Monday, March 13, 2017

Shah of Persia's Bugatti

The Shah of Persia's Bugatti was among the more spectacular designs fit on a Type 57 chassis. Mohammad Pahlavi was born the son of Reza Pahlavi who was the Shah responsible for the modernization of Iran and he took a keen interest in Automobiles. Mohammad took over his fathers role and lead the petroleum-rich Iran from 1941 onwards. By 1979, conservative Muslims, led by the Ayatollah Khomeini, revolted and overthrew Mohammad's dictatorship monarchy. 

As his second of three wives, Mohammad married Princess Fawzia, a daugher of the King Fouad who ruled Egypt. The event happened in Cairo on March 14th, 1939. Since Iran had good relations with Egypt and most of the Western World, many countries sent presents for the wedding which included a royal airplane and several unique cars, but non of them were as beautiful as this Bugatti.

It was the French Government which commissioned the best talent within their country to provide a gift for the Shah's wedding. To create one of most extravagant cars to come from their country, France chose Van Vooren and Bugatti.

Using the flowing lines of Figoni et Falaschi as inspiration, Van Vooren worked upon chassis #57808, a low slung Bugatti Type 57C. Their result was a twin passenger cabriolet of substantial proportion and style. Unusual highlights introduced by Van Vooren included a very short windscreen which could be wound down into the bulkhead and a disappearing top which was concealed by a panel behind the interior.

Bugatti contributed a Type 57C chassis that came equipped with a supercharger. It helped the car produce an impressive 175 horsepower (130kW) from a 3245cc (198 cu in) engine. 

Until 1979, the Shah's Bugatti stayed in the Royal Court of Iran. Afterwards, the Ayatullahs, who had nearly scraped the car, sold the it at a very low price. Fortunately, the buyer had the Bugatti shipped to the USA and saved it in the process. At this point the car was heavily butchered to accommodate an Amercian V8 until later shipped to England for a full rebuild by Rod Jolly Coachbuilding and Louis Giron. After the restoration, the Shah's Bugatti auctioned for $1,760,000 USD and has since changed owners several times. 

The car currently has a good home at the Petersen Museum in California alongside some of the most important cars in world.

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