On 8th September 1937, a Bugatti Type 57 rolling chassis, numbered 57579, was driven out of the factory at Molsheim and delivered to a coachbuilder in Colmar, France. Instead of the Ventoux body that sits on the chassis today, the car was originally factory assembled with bodywork from “Gangloff of Colmar”.
Today, this rare chassis “is believed to be the only known survivor that came out of the factory with the former version of the Gangloff streamlined saloon body”.
From the research we have carried out, we have been able to draw information from a number of sources about the historical significance of this rare Bugatti. And as we quickly discovered, the fascinating history goes well beyond the car itself and touches on the lives of two of its owners.
The story begins in Molsheim, France in 1937 at the factory owned by Ettore Bugatti.
The Build Details
In August 1937, details recorded in the Bugatti factory’s Delivery Register note that chassis 57579 with engine 417 was taken to Colmar on 8th September 1937 by an employee named ‘Paul’. Further notes in the Sales Register detailed this chassis as ‘Colmar stock’.
Colmar is approximately 50 kilometres from Molsheim and was the location of the world-renowned coach builder, Gangloff. Regarded as one of the most important coach builders after WW1, Gangloff produced bodies for an impressive list of car manufacturers – Rolls-Royce, Mercedes-Benz, Bugatti, Delage and Hispano-Suiza to name a few.
Chassis 57579 was assigned to ‘W’ in the Bugatti records, which was the abbreviation for Wiederkehr. Gangloff had purchased this company ten years earlier in 1927 but the business would most likely still have been referred to locally by its original name. Bugatti historian, Pierre-Yves Laugier, believes that this, and the fact that Bugatti didn’t produce any saloons in 1937, is further verification that chassis 57579 housed a Gangloff body.
The last records of the Bugatti saloon at the Molsheim factory were dated 24th March 1938. The Delivery Register revealed the car was delivered by road to Moreau et Cie (R. Moreau Auto Garage) in Sainte-Savine, a suburb of Troyes. Moreau et Cie was a Bugatti dealer as well as an agent for Fiat and other manufacturers. On the same day, the Sales Register recorded the sale of the Bugatti saloon, chassis 57579/417 to Moreau-Lanez for a price of FF70,000. It was also described as an ex-demonstration model.
‘Moreau’ referred to the R. Moreau Auto Garage and ‘Lanez’ referred to the actual buyer, a local director named Jean Lanez.
By the time Jean Lanez bought the Bugatti Type 57, he had already lived an extraordinary life and had accomplished so much in his 40 years. Like any new owner, he would have been looking forward to driving his prestigious car for many, many years to come. But unbeknown to him, war was about to break out in Europe and his life would ultimately be changed forever.
We have collated the following personal details which were supplied with the car’s history during the auction promotion in 2015. We also discovered further information about Jean Lanez’s military life through the French Military Death Index, 1914-1961.
Jean Lanez was born on 10th July 1897 in Bellevue, France. His father sat on the board of a famous department store, and the family’s financial position enabled Jean to be educated at the distinguished Lycée Stanislas in Paris. While in England in 1914, war broke out and Lanez quickly returned home to France. He enlisted as a volunteer on 22nd August 1914 at the age of only seventeen, and by 22nd September 1914, he was stationed at the Western Front.
The following year on 15th July 1915, Jean Lanez was promoted to second lieutenant and is noted as being the youngest of that rank in the French Army at that particular time. Two years later on 12th September 1917, he acquired his pilot’s licence and was promoted to Lieutenant Commander of the S.P.A.D. 87 Squadron. During his time with the squadron, he shot down several enemy planes. It was recorded in family notes that by the end of WW1, Jean had been wounded three times and had earned five ‘mentions in despatches’. In recognition of his bravery and achievements, Jean Lanez was awarded the highest military decoration in France, the Legion of Honour, as well as the War Cross 1914-1918 and the Belgian War Cross 1915-1918.
Following WW1, Jean moved to southern Champagne and was appointed director of the Brisson-Dauthel flour mill at Dienville. In 1922, he acquired a large residence known as the Château de Dienville which was located near the mill. He married Fernande Dautard and went on to have three children – son, Claude, and daughters, Jacqueline and Francoise.
In March 1938, Jean Lanez purchased a new Bugatti Type 57 saloon, no 57579/417. The car was registered with the number plate 8990-BN2.
When the Second World War broke out, Lanez had the option to refrain from active duty due to his ‘director status’ at the flour mill. But his loyalty to his country saw him join the Résistance in July 1943 and he became responsible for organising supplies for the Piney-Brienne Sector. Only six months later on 12th January 1944, Jean Lanez was arrested by the German Police.
