AFTER WORLD WAR 1, Alsace and Lorraine were taken from Germany and annexed by France. Thus the Bugatti company, whose factory was in this area, became French and carried the French colours on the race track.
In fact, the foundations of Ettore Arco Isidore Bugatti's career were laid in Milan, where he was born on the 15th September 1881, the son of a cabinet maker and silversmith. As his sons' names indicate, Bugatti's father hoped that Ettore and Rembrandt would achieve artistic success, so he gave them the relevant education.
Both of them became extremely adept at visualising three-dimensional objects and, while this was particularly useful in Rembrandt's career as a sculptor, it was equally useful to Ettore, giving him mastery of the structural language of automobile mechanics - a subject in which he was already interested.
As soon as he was eighteen, Ettore Bugatti accepted a vaguely defined job as test-driver/demonstrator/ mechanic at Prinetti and Stucchi, an old Milanese firm which had been producing sewing machines since 1895 and which had more recently begun to manufacture bicycles.
After Bugatti joined the company, it began production of motorised bicycles, fitted with De Dion-Bouton engines. Bugatti became involved in competitive events (achieving several class victories) and in the preparation of the competition vehicles. He is, in fact, credited with the design of the first four-wheeled vehicles for Prinetti and Stucchi, coupling two (and perhaps even four) single-cylinder engines on frail tubular structures of bicycle origin.
During his time with Prinetti and Stucchi, which apparently allowed him to pursue his own researches, Bugatti built his first car, complete with four-cylinder engine of completely original design; financial support for this project was given by the Counts Gulinelli of Forrare.
The car was exhibited on the Riccordi stand at the 1901 International Sports Exhibition in Milan, where its compactness and efficiency caused a sensation. However, the unexpected death of one of the Gulinelli brothers upset plans for production of the car and ended the partnership between Bugatti and the Gulinelli family. Bugatti retained the design rights of the model which, a few months later, was acquired by the Alsatian branch of De Dietrich
. This was a railway-equipment manufacturer which, although lacking the necessary know-how, wished to expand into the automobile business and had already produced light cars under licence from Bollee and Vivinus.
1913 8 Valve Bugatti Type 22.
1922 Bugatti Type 30 8 cylineder.
Bugatti Type 35 on the track.
Short wheelbase Brescia, ideal for shorter sircuits.
1924 Bugatti Type 35 Grand Prix. It remained un-supercharged until 1926.
1925 Bugatti Type 40 Tourer.
1926 Bugatti Type 37, which was fitted with a 1½ liter engine.
1927 Bugatti Type 44 Coupe, produced until 1930.
1927 Bugatti Type 44 Convertible.
1930 Bugatti Type 40A 1.6 Litre Tourer.
Long wheelbase Bugatti Type 43, which was fitted with a 2.3 liter straight 8. It had a 100mph top speed.
Archival photo of Bugatti Type 37 on the track.
Bugatti Type 44 Coupe.
Bugatti Type 44 Sports.
Bugatti Type 44 Saloon.
Bugatti Type 41 Royale.
Bugatti Type 41 Royale with Weymann body.
1930 Bugatti Type 49, produced until 1934, and fitted with a 3257cc S8.
Bugatti Type 46.
Bugatti Type 59 at the 1934 Monte Carlo.
Bugatti Type 59 3.2 liter Grand Prix.
1936 Bugatti Type 57S Coupe.
Bugatti Type 57 Sports Tourer.
1951 Bugatti Type 101, the first post war Bugatti.
Modified Bugatti Type 49, driven by Jean Pierre Wimille.
Bugatti Type 57 'Tank', unsuccessful, it made its first appearance at the 1936 French Grand Prix.
Bugatti Type 57 'Tank', front view.
Baron Eugene de Dietrich, who conducted the transaction personally, was obliged to offer Bugatti a particularly generous contract, to attract him to Alsace, granting him an engagement of 50,000 gold lire and a royalty equal to ten per cent of the product value. Bugatti requested that a joint trade mark should be used and reserved exclusive rights on the Italian market, where only he would be able to sell De Dietrich-Bugatti cars. It was this contract, on the basis of which Bugatti designed no fewer than five different models for De Dietrich in the course of two years, which gave him a professional reputation throughout Europe.
