The 1931 Bugatti Type 51 Dubos Coupe has a fascinating history of competition, design and reincarnation. Originally built as a factory-team grand prix race car piloted by legendary drivers Louis Chiron and Rene Dreyfus, the car was rebodied in Paris in 1937 as an elegant Louis Dubos coupe, which is how it appears today.
An historic 1931 Bugatti Type 51 Dubos Coupe from the Nethercutt Collection will be one of the featured pre-war automobiles in the Arizona Concours d’Elegance, a curated show and judged competition of exceptional automobiles set to take place Sunday, January 22, in the newly renovated Scottsdale Civic Center Plaza.
The one-of-a-kind Bugatti has a fascinating history of competition, design and reincarnation, exemplifying the Arizona Concours’ theme “The Art of Aerodynamics.” It will be part of the public display of about 90 special automobiles, which include antiques from the dawn of motoring, beautiful pre-war classics, sports cars and modern exotic supercars.
Originally built as a factory-team grand prix race car, this particular Type 51 started the longest part of its journey after the 1931 race season, when it reportedly was given by Ettore Bugatti to Chiron, who used it for about a year. It was acquired from Chiron by wealthy Parisian playboy André Bith, a close friend of Jean Bugatti, Ettore’s son. Bith drove it in rallies and sporting events, then contracted with Louis Dubos to build an aerodynamic body styled after Jean Bugatti’s iconic Atlantic coupe, which had impressed Bith with its unique design.
The result was spectacular, the Dubos body a swoopy and aerodynamic beauty with a large single fin centered on the rear and an opulent interior trimmed in tan pigskin with a sycamore instrument panel. Bith immediately entered it in the 1937 Bagatelle Concours d’Elegance, where it was awarded second overall Best of Show.
Bith sold the Dubos Coupe before WWII, after which it was acquired in the early 1950s by American collector Gene Cesari, who removed the coupe body and sold it to another American collector, who then mounted it on a made-up Type 51 Bugatti chassis. Cesari’s reason for separating the Dubos body from the chassis is unclear.
California car collector J.B. Nethercutt purchased the original Type 51 chassis, No. 51133, from Cesari and restored it as a grand prix car with a body created by Bugatti authority O.A. Phillips. The Bugatti became a regular feature of the Nethercutt Collection for many years.
In 2000, the reconstructed Dubos Coupe came up for auction, and the Nethercutt Collection was able to purchase it, with the intention of reuniting the body with its correct chassis. A team of experts enlisted the help of André Bith, then more than 90 years old, to assist the rebuild with documents, photos, receipts and his own still-reliable memory.
The Bugatti Dubos Coupe is once again intact as when it left the coachbuilder’s shop in July 1937.
The Concours is partnered with Scottsdale Arts, one of Arizona’s largest arts nonprofits, to present the event, which blends history, design and technology. Proceeds from the Concours will benefit local artists and art programs.
For ticket information, click HERE.