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Bugatti’s masterpieces set to take center stage at the La Jolla Concours d’Elegance

Le Patron is coming to Ellen Browning Scripps Park

Lilane McCain’s Type 57 Graber Cabriolet Bugatti. Photo courtesy of Adams / Hansen Photos
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When the sun rises on the 16th annual La Jolla Concours d’Elegance, it will shine on some of the most storied cars in the world. Bugatti owners, or “Bugattists,” as they call themselves, enjoy sharing their vintage vehicles, so they were pleased when Bugatti was chosen to be the featured marque at this year’s Concours. On April 24, as many as two dozen Bugattis are expected to be on display in Scripps Park. 

Expert driver Jim Stranberg in Peter Gidding’s Type 37A at the 2018 U.S. Bugatti Grand Prix at Lime Rock Heritage Park, CT. (c) AutoPhotos 2018, Ed Hyman
Expert driver Jim Stranberg in Peter Gidding’s Type 37A at the 2018 U.S. Bugatti Grand Prix at Lime Rock Heritage Park, CT. (c) AutoPhotos 2018, Ed Hyman

The Man and His Marque

Ettore Bugatti was born in Milan in 1881 to a family blessed with artistic prowess and technical ability. Ettore’s talent lay in automotive design. In 1909, he established a factory in an abandoned dye-works in the village of Molsheim in Alsace, which was then a German province. He built his first Bugatti automobile, the Type 13, in 1910. These became known as Brescia Bugattis after they swept the first four places in the famous road race in Brescia, Italy in 1921.

The racing successes of the Brescia series enabled Ettore to debut the iconic Type 35 Grand Prix racecar in 1924. The Type 35 made it possible for the family-run factory to dominate motor sports in Europe for the next seven years. He won the first Monaco Grand Prix in 1929 and repeated that victory in 1930 and 1931.

Jean Bugatti on a 1927 Bugatti Type 40 bumper. (c) and courtesy of The Bugatti Trust
Jean Bugatti on a 1927 Bugatti Type 40 bumper. (c) and courtesy of The Bugatti Trust

Between 1927 and 1933, Bugatti built six enormous Type 41 Royales, one of the most luxurious cars ever created. These priceless vehicles are now in museums and private collections in the U.S. and Europe.  

Over the years, the Bugatti factory in Molsheim manufactured 24 models, some with multiple variations, for a total of about 7,800 cars. Ettore was a gifted designer and his beautiful creations are sought after by collectors. Today, the best collection is at The French National Motor Museum in Mulhouse. To learn more about the man and his marque, visit (online or in person) the heritage center for all things Bugatti: The Bugatti Trust in Prescott, England. bugatti-trust.co.uk

Roland Bugatti in Type 52 and Jean Bugatti in Type 43. Rembrandt sculptures are visible in the windows. (c) and courtesy of The Bugatti Trust
Roland Bugatti in Type 52 and Jean Bugatti in Type 43. Rembrandt sculptures are visible in the windows. (c) and courtesy of The Bugatti Trust

Bugattis in La Jolla

The upcoming La Jolla Concours d’Elegance will afford opportunities to see Bugattis and chat with Bugattists to learn about their passion for these cars. 

One of the friendliest guys on the field, Mike Cleary always loved cars and the challenge of making them run well. He honed his skills as an aeronautical engineer with Hughes Aircraft but, with a growing family and few resources, wasn’t in a position to buy a Bugatti. However, as luck would have it, in 1964 Mike found a completely derelict Type 57 Bug in a cornfield. He restored it over the next 12 years and has since driven it in over 40 historic races and rallies across the U.S. and in England and Scotland.

Mike and his son Jamie have two entries in the La Jolla Concours. The second Cleary car is another rescue that was so disheveled when they found it in 1988 that its correct history and model were initially uncertain. It took years of diligent research and luck to find the original engine and critical missing parts. It turned out to be a Type 38 Bugatti roadster 3-seat Grand Sport with a body by Gaston Grummer. In their research, the Cleary family also learned it had won 1st prize at the June 1927 Paris Concours d’Elegance.  

Mike Cleary’s granddaughter in his Type 38 at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. Photo courtesy of Adams / Hansen Photos
Mike Cleary’s granddaughter
in his Type 38 at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. Photo courtesy of Adams / Hansen Photos

Liliane McCain’s 1936 Type 57 Bugatti has been in her family for 72 of its 86 years of existence. It was acquired by her father-in-law, a Swiss hotelier, in 1950 and remained in Switzerland until 1968 when it came to live with Liliane in Los Angeles. The Swiss coachwork by Graber is an outstanding burgundy and navy Cabriolet. The engine was overhauled by the Bugatti factory in the 1950s and by Otto Zipper in Beverly Hills in the 1970s. Thirty years ago, an impeccable full restoration was completed by Jim Stranberg. 

Young Liliane McCain with young Jay Leno and her Type 57 at a Los Angeles concours shortly after the Stranberg restoration. Photo courtesy of Liliane McCain
Young Liliane McCain with young Jay Leno and her Type 57 at a Los Angeles concours shortly after the Stranberg restoration. Photo courtesy of Liliane McCain

A Lifetime of Bugatti Achievements 

Jim Stranberg and his wife, Sharon, are well known in the worldwide Bugatti community. Over five decades, Jim has restored an untold number of Bugs, judged in all the significant concours, and competed in vintage races and rallies in many states and on several continents.  

Jim’s Type 40A Jean Bugatti Roadster with dickie seat demonstrates less is more under quality guidance. Jim acquired the Type 40 in 2002 — in pieces, partially restored, and with some worn or missing parts — and showed the car successfully at Pebble Beach in 2010. 

After the 2018 Saratoga Springs international Bugatti rally, Jim and Sharon organized a post-rally, 3,000-mile transcontinental Bugatti tour. They led the month-long tour in their T 40A followed by seven pre-war open cars from England, France, the Netherlands, Switzerland, New Zealand, and Australia. They navigated weather, occasional mechanical breakdowns, and personalities so well that everyone wanted more, so the Stranbergs have now scheduled an Alaska trip for the summer of 2023. 

Jim Stranberg will receive a Lifetime Achievement Award at the La Jolla Concours d’Elegance on
April 24. lajollaconcours.com

Sharon and Jim Stranberg with their Bugatti Type 40A in Europe. Photo courtesy of David Duthu
Sharon and Jim Stranberg with their Bugatti Type 40A in Europe. Photo courtesy of David Duthu
Featured Photo Lilane McCain’s Type 57 Graber Cabriolet Bugatti. Photo courtesy of Adams / Hansen Photos

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