My Car Quest

August 5, 2020

An Artist’s Favorite – The Shah’s Bugatti SC

Text and Art by Wallace Wyss –

An artist looks at cars different than say a mechanic or race driver. We only look at the aesthetics. It may have a rotten engine or trans design but we like it because it’s beautiful.

I’m nominating this one as my perennial favorite. Its gestation is a bit odd. It is a 1937 Bugatti SC chassis but is often listed as a 1939 car because it was given to the Shah of Iran as a wedding present by the country of France in 1939.

The Shah had just taken over the throne, Europe was on the downslide toward WW II and each country wanted to kiss up to the Shah so they would have oil during the war.

Actually the Shah wanted a Delahaye 165 he had seen at the Paris Auto Show but by the time he conveyed that to the French government, that car had been sold. You think they would go to the owner and say “Your country wants that car back” but no they told the Shah, “Not to worry, we will replicate that body on another chassis.”

Bugatti SC - art by Wallace Wyss

And so they built it at Van Vooren (the Delahaye had Figoni et Falaschi coachwork), with the front “spat” (skirts) and a retractable windscreen.

I’d like to say the Shah and his wife lived happily ever after in the their wedding car but he divorced her because she couldn’t produce a male heir and that’s a flaw if you’re a country ruler.

You can bet the next wife didn’t want that wedding car from the first wife anywhere in town.

So sometime in the 1950s the car, with by then a Cadillac engine, it was bought by a Dutch car trader who paid the Shah’s Royal Hunting Department (the Shah had his own hunting preserve) as “a car with a long hood” something like $275.

It came to America and was reunited with a Bugatti engine. And eventually was restored and bought at auction by Mr. Robert E. Petersen as the pride of his collection.

It’s still in the museum bearing his name.

Let us know what you think in the Comments.

Wallace Wyss

 
 
THE AUTHOR/ARTIST: Wallace Wyss has 20” x 30” embellished giclees of this work entitled “And we’ll always have Paris.” He can be reached at mendoart7@gmail.com.

 
 
 
 
 

Delahaye

The Delahaye the Shah originally wanted. This one is in the collection of the Mullin Museum.

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An Artist's Favorite - The Shah's Bugatti SC
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An Artist's Favorite - The Shah's Bugatti SC
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The Shah wanted a Delahaye 165 he had seen at the Paris Auto Show but by the time he conveyed that to the French government, that car had been sold. They gave him a Bugatti instead.
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