Think Pebble Beach winners are garage queens? Leno’s ’32 Bugatti will prove you wrong

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The eclectic mix of cars featured on Jay Leno’s Garage is always fun to see, but the last handful of episodes have had an interesting twist. Since Jay has been forced to record the episodes himself, without the structure provided by outside guests or a production schedule, he’s selected cars he enjoys from his own collection, like this 1932 Bugatti Type 49.

This particular car is an awesome feature because of all the available documentation from the car’s previous life. Seeing it pre-restoration is particularly fascinating. Some folks expect that most cars that get restored are in really bad shape before they are saved. This Type 49 shows what kind of car usually receives a Pebble Beach-quality restoration. Contrary to what you might assume, these lucky candidates typically fall into the category you’d label as “good, solid cars.”

This Type 49 didn’t simply receive a restoration worthy of the Pebble Beach green; it won its class, distinguishing the makeover as truly masterful. One of challenges of the Monterey event, however, is that owners and caretakers must balance concours-worthy aesthetics with the mechanical demands of the Pebble Beach Tour, which takes place on Thursday during a normal Monterey Car Week. The Tour is for Pebble Beach show cars and can sometimes be the deciding factor between a first-in-class car and and an overall concours winner. If a car breaks down on the Tour, it sacrifices top honors.

A long straight-eight sits under this Bugatti’s hood, sporting two spark plugs per cylinder. The meticulous detail shown in the engine-turned aluminum is stunning when Jay first opens the hood. What is also remarkable is the excellent quality of the car’s manners on the road. It is rare for restorations like this to be maintained in such well-sorted condition; all sorts of small-scale issues crop up in a Pebble Beach candidate’s life post-concours, a life that typically involves storage in a large collection or museum after being shipped back from the California golf green.

As cool as this car’s resume is, the turbine wheels really seal the deal. Who would have thought that this design would trace its roots back to a prewar French car?

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