Jean-Pierre Wimille – Prescott 80 years ago’, timed to coincide with the owners’ club’s 90th-anniversary celebrations.
"We are delighted that the works 59/50B Wimille Bugatti will make an historic return to Prescott," said Chris Rogers, General Manager of the Bugatti Owners’ Club.
"The Bugatti Owner’s Club and Prescott Hill Climb have played a significant role in the history of the car and its famous French driver Jean-Pierre Wimille."