The Bugatti Type 54 appeared in 1931 and was intended to compete with the increasing success of the German grand prix cars. Their approach included a big 4.9-liter supercharged straight-8 engine with twin overhead cams, rated at around 300 bhp. But this power came at a price – the Type 54 was heavy, handled poorly, and the four or five that were built ended up in several crashes. The first chassis, No. 54201, driven by a Czech price named Jiri Christian Lobkowitz, crashed at the AVUS Ring in 1932, ending his career rather permanently.
Following his death, the wreck passed to his friend Zdenek Pohl, who had other plans for the chassis. Pohl had a very smart-looking roadster body made by Prague coachbuilder O. Uhlik. By the 1970’s the owner wanted to go racing again, removed the roadster body, and installed a competition body on Chassis 54201 for vintage racing. The roadster body was recovered and installed on a chassis that had been given the designation “BC-70” by the Bugatti Owners Club, eventually ending up in the Mullin Collection.
Minichamps has done their usual superb job, with a smooth black finish on the resin surface. This allows all the little chrome details to stand out, and there are several of note. The bracing for the front fenders is particularly well executed. The headlights have a very realistic appearance with the proper fluting, and frame the typical horse-collar radiator. The latter has very legible Bugatti script on the emblem below the radiator cap.
Wheels have an appropriate aluminum look and this includes the twin spares attached at the back. That 4.9-liter powerplant must have put out a lot of heat – there are dozens of vents replicated along the top of the hood plus chromed mesh panels (2 on the left side, one on the right). Chrome straps attach a fuel tank at the back, reminiscent of British sports cars of the period. The California plate “TYPE 54” is a nice touch; not all the Minichamps Mullin cars have had the number plates replicated. The chromed windshield frame has been provided with transparent green-tinted wind deflectors on the sides – a particularly nice bit of assembly to avoid glue residue.
Moving to the interior, a representation of the engine-turned metal dash and green “leather” seats have been provided. Chromed door handles are installed inside and out. The Type 54 has an unusually tall gearshift and I wonder if this makes driving it a bit awkward. The surface detail on the steering wheel rim is appropriately notched – I imagine the driver has to hang on pretty tight when this car hits its stride.
In side profile, I find quite a similarity to the Jaguar SS100, which appeared 4 years later. I don’t recall any previous Type 54 models from a major manufacturer, so Bugatti collectors will definitely want this one on their shelf.