Bugatti Type 101 Coupe by Van Antem

Despite its years of glorious success, both on and off the racetrack, Bugatti entered the post-war years in financial disarray. Ettore’s death in 1947 split what could be recovered of the Bugatti enterprise into two camps along the lines of the families of his two marriages. Yet, out of this disorder, the allure of the Bugatti automobile emerged, not only from its honoured tradition, but also from, it seems, a sense of duty felt by the family, the workers, and the designers who had laboured under le patron’s influence.

Four years passed in which the family partially settled its differences and the Molsheim works were rebuilt. But the automobile remained central to the Bugatti tradition, and general manager, Pierre Marco, along with Roland Bugatti – the youngest of Ettore’s children from his first marriage – created the Type 101. This new model was largely based on the pre-war Type 57, including the 3.3-litre dual overhead-camshaft straight eight-cylinder engine and solid axle suspension. Its coachwork, however, was thoroughly modern, a full-width streamlined envelope creation that owed only a Bugatti horseshoe radiator grille to classic designs. The success or failure of the Type 101, however, was determined not by its character or appearance but by Bugatti’s decision to leave the Type 57 engine’s displacement intact, putting it in a 17 chevaux vapeur fiscal horsepower class which imposed confiscatory annual taxes under post-war French regulations.

All together, only six Type 101s were built, and the Van Antem coupé offered here is considered by many to be the most striking. It was bodied by Van Antem in Neuilly-sur-Seine, near Paris, for the Salon de l’Automobile in Paris, 1951. It was on display together with a Gangloff drophead coupé before returning to Molsheim, where it was eventually road-registered and likely used by Rene Bolloré, the next husband of Ettore Bugatti’s widow Geneviève Delcluze. It was purchased late in 1958 by Gene Cesari who visited Molsheim with well known car collector Jean DeDobbeleer and, after several meetings, became the company’s North American representative. He finally collected the car in New York City before it was sold to Robert Stanley, prominent businessman and head of International Nickel Co.

Chassis 101504 then became an important part of the fabled collection of casino magnate Bill Harrah before being sold to prominent French automobile proponent, Jacques Harguindeguy. From there it was acquired by film star Nicolas Cage, who said of this car, “I think Bugattis are the zenith of automobile design and I am particularly impressed by the Van Antem.” Cage sold the car to collector Gene Ponder in 2002 before it was acquired by the O’Quinn Collection in 2006.

Brilliantly presented in black over red, the Bugatti Type 101 Van Antem coupé has been sympathetically maintained in highly original condition by its succession of owners. Equipped with a Cotal pre-selector gearbox, it is visually arresting, highly original and absolutely unique not only for its celebrity ownership history, but also because it is the only example of the Type 101 with this coachwork. It represents the swan song of a revered French marque that lay dormant for four decades, before the introduction of the EB110 and, most recently, the Veyron. With its impressive supercharged engine, the Van Antem coupé is ready to be driven, enjoyed, and appreciated both for its outstanding condition and as an exceptional example of the passion and dedication that is Ettore Bugatti’s legacy.

This car was auctioned off by RM Auctions in May of 2010 at the Grimaldi Forum, Monaco.

135 bhp, 3,256 cc, dual overhead-camshaft inline supercharged eight-cylinder engine, single downdraft Weber carburettor, Cotal pre-selector gearbox, semi-elliptic leaf spring front and reverse quarter-elliptic leaf spring rear suspension, four-wheel drum brakes. Wheelbase: 3,302 mm (130")

Source: RM Auctions
Photo Credit: Copyright Simon Clay

Gallery: Bugatti Type 101 Coupe by Van Antem