During the recent Monterey Car Week, Bugatti revealed the first of its six-part exclusive Bugatti Legends edition, “Les Légendes de Bugatti”. Bestowed with the name “Jean-Pierre Wimille”, this first Legend model will be limited to just three vehicles.
With this latest edition, Bugatti aims to honour its former factory race driver, who took home the brand’s first victory in the 1937 Le Mans 24-hour race and repeated this triumph two years later. The Legend vehicle is based on the Bugatti Veyron 16.4 Grand Sport Vitesse and its design pays tribute to Wimille’s racing car in 1937, the Bugatti Type 57G Tank.
“With our first Legend ‘Jean-Pierre Wimille’ we are celebrating Bugatti’s racing life, which experienced a meteoric high point with the Le Mans victory of 1937”, explained Dr Wolfgang Schreiber, President of Bugatti.
“Reinventing history with a modern twist is anextremely exciting challenge,” noted Achim Anscheidt, Bugatti’s chief designer. “For the Wimille Legend, we developed the theme of Le Mans and the exceptional graphic design of the 57G Tank through the paintwork and details of the exterior and interior, in particular.”
The body of the “Jean-Pierre Wimille” Legend is composed entirely of carbon and pays tribute to the Type 57G Tank with its blue paint finish, a colour characteristic of French racing cars of the era. The dark and light blue color split of the historic vehicle has also been implemented in the Vitesse, often running across whole body parts. Dark blue exposed carbon creates a contrast to the light blue “Bleu Wimille” paint finish, which was developed especially for this model to remain faithful to the original colour of the 57G Tank. The entire front area of the vehicle, side doors and the part behind the doors, the so-called “medaillon” (French), are finished in “Bleu Wimille” paint. Only the upper part of the front wing panels remains in dark blue exposed carbon, thus reflecting the design of the historic racing car’s “Wimille stripes”.
The light blue paint finish also features on the underside of the rear wing, which bears a silver silhouette of the Le Mans race circuit reminding of Wimille’s first victory there. Further references to Wimille include the driver’s signature, which has been lasered into the dark blue tank and oil caps.
The dual-tone colour scheme is also reflected in the interior. The headliner, footwells, and seat inserts have been upholstered in “Bleu Wimille”, with the dark blue seat bolsters offering a sense of contour. This dark blue, known as “Lake Blue”, is carried through in the dash panel, centre console and doors and creates a colour dialogue in the vehicle’s interior. Decorative stitching in contrasting light blue delivers subtle accents.
As a homage to Wimille, the vehicle and the brand, the Bugatti designers have developed a special decorative stitching in the French national colours of blue, white and red which has been used on the steering wheel and gearshift lever. The headrests have also been embellished with the stitched signature of Jean-Pierre Wimille.
And references to Le Mans can also be found in the Bugatti’s interior: the silhouette of the race circuit features as a milled and polished aluminium relief embedded in a prominent position below the EB logo in the lid of the rear centrebox, which is itself made of dark blue exposed carbon.
Further Legends-specific features include exposed carbon inserts in the centre console extension bearing the “Les Légendes de Bugatti” logo with the renowned Bugatti elephant and on the door sill plates decked with the portrait and signature of Jean-Pierre Wimille.
Thanks to the Simeone Foundation Automotive Museum in Philadelphia, Bugatti also brought the 1937 winning Le Mans racing car to Monterey. The Type 57G Tank was built in Molsheim in 1936 and 1937. Only three cars were produced at the Bugatti manufacturing plant in the Alsace. With these racing cars, Bugatti aimed to lead the world of French motor racing to new victories, as at that time only foreign brands were constantly winning.
Jean Bugatti, son of the company founder Ettore Bugatti, pushed through an initiative to develop a sports car which could be used for long distance competitions. In order to ensure a low centre of gravity, it was decided to combine the standard type 57S chassis with the Bugatti 3.3-litre row eight cylinder and a wheelbase of 2.98 m. The engine of the 57G Tank delivered approximately 200hp and could quickly reach higher speeds than that of the competitors at the time.
The car was on the road to success from the very beginning, with Jean-Pierre Wimille a fixture at the wheel. His first victories in the 57G Tank were won in 1936 at the Grand Prix de l’A.C.F in Montlhéry and the Grand Prix de la Marne.
For the Le Mans 24 hour race on July 19 and 20th, 1937, Bugatti registered two racing cars of this type. The first car was driven by test drivers Pierre Veyron and Roger Labric, with Jean-Pierre Wimille and Robert Benoist taking control of the second Tank. After only a short while, Wimille took the lead and ultimately won the race with an average speed of 84 mph (136.99 km/h) and a total distance of 2,043 miles (3,287.938 km). Thus, he was able to claim Bugatti’s very first victory in this historical racing contest, and became a brand legend himself.