Jay Leno is a big fan of Bugattis. On a recent episode of Jay Leno’s Garage, he featured one of the many cars from the French firm in his collection, a 1929 Bugatti Type 40 Grand Sport.
Today, it’s hard to imagine Bugatti producing an entry-level model, but that’s what the Type 40 was, according to Leno. That didn’t mean Bugatti skimped on engineering, though. The 70-horsepower 1.5-liter inline-4 engine has an overhead cam design, three valves per cylinder (two intake, one exhaust), and twin Solex carburetors. It’s based on the engine from the Bugatti Type 37, while the chassis is derived from Type 38 underpinnings, Leno noted.
That parts-bin rummaging helped keep costs down, according to Leno. He said the only part specific to the Type 40 is the radiator. The car also has only one door, which likely saved Bugatti a bit of money. The smooth wheel covers were fashionable at the time, but may not have been installed at the factory, Leno said.
1929 Bugatti Type 40 Grand Sport on Jay Leno’s Garage
Leno got this car from enthusiast Robert C. Dunlap, one of the founders of the American Bugatti Club. The Type 40 still wears its club medallion with the number “3,” signifying that it was the third car registered with the club, which continues to keep a register of all Bugattis known to exist in North America to this day.
When the club was founded in 1960, used Bugattis were still relatively affordable, as interest was largely restricted to a handful of collectors. Those collectors could be fanatical. Fritz Schlumpf bought 30 Bugattis at once for a planned museum. That plan fell through, but part of the collection formed the basis for a second museum started with French government backing, and many are on public display today.
The days of buying so many Bugattis at once are likely over. A trio of classic Bugattis—including a 1937 Type 57S Atalante, a 1934 Type 59 Sports, and a 1928 Type 35C Grand Prix—are headed to auction in September. The Type 59 Sports alone is expected to fetch more than $13 million.
As is his usual practice, Jay finishes the episode with a drive on Los Angeles streets. He keeps the top up and says he never took it down because it fits so well. Jay says the car is lively and it feels more powerful than it is, though the straight-cut gears make for grinding gear changes. Check out the video above for more on this unique piece of French motoring history.