Prince Georg Christian von Lobkowicz.


Prince Georg Christian von Lobkowicz was born on February 22nd 1907 in Turnov, Kingdom of Bohemia, to Prince Friedrich von Lobkowicz and Princess Josephine Antonie von Lobkowicz (born Countess Antonie von Thun und Hohenstein) into one of the most wealthy, powerful and historically important aristocratic families of the Austro - Hungarian empire. His story has a personal importance to me as Prince Lobkowicz was closely related to my Czech Grandmother.

Georg, like his friend and later racing teammate Zdenek Pohl, started out racing motorbikes. It was on August 26th 1928 that he took part in his first automobile race at Psovka - Melnik driving an Austro - Daimler designed by fellow Bohemian Ferdinand Porsche. His race day ended after only 1200 meters when he mistakenly shifted into reverse destroying the gearbox. Undeterred, Lobkowicz crossed the finish line in a velocipede he borrowed from a spectator.[1] In order to stay under the radar and keep his racing activities hidden from his family, Lobkowicz used the pseudonym Hyta while his friend and teammate Zdenek raced as Batul. (the Czech translations of Toodie and Badge; characters from a Czech translation of Helen’s Babies by American Author John Habberton)[2] [3]. (Below: Helen's Babies in the Czech translation and the American original.)



The next year, Lobkowicz switched from Austro - Daimler to Bugatti, acquiring a Type 37A (sn: 37366) with a supercharged 1500 cc inline four producing 90hp. Now the cat was out of the bag and luckily Lobkowicz ended that year by winning his class in the Ecce Homo Sternberk hillclimb, coming third overall[4]. Not bad for a start.


For 1930, Lobkowicz ordered a new Bugatti Type 35 C (sn: 4949) with a much more powerful supercharged inline 8 cylinder engine with which he won his class in that years Zbraslav - Jaloviste hillclimb. Together with his friend Zdenek Pohl, Lobkowicz founded a racing team and together they took part in various European races. Unfortunately he and his Bugatti 35C did not finish in the rankings at that years first Czechoslovak Grand Prix held at the Masaryk Circuit near his home.[5]


But he yearned for even more power so for the 1931 season Lobkowicz ordered a brand new Bugatti Type 51 to replace the Type 35, with a twin cam version of the inline eight that made 180 hp and could reach speeds up to 220 km/h (136mph). At that years Czechoslovak Grand Prix at the Masaryk Circuit in Brno, Lobkowicz had his best showing yet, coming fourth overall behind world class drivers such as Louis Chiron (driving for the official Bugatti Team - T51), Hans Stuck (driving a Mercedes SSKL and Heinrich Joachim Von Morgen.(driving an Bugatti T51)[6] Having tasted success and come so close to the podium, Lobkowicz was now hungrier than ever and needed an even more powerful car to match his ambitions and he began to search for a Bugatti Type 54.


The new Bugatti racer was reputedly developed in just 13 days on a shoe-string budget. Very little of the car was actually new but was already in the “Bugatti Parts Bin.” The chassis as well as the axles came from a 3 liter 16 cylinder prototype called the Type 47 from 1929. The gearbox too came from the Type 47 but with only three gears instead of four. The DOHC engine came from the Type 50 and was a smaller 5 liter version of the inline 8 of the Type 46. The supercharger came from the Type 50 Le Mans car and the cast - aluminum wheels were copied from those on the Type 51 but had bigger drums. (See below: Type 47 16 cylinder engine and Type 50 Le Mans.)


The chassis groaned under the rather porky 950 kgs in weight and the enlarged drum brakes had a hard time stopping the beast with its high center of gravity that made it handle like an angry rhino, although a powerful rhino with a rumored 300 hp which according to official factory figures was closer to between 265 and 277 hp.[7] Many years later Phil Hill drove one at the Monterey Historics and claimed it was the toughest car he had driven.[8]


