2003 Bugnotti by Deco Rides…
Estimate : $125,000 – $175,000 US
350 hp, 346 cu. in. Chevrolet LS1 V8 engine, fuel injection, four-speed automatic transmission, independent front suspension with coil over shocks, live 9-inch Ford rear axle with coil over shocks, four-wheel hydraulic disc brakes.
– Chip Foose-designed one-off custom
– Evokes Figoni et Falaschi’s 1930s French style
– 350 hp Chevrolet Corvette LS1 fuel-injected V8 engine
– Adjustable airbag suspension added
– John d’Agastino-designed black convertible top
The aerodynamic “Goutte d’Eau,” or teardrop designs, of Parisian coachbuilders Figoni et Falaschi in the 1930s remain perhaps the high-point of automobile design, with their combinations of fluid forms and function. Their swooping bodies were fitted to Talbot-Lago, Delage, Delahaye, Bugatti, Peugeot and Bentley marques; they are instantly recognizable, command premium prices at auction and are an essential element in any meaningful collection. They’re also intimidating from a design standpoint and have rarely been imitated.
It’s probably a daunting prospect for any designer to attempt, since the originals are so well-known that any deviation from accepted practice would be considered a glaring error – yet what great artist would want to unthinkingly copy another?
That was likely the challenge facing designer Chip Foose, Boyd Coddington’s one-time apprentice, a graduate of the Pasadena Art Center for Design and currently host of the television show Overhaulin’ – which turns enthusiasts’ stalled projects into vibrant reality.
Foose penned this roadster for Terry Cook of Deco Rides of Long Valley, New Jersey. Deco Rides builds cars that evoke the classic designs of the 1930s and are constructed with the same attention to detail and fine materials. Despite its Bugatti-style grille, this car is not a Bugatti, hence the name. What it is, however, is an extreme vision of a custom car, following design parameters established almost 80 years ago by Figoni et Falaschi, Pourtout, Franay, Saoutchik and others.
Giuseppe Figoni was born in Pizcenza, Italy in 1894, but his family emigrated to Paris, and he was apprenticed to Carosserie l’Automobilie in Boulogne-sur-Seine. Designing disappearing tops and sunroofs in the 1930s, Figoni came to the attention of Anthony Lago, who was reviving the fortunes of Talbot and sent work his way.
In 1935, Figoni met fellow Italian businessman Ovidio Falaschi, and their partnership of Figoni & Falaschi brought high fashion to the automobile business. Indeed, one-time Folies Bergeres dancer Stella Mudge, who became the second wife of Maharaja Paramjit Singh, had her Talbot-Lago teardrop coupe painted and reupholstered several times to match her clothes.
Mudge’s car is significant because it’s believed to be the only one of the 14 teardrop Talbot-Lago coupes to have the front wheels covered, and this is one of the styling cues Chip Foose embraced in this roadster. The crocodile skin interior is also period correct.
The composite body was built by Brown’s Metal Mods in Indianapolis, Indiana, assembled by Ramsay Mosher at Ram’s Rod Shop in Dover, Delaware and finished by Brian Butler of East Coast Restorations in Greenwood, Delaware. Steve Pierce of One-Off Technologies in Gilford, New Hampshire created the interior, with its mix of crocodile skin and burgundy leather. The Bugatti-style grille is made of brass, and the louvers open when the engine is started. All the stainless steel trim of the car is painstakingly hand-formed, as were the “organ pipe” exhausts.
Since January 2009, the car has formed part of a highly respected collection. The owner ordered some changes to make it more tractable. The 350-horsepower Corvette LS1 V8 engine and 4-speed automatic transmission were more than up to the task of propelling the car at a suitable speed, but the owner was concerned about ground clearance. So he installed a computerized airbag suspension, which can raise the car several inches to ease its passage in and out of driveways and over speed bumps. He also had customizer John D’Agostino create a removable canvas soft top to protect the car’s occupants (and the crocodile upholstery) from inclement weather.
As Oscar Wilde said: “The only thing worse than being talked about is NOT being talked about.” There are no worries on that score, where this car is concerned.