When the Alsace branch of De Dietrich suspended car production, Bugatti, who by this time had married, was immediately employed by Emil Mathis to work on a new project, the Hermes-Simplex. Mathis, who until then had been agent for both the French and Alsatian branches of De Dietrich, as well as Fiat, intended to embark upon the manufacture of cars himself. Through this association, Bugatti was able to make connections which formed the basis of his good social and professional status. His collaboration with Mathis, however, was relatively brief and was not exclusive.
Obtaining a loan from the Darmstadt Bank, Bugatti started work - initially without a customer - on the design of another car (a four-cylinder 150 x 150mm), the manufacturing rights of which he made over to the Deutz Gas Motor Werke. This contract with Deutz lasted three years (from 1906 to 1909), in the course of which Bugatti accepted the post of technical manager - something which obliged him to move from Alsace to Cologne.
le Pur Sang, the first to wear the "Bugatti" name
Here, working at night in the cellar of his own house and deprived, for the first time, of his faithful mechanic Friderich, who was away doing military service, he designed the first car which was to bear his name. However, as the Bugatti trade mark was not yet registered and as the consultative agreement with Deutz was still applicable (a limited agreement remained in force until the end of 1910), the car was privately called le Pur Sang.
The first of a generation of real thoroughbreds was prepared between 1908 and 1909. This was a simple and extremely light car, with an overhead-valve, four-cylinder engine (62 x 100 mm), revolutionary and truly modem in shape. It was structurally similar to the type FE Isotta-Fraschini which had made its debut and won its class at the 1908 Grand Prix des Voiturettes in Dieppe.
Historians have for a long time argued over which of these two cars came first. Despite the lack of documentary evidence or claim by Bugatti himself, who was not usually a man who concealed his own merits, several people have supported the theory that the FE was one of his youthful designs.
The ambiguity arose from the fact that, in 1907-1909, Lorraine-De Dietrich (the French branch of the company, which by then had no connection with the Alsatian branch) had acquired a majority shareholding in Isotta-Fraschini. By confusing the two De Dietrichs, it would be possible to infer that Bugatti could have been the author of this design for Isotta.
On the other hand, it is probable that Bugatti had either first-hand knowledge of, or information concerning, the small Italian car and, wanting to start work himself with the limited means at his disposal, decided to experiment with the new (for him) light-car formula which the Isotta-Fraschini so well outlined.
The Bugatti Type 13
However it originated - whether as a completely original project or by calculated analogy - the first races in which the small car took part showed it to be very effective and gave birth to Bugatti's first production model, the Type 13, an estimated 500 of which were made. The novelty of the formula (whose capacity was bound to the racing-class limits, initially of 1400 cc and later 1500 cc) centred on the miniaturisation of the four-cylinder engine.
Until then, there had been a great gulf between the design of light cars (often with bicycle origins), intended for short journeys, and touring cars which had developed along different lines and which soon grew to excess in a search for power, their enormous size becoming detrimental to efficiency.
The early cars generally had long-stroke, single or twin-cylinder engines. They were light and fast, with relatively high performance, and easy to maintain. The introduction of the four-cylinder engine in this field proposed new ideas of comfort and tractability, but necessitated the ability to pass on or absorb the increased costs caused by the more complicated manufacturing process and the less rudimentary maintenance.
The too-ambitious Isotta-Fraschini failed at this level, having proposed a degree of mechanical refinement and an elegance of coachwork design which were prohibitively expensive. Additionally, the car was unexpectedly deprived of a sales network. Bugatti, on the other hand, knew how to find the right balance between the constructional complexity of a four-cylinder, overhead-camshaft engine and the simplicity of mediocre finish, and this permitted a reasonable price.
Being in Germany, which was the cradle of motoring and the centre of European trade, Bugatti was further helped by the environmental circumstances and by the easier access to the markets in England, which was appreciative of the cars' sporting qualities, and France, whose taste influenced the whole Continent. The Bugatti works had a relatively modest beginning. After having experimented with le Pur Sang- which he used as everyday transport for a long time - Ettore Bugatti decided to resign from Deutz and leave Cologne for Strasbourg, thus returning to Alsace.
The reason for his attachment to these places has never really been established; perhaps it was simply habit, perhaps it was the possibility that here, where he was well known, it would be easier to obtain financial help.
For several years, his projects (which he usually began working on before finding a customer for them) were initially financed by the Darmstadt Bank. In December 1909, he arranged an appointment with his friend de Vizcaya (a shareholder in the bank) and drove to the meeting, with the faithful Friderich, in the small car which was known in the neighbourhood as 'the bathtub' (because of the shape of its bodywork).
