Classic Car Driver is Lucky, The 1932 Type 51 Bugatti – Not So Much…


A classic car driver was lucky to survive when the £1 million ($1.317 million US$) Bugatti he was driving flipped upside down as he raced around a corner during a speed hill-climbing event. While on a practive run, the Bugatti overturned and smashed into the tarmac race surface, trapping the driver, Edmund Burgess, 59, beneath the vehicle with his helmet pinned against the road. 

Burgess, from Lavenham, Suffolk, flipped his 1932 Type 51 Bugatti after he lost control during a practice run for the Chateau Impney Hill Climb in Droitwich, Worcestershire. Dramatic pictures show the black car flying through the air sideways with the driver desperately clinging on to the steering wheel.
Over the weekend approximately 15,000 spectators flocked to the Chateau Impney Hill Climb over the weekend as 238 cars took on the 1,000-yard course, described as one of the most challenging hill climb courses in the country. Speed hill-climbing is a form of motor sport involving one competitor at a time racing uphill on a tarmac road against the clock.

Chateau Impney originally hosted hill climbs at the site of the luxury hotel in the 1950s and 1960s but the races returned for the first time in decades last year. An event can involve more than 200 competitors in an eclectic mix of cars, organized into different classes ranging from road-going saloons to purpose-built single-seater racing cars which accelerate faster than an F1 car.

Three marshals, dressed in their safety-orange jumpsuits, then lifted the classic car off the stricken driver who slowly walked away from the wreckage.
Despite being able to walk to the ambulance, he was taken to a local hospital as a precaution for further examination.
Once at the hospital, they uncovered a number of injuries that resulted in him being admitted to intensive care. Edmund was released from intensive care this morning and his condition has been described as stable. His family has asked that its privacy be respected at this distressing time.

Keen motorsport photographer Mike Dodman, 71, whose photos are featured in this article, was watching the event in, when he saw the Bugatti flip over.

He was quoted as saying "It is an old car and they are not as easy to control...." 
"He was coming around the bend and the car wobbled and a wheel clipped the inside of the corner which flipped the car over. They don't have the safety features you have on a modern car so the car rolled over on top of him. The marshals were quickly on the scene and lifted the car off him and he was able to scramble out. He was able to walk over to an ambulance that had arrived. This was the only serious accident of the whole weekend, so he was lucky."
In addition to Burgess's 1932 Type 51 Bugatti, racer Ernest Nagamatsu took on the track in a 1964 Shelby Cobra 289 which was used in the film The Love Bug. 
The regular hill climb competitor also brought along the 1959 Old Yeller II which featured in the film Viva Las Vegas.

As the British press has a reputation for being - shall we say, opinionated - we thought you'd enjoy reading some comments readers expressed in the DailyMail:

Go hard or go home - use the cars like they were meant to be used. Good man.

It's great to see that some owners of classic racing cars actually use them instead of wrapping them in cotton wool and hiding them away.

Oh dear . . . . is the car ok?

'Three Marshalls dressed in orange'. What did the DM expect them to be dressed in, woodland green elves suits?

Beautiful old car but it could easily have a roll bar fitted without ruining the looks! I wouldn't drive it without one.

  • Completely changes the handling as the chassis on these old cars is, generally, intended to flex. The roll bar/cage stiffens the chassis, reducing the flex and changes the handling.
  • Yes but the vehicle is not being restored to view it's used for racing, and should be safe to race.
  • "They don't have the safety features you have on a modern car so the car rolled over on top of him." Absolute crap. The 'lack' of safety features didn't contribute to it rolling.

That'll buff out mate Dave reckons

Hardly "Wrecked" looks 90% O.K. to me.

No "Tipping" Allowed

Cars in the UK roll, cars in the USA flip.....

You're reading an American paper! (Or so it has become)

He really needs to (take) better care of that car.

Yeah, it handles really well obviously. Trashcan on wheels more like. A fool and his money part with ease, bit like this car parts with the tarmac with ease.

Hope the driver is OK and makes a good recovery, but really, £1M for that old piece of tat? I wouldn't give you £100 for it.

So what does this mean?

While we have witnessed restored classic vehicles command premium pricing at auction, one does wonder if a history of one or more accidents might negatively affect market value.  But, as we have also heard from Dr. Fred Simeone, these classics have a history of racing and should be driven as intended. Maybe just not all-out on a practice run...

Remember - Classic cars are no longer in production - take care of what's left...

The Garagistry Team

Garagistry thanks CHARLIE MOORE  of the DailyMail for his contribution to this story.