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  Bugatti Type 51 Grand Prix

  Article Image gallery (85) Chassis (5) Specifications  
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Country of origin:France
Produced from:1931 - 1935
Numbers built:40
Author:Wouter Melissen
Last updated:December 08, 2014
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Click here to download printer friendly versionIntroduced at the 1924 French Grand Prix, the Bugatti Type 35 grew out to become the most successful racing car of all time. By the end of the decade, its days were numbered as the versatile racer was faced ever more powerful rivals. Their twin cam engines proved superior to the single overhead camshaft straight eight used in the Type 35.

In order to get to grips with these new design principles Ettore Bugatti agreed a trade with American racer Léon Duray of two Miller racing cars for three Type 43s, which sat unsold in a corner of the factory. After being bench tested, the engines were taken apart for closer examination. The lessons learned by Ettore and Jean Bugatti were incorporated in a new generation of eight-cylinder engines.

As much a sculptor as an engineer, Ettore Bugatti retained the angular engine that made the previous generation of straight eights so recognisable for the new Type 51. The block was cast in a single piece with an integral cylinder head. The head featured a domed combustion chamber with the opposite intake and exhaust valves installed at a 96° angle. The twin overhead camshafts were driven through bevel gears by a shaft at the front of the engine.

Also driven from the vertical shaft through bevel gears was the Roots-type supercharger mounted low on the intake side of the engine. The supercharger was installed between the Zenith carburettor and engine's intake. In standard trim, it displaced just under 2.3 litres and produced around 170 bhp. To suit the customers' specific needs, the new twin-cam engine was also available in 1.5- and 2-litre trim. Regardless, the engine was mated to Bugattis own four-sped gearbox.

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  Article Image gallery (85) Chassis (5) Specifications