The Bugatti Type 59 marked the French automaker’s last foray into Grand Prix racing in the 1930s. Although Bugatti’s Type 35 dominated competition in the late 1920s, the firm’s later efforts (such as the Type 51, Type 54 and Type 59) simply couldn’t compete with state-backed models from Germany and Italy.

To mark the 80th anniversary of the Type 59, Bugatti will display one of the first three models built at the Salon Rétromobile, considered to be one of the world’s most prestigious collector car exhibitions.

Constructed in 1933, the Bugatti Type 59 first ran in the 1933 Spanish Grand Prix at San Sebastian. “Voiture Moteur No. 3,” (car engine number 3), the car displayed at this year’s Salon Rétromobile, was driven to a sixth place finish by René Dreyfus.

Rule changes for the 1934 season required the cars to be significantly lighter, and the three original Type 59 racers had their frame rails drilled to save weight. Allowable displacement was upped from 2.8-liters to 3.3-liters, though “Moteur No. 3” remained at 2.8-liters for the Monaco Grand Prix.

Driver Robert Benoist damaged the car in testing and could not compete in the event. It was returned to Molsheim, where it was retained for spare parts before being sold (as part of a four-car lot) to a group of British racing drivers. Moteur No. 3 was assigned chassis number 59121.

Chassis 59121 changed hands several times before winding up in the collection of Stafford East in 1949. East’s family kept the car in their possession for 56 years before it was sold in a 2005 Bonhams auction at Goodwood, England.

If you have a passion for early Bugatti racers and find yourself in Paris between February 6 and 10, 2013, we’d suggest you pay a visit to Salon Rétromobile. The Bugatti Type 59 will only celebrate its 80th birthday once, after all..