The unusual 1931 Bugatti Type 51 Dubos Coupe was inspected by Jay Leno.

1931 Bugatti Type 51 Dubos Coupe on Jay Leno’s Garage

Its coach-built bodywork and race car mechanicals make the 1931 Bugatti Type 51 Dubos Coupe a one-of-a-kind example of coach-built bodywork and race car mechanicals. Currently a part of the Nethercutt Collection in California, it was recently featured on “Jay Leno’s Garage,” where Cameron Richards, vice president of the collection, discussed the piece’s design and historical significance.

When this automobile was first built, it was intended to be a grand prix racer, and it was driven in competition by Louis Chiron (the inspiration for the Bugatti Chiron) and Rene Dreyfus. It was sold to Andre Bith in 1936, who commissioned Parisian coachbuilder Louis Dubos to transform it into a road automobile for use on the highway. Due to the unusual bodywork (which Leno adds is comparable to that of the Bugatti Type 57SC Atlantic), the automobile has been referred to as the Dubos Coupe since its introduction in 1989.

The Type 51 retains its racing engine, a 2.3-liter, dual-overhead-cam supercharged inline-8 that produces around 185 horsepower on gasoline and 200 horsepower on alcohol (depending on fuel type). The engine, when coupled with a 4-speed manual transmission, has the capability of propelling this vehicle to 140 mph.

Four little tailpipes are located at the rear of the vehicle. According to Leno, this was done in order to prevent clearance concerns with a single, larger-diameter exhaust. Bugatti’s classic spoked racing wheels can be seen peeking out below the rear-fender skirts, despite the smooth coverings on the front wheels. Another oddity is the gasoline filler, which is positioned in the cabin and surrounded by leather upholstery, which makes fuelling a bit of a nerve-racking experience.

Over the years, the coupe has changed ownership a few times, and at one point the chassis and Dubos body were detached. The Nethercutt Collection purchased the chassis and then went on to locate the body, which was in a collection in Colorado at the time of acquisition. After over 50 years apart, the two components were rejoined as part of a comprehensive repair project.

The Dubos Coupe, like all of the automobiles in the Nethercutt Collection, is completely operable, as Leno proves by taking it for a spin around his neighborhood near his Los Angeles garage.

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