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One of Bugatti's last racing cars marks its 80th anniversary at Retromobile in Paris.
There are road cars and there are race cars. The boundaries between them can often seem quite narrow, even porous at times, but the Bugatti Veyron is a perfect example of a car that belongs firmly in the former category, and not the latter. That wasn't always the case, though, for Bugatti. In its heyday under the leadership of founder Ettore Bugatti, the marque was one of the most successful in pre-war grand prix racing. The Type 59, however, was its last factory-built grand prix racecar.
Only eight examples were made. One rests (alongside a Bugatti Atlantic, a Ferrari GTO and a McLaren F1) in the esteemed collection of Ralph Lauren. Now Bugatti, marking the 80th anniversary of the Type 59, is displaying one - the third example made - at the Retromobile classic car salon in Paris. Although the Type 59 may have been Bugatti's last racecar, it was certainly not his greatest. Contrary to the the Type 35, which claimed over 2,000 race wins to take its place in history as one of the most successful racecars in history, the Type 59 didn't win a single grand prix.
Changing regulations made it obsolete almost as soon as it was introduced, with modifications failing to keep up with a newer generation of competitors from Germany and Italy that were often supported by their governments. That doesn't mean, however, that doesn't stand as a particularly beautiful example of pre-war racing machinery, and an intrinsic part of Bugatti heritage.