De Vizcaya, already informed of Bugatti's plans, took him to Molsheim, where they inspected an abandoned dyeing plant which they decided to rent in order to set up a factory. Friderich spent Christmas white-washing the walls and generally clearing up the place, while Bugatti travelled between Cologne and Paris, buying the necessary equipment, which was despatched during January and February 1910.
Friderich had an even more important job, that of recruiting a labour force. When the plant was in working order, a nucleus of draughtsmen, from the drawing office which Bugatti had directed at Deutz, joined him at Molsheim.
Only five cars were produced in 1910 but at the beginning of 1911 the number of employees had risen to 65 and the number of cars produced during 1911 rose to 75. Also in 1911, working in a studio completely detached from the factory, Bugatti - aided by Friderich and only three workmen - once again started work on behalf of a third party, designing and making the prototype of a utility car which, after having been offered to the Wanderer company in Chemnitz, was to become the famous Peugeot Bebe.
The car used a side-valve engine of 855 cc and Bugatti adopted reversed quarter-elliptic springs for the first time (with the thick part of the spring anchored to the extreme rear of the chassis and the flexible apex forwards and attached to- the axle) which from then until 1939 were to be features of his cars.
1911 Grand Prix Victory at Le Mans
As a result of a series of astonishing victories, beginning with the Grand Prix of Le Mans in 1911, when a production Type 13, driven by Friderich, won its class and finished second overall behind a big Fiat driven by Hemery, Bugatti prices were somewhat higher than that of its rivals. It is said that Bugatti made little use of publicity, leaving it to the local agents to produce a few posters; it was a time when the more serious and poorer companies let the racing results speak for themselves.
From 1924 to 1927, Bugattis won 1851 races (you read that correctly - that is one thousand eight hundred and fifty one) and, since they were cars which a good driver could also use on the road for touring, it is not surprising that the company was able to sell as many cars as the factory could produce. The firm never became enormous; perhaps because the market for some of the very special cars (such as the large Royale, which was to be the 'king of cars') was limited.
For many years, Bugatti concentrated on the production of fast and light cars, with either four or eight-cylinder engines, whose racing successes were due not so much to superior speed or power as to the general balance of the vehicle, in which the road-holding played a predominant role.
Larger cars were not to be produced in quantities until the 1930s, when the possession of a Bugatti became the fashion in the society world, even for those who did not take part in sporting events.
In 1911 and 1912, there was an en exception - a small series of 5-liter racing cars (100 x 160 mm) with chain drive, one of which was acquired by the famous aviator Garros. From these cars a special model, with a bore and stroke of 100 mm x 180 mm, was developed for the Indianapolis 500 of 1914. This had experimental card an-shaft transmission, an unusual feature on very powerful cars in those days. Friderich broke a bearing in the differential during the race, while running third, so he was forced to retire.
The War Years
During the war years Bugatti had to leave Molsheim, which was an operational zone. He settled in Paris and, although without the possibility of manufacture, he did not stop working out new mechanical solutions and registered many industrial patents.
War-time events gave impetus to the development of aviation and, during his time in Paris, Bugatti was principally occupied in the field of aero-engine design applying for Government approval of two projects: an eight-cylinder 250 bhp engine, which was licensed to Delaunay-Belleville in France and to Diatto in Italy, and a sixteen-cylinder 500 bhp engine (built by using two side-by-side eight-cylinder units, their crankshafts joined by gears).
The second engine did not excite the French government's interest and it was disposed of to the American government, which encouraged lengthy experimentation at the Duesenberg Motor Corporation
. The versatile Friderich was mobilised and sent to the United States to assist Duesenburg with the initial tests and development of the project. It had a negative outcome, despite considerable modification, introduced by Duesenberg, to facilitate production on an industrial scale and to increase the safety factor (including pressure-fed lubrication, to which Bugatti was inexplicably op- posed).
The redesigned engine was still undergoing tests when the Government orders were cancelled because of the Armistice. Although lacking proof, Unique Cars and Parts do not believe any Bugatti engine ever flew - which makes this episode one of Bugatti's major failures as a designer. A typical defect in Bugatti's cylinder-head design (poor cooling of the valve seats and guides) was magnified in these aero engines, which were, as a result, unreliable.
