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Bugatti Dubos Nethercutt

January 9, 2023

Bugatti Dubos Nethercutt

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.

The historic Bugatti 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 that takes place January 22, 2023, in a new location at the renovated Scottsdale Civic Center Plaza. 

The one-of-a-kind Bugatti exemplifies the Arizona Concours’ theme of “The Art of Aerodynamics,” and 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.

The original Bugatti Type 51 race car started its journey after the 1931 race season, when it reportedly was given by Ettore Bugatti to Chiron, who used the car for about a year. After Chiron sold the car, it was acquired by wealthy Parisian playboy André Bith, a close friend of Jean Bugatti, Ettore’s son.

Bith drove the Bugatti 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. The splendid interior was trimmed in tan pigskin with a sycamore wood instrument panel.  Bith immediately entered the coupe 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 became available at auction, and the Nethercutt Collection was able to purchase it, with the intention of reuniting the body with its correct chassis.  The Nethercutt experts enlisted the help of André Bith, then more than 90 years old, to assist with 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 luscious body once again on the correct chassis.  Since its restoration, the Bugatti has won 8 Best of Show swards at various concours d’elegance.

The Arizona Concours d’Elegance will be a signature event during January in Arizona, and one of the first major events held after renovation at the Scottsdale Civic Center Plaza, bordered by Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts and Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art. The Concours was previously held at the Arizona Biltmore Resort in Phoenix, where it received much acclaim for the annual display of rare and beautiful vehicles.

Tickets for the Concours are available on the ArizonaConcours.com website, the Scottsdale Arts box office and at ScottsdaleArts.org/events. Tickets will be limited, so make plans early to reserve your place at this very special event. 

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.

Tickets for the Concours are available on the ArizonaConcours.com website, the Scottsdale Arts box office and at ScottsdaleArts.org/events. Tickets will be limited, so make plans early to reserve your place at this very special event.  


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