The 1931 Bugatti Type 51 Dubos Coupe is a unique combination of coach-built bodywork and race car mechanics. Now part of the Nederkat collection in California, it was recently on display at “Jay Leno’s Garage”, where the collection’s vice president, Cameron Richards, explained the design and history.
The car started out as a Grand Prix racer and was driven by competition from Louis Chiron (Bugatti Chiron’s name) and Renেনে Dreyfus. It was sold in 1936 to Andre Beith, who commissioned Parisian coachbuilder Louis Dubos to convert it into a road car. Dubos has given the car its distinctive bodywork (similar to the Leno Note Bugatti Type 57SC Atlantic), and it has been known as the Dubos Coupe ever since.
The Type 51 retains its racing engine, a 2.3-liter dual-overhead-cam supercharged inline-8 that produces about 185 hp on petrol or 200 hp on alcohol. Combined with a 4-speed manual transmission, the engine can propel the car to 140 miles per hour.
1931 Bugatti Type 51 Dubos Coupe in J. Leno’s garage
There are four small tailpipes in the back. This was done to avoid clearance issues with a larger diameter tailpipe, Leno said. The front wheels have a smooth cover, but the Bugatti’s traditional spoken racing wheels are seen tucked under the rear-fender skirt. Another weird thing is the fuel filler, which is located in the cabin and is surrounded by leather upholstery and probably makes refueling somewhat nerve racking.
Over the years the coupe changed hands several times and at one point the chassis and dubos body became separated. The Nederkat Collection acquired the chassis and then identified the body, which was in a collection in Colorado. About 50 years later, the two elements were reunited as part of a complete recovery.
Like all cars in the Nederkat collection, the Dubos Coupe is fully operational, as Leno took it for a drive near his Los Angeles-area garage.