After being held for 40 days in Troyes Prison, he was moved to Châlons-sur-Marne on 7th April 1944 and Compiègne a short time later. On 27th April 1944, Jean Lanez was sent to the Auschwitz Camp and assigned prisoner number 185846. He was then moved to the Buchenwald Camp as prisoner number 53806, followed by the Flossenbürg Camp as prisoner number 9944.
It was at the Flossenbürg concentration camp that Lanez was reunited with an old army friend, Jean Hoppenot. The two men were sent to work at the ‘Janowitz’ SS armaments factory but both refused to comply. They were sentenced to hard labour and returned to Flossenbürg where they were worked to “the brink of exhaustion”.
In mid-January 1945, Jean Lanez was brutally beaten at the Flossenbürg Camp and tragically died a few days later on 15th January 1945.
Lanez’s contribution to WW2 was recognised, and he was awarded two posthumous medals – the War Cross 1939 – 1945 and the Resistance Medal.
The following commendation (translated) is contained within one of Jean Lanez’s military records – France, Military Death Index, 1914-1961, Reference # 5335373:
“A glorious veteran of the 1914-1918 war, he remained true to himself and to his past by joining the Résistance in July 1943. In charge of the Piney and Brienne-le-Chateau sectors, he made a special effort to ensure supplies for the refractories, sacrificing his family’s tranquillity, despite his three children, to the certain risks his attitude posed… A fine example of civic-mindedness and patriotism for the younger generations.”
Jean Lanez 1897 – 1945
1945 – 1964
In 1946, a year after Jean Lanez’s death, the Bugatti saloon was officially sold to an unknown buyer and registered on 11th July 1946 with the number plate 3135 RP 3. It sold again two years later on 2nd July 1948 to yet another unknown buyer before being bought by Jacques Dupont on 21st April 1949. The new registration number was 4817 YD 1.
Two years later on 24th May 1951, the car was sold to Georges de Changy. The Paris number plates assigned to the Bugatti at that time, ‘4723 AG 75’, were the last to ever be fitted to chassis 57579 and have remained on the car ever since.
A further change of ownership was recorded on 26th July 1955 when the Bugatti was registered in the name of Pierre Proust who owned a garage in Montrouge that specialised in Bugattis.
An employee of Pierre Proust, Henri Novo, rented a yard nearby and used it to store cars for himself and Proust. Over a dozen Bugattis were stored there and the yard eventually became a “Bugatti Cemetery” where cars were left to deteriorate and parts were removed to rebuild other Bugattis.
This location is where the Gangloff 57579 streamlined saloon body spent its final days. It is shown in the following image taken at Henri Novo’s rented yard, second from the right, with the distinctive split rear window.
Henri Novo was captured in a second photo at the same location (pictured below on the right). Behind him is a side profile of the Type 57, no 57579.
Bugatti Ventoux Coach – No 57659
The next chapter of the car’s history involves another Bugatti – a Ventoux Coach, chassis no 57659.
We understand Pierre-Yves Laugier, a well-respected Bugatti historian, believes this was the donor car for the Ventoux bodywork that now sits on chassis 57579. We were unable to find a lot of history on the Ventoux Coach but the first owner was recorded in May 1938 as Gaston Garcin. The car remained in his ownership for fourteen years until April 1952 at which time it was sold to an Amiens businessman named Sarrazin.
The following photo is of the original car when it was driven by Sarrazin in the Rallye des Routes du Nord in 1955 with co-driver Lucien Guichard. The two-day rally was held on 12th and 13th February 1955, and the following photo of the Ventoux was taken at the start of the event outside the Exhibition Centre in Lille.
Competing as entrant number 1, the Ventoux pulled out of the rally in Cambrai during the seven-lap speed trial. Only a few years later, and just like the Gangloff streamlined saloon, this car also ended up at Henri Novo’s storage yard in Montrouge.
The Fate of Chassis 57659
As we searched for further information relating to the Bugatti Ventoux Coach no 57659, we came across an article that included a listing for the 14th Annual Auburn Auction that was held in Auburn, Indiana, USA on 3-4 September 2021. The promoted car was a 1938 Bugatti Type 57C Atalante Coupe no 57641, but the opening paragraph mentioned it as chassis no 57659.
A link to the full article has been added below but a footnote written by the editor of the BugattiPage article explained the combination of numbers.
“In the BugattiRegister the car is described more clearly; it consists of the chassis and drive train ( front axle, engine, gearbox and rear axle) of 57659, the Atalante body of 57325, and chassis plate and paperwork of 57641. All probably done by Henri Novo in the 1960s (before matching numbers became important) at the request of his client Auguste Delicourt.“
So the Bugatti chassis number 57659, and its running gear, did survive thanks to Henri Novo’s passion for these cars. But unlike the Gangloff saloon bodywork that was never seen again, the Ventoux body was given a new lease of life.