The powers that be at Bugatti knew of the design shortcomings but as a result of the worldwide depression their luxury car offerings such as the extravagant Royale series were not selling well and funds were tight, and so every racer sold helped to keep the struggling company afloat. Vladimir Gut, the Bugatti importer for Eastern Europe had nevertheless sent a telegram to the home office in Molsheim asking Bugatti not to sell the T 54 to the young and inexperienced Lobkowicz but they paid no heed. In a last ditch effort, Gut warned Lobkowicz personally of the fact that the Type 54 remained unproven and to leave it to the more experienced works drivers like Achille Varzi and Louis Chiron but Lobkowicz would hear none of it, eager to prove himself against the greats on equal terms with the same car.[9]


Lobkowicz’s car, sn. 54201 was the first of five cars built. The chassis had initially raced at the 1931 Monza GP in the able hands of Achille Varzi. All Type 54’s apart from SN 54201 would later be modified, moving the engine and gearbox further back and lower in the chassis to help the handling but as the Varzi car never returned to the racing shop but was sent to its new Bohemian owner instead, it never benefitted from these modifications.[10] ( Below: Lobkowicz's Type 54 on arrival at his home in Melnik in Bohemia and before the AVUS race with Lobkowicz and his mechanic standing next to it.)


The 1932 AVUS contest took place on May 22nd 1932. At the very back of the starting grid, Lobkowicz must have nevertheless been incredibly proud to be lined up only five car lengths away from greats such as Earl Howe, Sir Malcolm Campbell and German legends such as Von Brauchitsch and Hans Stuck both driving the venerable Mercedes SSKL. Von Brauchitsch’s car had been fitted with an aluminum unpainted aluminum aerodynamic body designed by Baron Reinhard von Koenig-Fachsenfeld. Brauchitsch won that day in the silver car, he nicknamed “The Cucumber”. Luckily the name did not stick and it would become the first in a long line of legendary ‘Silver Arrows.”[11]Before the race a famous stage clairvoyant “Erik von Hanusen” (Hermann Chajn Steinschneider) had advised the race organizers to prevent Lobkowicz from taking part in the race. He stated that he had had a premonition that the race would not end well for the racer. The Berliner Zeitung later claimed that von Hanussen had made an official statement and had personally warned Lobkowicz.[12] ( Von Brachitsch's N. 31 Mercedes SSKL with its streamlines body next to Albert Divo in his Bugatti in the front row followed by Hans Stuck in a regular SSKL in the second row and Lobkowicz at the far end of the grid.)


(Grid Below)

The AVUS race was held on a stretch of public “autobahn” with hairpins at each end. Speeds at the end of the 6 mile straight aways were immense and braking technology was still in its infancy. According to B Von Lengerke of the Motor und Sport newspaper Lobkowicz had flown off the track just before the South Loop. "The regrettable accident happened at kilometer 7.7, near the Forsthaus where cars approached normally from the left side of the track for a slight right kink before turning right for the South Loop. A close group of three cars, at right front a blue car, behind in the middle Lobkowicz and to the left Hans Lewy driving another Bugatti, who attempted to pass Prince Lobkowicz on the left at the Havelchaussee underpass, where Lewy scraped the concrete wall with the left rear wheel hub. Prince Lobkowicz who only now noticed the passing car, gave way, but was afraid to hit the grass to the right of the track and moved again to the left, whereby he must have underestimated the speed of over 200 km/h and turned too sharply to the left. His car skidded sideways, side-slipped in its entire width across the eight meter wide grass median, made a jump and crashed tumbling onto the raised railway embankment beyond the second straight."[13] According to the Freiburger Zeitung wrote that the driver was thrown onto the railroad tracks above the track from where he was transported immediately to the Hildegard Hospital where he died hours later in his mother’s arms without ever regaining consciousness. [14] ( Below: Georg Christian Lobkowicz's Obituary)

As Lobkowicz went off the track Lewy himself had instinctively pulled his car onto the grass median on the left to avoid the visibly out of control Lobkowcz. Still shocked, Lewy briefly rolled his car along the second straight but almost immediately pulled over into the median breaking a wheel as he hit a ditch. As he did so his wheel splinters flew up and hit Frenchman Albert Divo’s Bugatti coming in the other direction and luckily both Divo and Lewy remained uninjured. Lewy remained in Germany racing at the top level but being Jewish he emigrated to France in 1935 believing he would remain safe there but was deported back to Germany during the German occupation of France in 1940. Tragically he died at Auschwitz in 1942.[15] Divo would in fact lead the race until the end of lap 6 when he was passed by Caracciola in his Alfa Romeo himself soon surpassed by von Brauchitsch in his streamliner Mercedes SSKL.[16]