On 28th August 1964, a haulage operator named Roger Baillon purchased Jean Lanez’s Bugatti, 57579-417, with the Ventoux body believed to be from chassis 57659. The car was relocated to Baillon’s residence in Échiré.
Born in 1914 in Brulain, Roger Baillon grew up on a family farm in France. But rather than follow in his parents’ footsteps, Baillon discovered his passion lay with motor cars.
After completing his mechanical apprenticeship at a Peugeot garage in Niort, he spent time as a mechanic in the French Air Force before managing a service station in the Paris region. During WW2, the service station he worked at was bombed so at the end of the war he returned to the Deux-Sèvres area where he had grown up.
Baillon began a bodywork business and quickly found success. In 1945, he started recovering trucks that had been abandoned during the war and began producing new bodies for the existing chassis. He then rented the trucks to local companies as a way to renew and build up business activities post-war throughout the provinces.
In 1947, Baillon designed and created a prototype of a car body and named it ‘L’Oiseau Blue’ or ‘The Blue Bird’. The chassis, engine, transmission, gearbox and some interior and dashboard components for his creation were all sourced from a Simca 8.
Roger Baillon’s ‘L’Oiseau Blue’ appeared on 23rd October 1947 at the Paris Motor Show but no commercial interest was shown and the car never progressed from a prototype.
Baillon again showed his creative flair in 1950 when he designed one of the first cab-over trucks in the French heavy transport industry – it was affectionately known as ‘the Micheline’.
But just like L’Oiseau Bleu, the Micheline prototype was never put into production and therefore never sold commercially. We understand the truck was, however, used in Baillon’s business.
Baillon’s true love and enthusiasm for cars saw him start collecting cars in the early 1950s. For the next 20 years, Roger Baillon acquired around 200 old cars and saved many that would otherwise have been destined for the scrap yard. He was one of the first car collectors in France and his actions preserved a lot of these cars, ultimately resulting in “one of the finest collections in Europe”.
In 1953, Roger Baillon purchased a sprawling property in Échiré called Château Gaillard. His dream was to establish a car museum on the grounds of the chateau.
Château Gaillard, Échiré, France – built 1850
R. Baillon Transport
Baillon’s truck manufacturing business began to thrive and at the peak of his success, he employed 200 mechanics, sheet metal workers and turners. He also added transportation to his business activities and formed ‘Transports R. Baillon’.
Roger Baillon developed a watertight tank on a semi-trailer that enabled the transportation of dangerous chemical products. One of Baillon’s main customers was a chemical production plant situated in Melle and he secured a major contract with the factory (known as ‘the Usines de Melle’) to transport chemical products. As a result of the business generated from this contract, R. Baillon Transport became one of the largest transportation fleets in the former Poitou-Charentes region, and by 1965, Baillon’s trucks were travelling as far as Portugal.
Relations began to deteriorate with the chemical plant midway through the 1970s, and in 1977 the contract between R. Baillon Transport and the Usines de Melle was not renewed. The ensuing loss of business caused the once-successful transport company to quickly begin to fail. Debts piled up and the drivers were paid late, then eventually were not paid at all which resulted in a strike. The Baillon business was no longer sustainable and was declared bankrupt on 18th January 1978.
Although the main assets of R.Baillon Transport were purchased by another transport company, there was still a large shortfall in the debt. To make matters worse, Roger Baillon was investigated for tax evasion, convicted and heavily fined.
The authorities, and or the banks, forced an auction of some of Baillon’s cars and on 23rd and 24th June 1979, 62 cars from his collection were sold under the hammer of auctioneer J.M. Dézamy. The sale proceeds total from this auction was 1,285,300 Francs.
An advertisement of the June 1979 auction of Roger Baillon’s partial collection.
Six years later, another auction was enforced and a further 32 cars were sold, again by the auctioneer J.M. Dézamy. The second auction fetched 2,557,600 Francs.
This left approximately 100 cars sitting at Château Gaillard. Time passed and Roger Baillon’s dream to create a car museum never eventuated. When he passed away in 1996, the remaining cars had already been sitting at the property for up to forty-five years. His estate was inherited by his son, Jacques Baillon, and the collection remained hidden from car enthusiasts.
Nestled amongst the extensive array of rare and sought-after vehicles was a very special Bugatti which had rolled out of the factory in Molsheim 59 years earlier. There, the Bugatti would stay for another 18 years before its existence would finally be revealed to the world.
Roger Baillon 1914 – 1996
Sources / References:
France, Military Death Index, 1914-1961
France, The National Order of the Legion of Honour
André Beury: Souvenirs Familiaux; Le Petit Troyen (20 June 1945)