Vladimir Gut, the Bugatti representative for Eastern Europe never collected the money for the car, unable to bring himself to pester Princess Lobkowicz in her time of grief.[17] The crashed wreckage was sold to Lobkowicz’s teammate and friend Zdenek Pohl who had it rebuilt with a roadster body by local coach builder Uhlik, naming the car ‘Praha” after the Czechoslovak capital. In the 1970’s the roadster body was removed and replaced by a body similar to the original but with mud guards for road use. The Uhlik body was saved and made its way to the USA by way of Ray Jones where it was joined to a Type 50 frame and remains at the Peter Mullin Museum in Oxnard CA.[18]


The Lobkowicz car was acquired by a British collector of Bugattis and Lotus cars Peter Hampton who had it restored exactly to how it left the factory prior to its first race at Monza. Finally on February 7 2013 at the Grand Palais Bonhams Auction in Paris SN 54201was offered for sale at a pre-sale estimate of 3.3-4.7 million USD but remained unsold. [19] It is the only one of its four surviving sister cars but the only one that retains its matching main components.[20]


[1] https://www.auto-veteran.com/index.php/en/latest-news/item/258-famous-racing-drivers-jiri-kristian-lobkowicz

[2] https://www.citarny.cz/nove-knihy/knihy-pro-deti/beletrie-deti/hyta-a-batul-humorna-klasika-pro-deti-stara-pres-sto-let

[3] https://www.worldcat.org/title/hyta-a-batul-helenina-drubez-deti-jinych-rodicu/oclc/85397067/editions?referer=di&editionsView=true

[4] https://www.auto-veteran.com/index.php/en/latest-news/item/258-famous-racing-drivers-jiri-kristian-lobkowicz

[5] http://www.kolumbus.fi/leif.snellman/gp3012.htm#69

[6] http://www.kolumbus.fi/leif.snellman/gp3115.htm#52

[7] https://www.bonhams.com/auctions/20924/lot/562/

[8] https://www.ultimatecarpage.com/car/2927/Bugatti-Type-54-Grand-Prix.html

[9] https://www.auto-veteran.com/index.php/en/latest-news/item/258-famous-racing-drivers-jiri-kristian-lobkowicz

[10] https://www.bonhams.com/auctions/20924/lot/562/

[11] https://www.autoblog.com/2019/08/08/mercedes-benz-1932-sskl-silver-arrow-streamliner-replica/?guccounter=1&guce_referrer=aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cuZ29vZ2xlLmNvbS8&guce_referrer_sig=AQAAALvruULyb3ykCq17NgwQRpIgk5YYixG220OkRxJBTyr1P8OWMl8WArnpv0rcv7PelZNipsRpmEHNGRc37B7uwBpI-srdjwMAzW-5BFbJVgDqSdZHZ9ZSgBZIkVtdqWt7hrSOZLhJQlkQ9knk9AlFB3o21xn6YZl6pZxvpTrecBDw

[12] http://www.kolumbus.fi/leif.snellman/gp3206.htm#26

[13] http://www.kolumbus.fi/leif.snellman/gp3206.htm

[14] http://www.kolumbus.fi/leif.snellman/gp3206.htm#26

[15] http://www.kolumbus.fi/leif.snellman/dl.htm

[16] http://www.kolumbus.fi/leif.snellman/gp3206.htm#26

[17] https://www.auto-veteran.com/index.php/en/latest-news/item/258-famous-racing-drivers-jiri-kristian-lobkowicz

[18] https://www.bonhams.com/auctions/20924/lot/562/#/!

[19] https://www.ultimatecarpage.com/chassis/712/Bugatti-Type-54-Grand-Prix-54201.html

[20] https://www.bonhams.com/auctions/20924/lot/562/#/!

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