The more simple eight-cylinder aero engine was no more successful than the sixteen-cylinder unit tested in America. In France, it was soon superseded by an extremely successful Hispano-Suiza engine
and by Isotta-Fraschini and Colombo in Italy, all of which had shown a very different level of operational safety and therefore easily passed the qualifying trials imposed by the Government.
The connection with Diatto, which had ceased because of the poor result of this engine, had a sequel in 1919 when the Turin company bought the licence to produce its own Type 30, which was no more than a copy of the Bugatti Type 23 - that is, the production version of the small car with a four-cylinder, sixteen-valve engine (68 x 100 mm) derived from the famous Brescia-type-Italianised only in the shape of the radiator.
European appreciation of the Bugatti Type 23 is shown by the fact that it was also produced under licence by RABAG in Germany and by Crossley Motors Ltd in England
. These concessions did not have any great financial significance for Bugatti, because each of the licensees produced only a few cars, but they gave the seal of fame to a car which, despite all the multiplicity of designations corresponding to detail modifications and different chassis lengths, was conceptually still the little Pur Sang of 1910, Bugatti's early 'baby'.
Winning The 1920 Le Mans
The Bugatti team which won Le Mans in 1920 was actually composed of cars built for the 1914 Coupe de l'Auto; these had never been used, having been stored during World War 1. The famous engine, with four valves per cylinder and dual ignition, therefore dates back to this period.
These were systems which were then extremely unusual on small, high-performance engines, although they had already been adopted for some specials and 'prehistoric dinosaurs' of enormous capacity, such as the 1911 Fiat record car (which actually had three plugs per cylinder in order to improve ignition in its almost-seven-liter pots).
Despite these advanced characteristics, the small racing Bugat- tis were substantially similar to those put on sale; cars exhibited at the 1919 London Motor Show were the same, apart from an increase in the amount of room inside the bodywork, as those which were to win at Le Mans the following year.
For the race at Brescia on 8 September 1921, where the Bugattis sensationally routed all opposition and finished 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th in their class, the bore was increased to 68 mm and the lubrication deficiency, which had been made obvious by the breakdown of several examples used at Le Mans, remedied in typical Bugatti fashion, not by redesigning the oil supply system but by fitting a roller-bearing crankshaft.
Bugatti made his first excursion into the realm of luxury cars in 1921, taking the type 28 - an eight- cylinder, in-line 3-liter - as far as the experimental stage. The idea of an eight-cylinder engine had also been explored in 1913, coupling two Type 13 engines one behind the other. Bugatti was not to embark upon the manufacture of de luxe cars (not to mention the legendary, gigantic Bugatti Royale
- an eight-cylinder of about 12 liters capacity) until later on, when the eight-cylinder racing cars had won him fame and an industrial respite.
The Bugatti Type 30 and Type 35
In fact the first eight-cylinder car offered for sale was the Type 30 of 1922, which also achieved some racing success. This car saw the introduction of a new valve system which was to last ten years in Bugatti production. It consisted of three vertical valves per cylinder, operated by a single overhead camshaft.
The originality of this system was in the adoption of two small inlet valves and a single large- diameter exhaust valve-reversing the customary arrangement which had one large inlet valve and two small exhausts. In Grand Prix races, the increasing aggression of the supercharged Fiats and Sunbeams soon threatened the normally aspirated Type 30.
Bugatti spent the winter of 1923 - 1924 carrying out a complete re-examination of the design, adding two more main bearings and revising the lubrication system. Thus he outlined the Type 35,
perhaps the most famous and most versatile of his cars which, in its various forms - supercharged for Grand Prix and Formula Libre races, and normally aspirated as for its victory in the Targa Florio - won innumerable races over all kinds of opposition, such as Delage and Alfa Romeo.
Despite the success, Bugatti's cars were anything but faultless, but they had an irresistible appeal, formed by a well balanced mixture of efficiency, individuality and aesthetic qualities, a mixture crowned by a quality which can only be defined as class. The virile beauty of the chassis, a typical example of the good workmanship which often provokes the phrase 'they don't make them like that any more', was soon matched by the elegance of the bodywork.
This was after the initial functional roughness of the Type 13 and after several disconcerting aerodynamic designs which were interesting theoretical exercises (the Type 30 was produced with cigar-shaped bodywork and also with an all-enveloping flat-sided body shell-the so-called Tank type).
The Type 35, with its economy of line; was certainly the most beautiful Grand Prix car of the 1930s, while the elegance of the coachwork designed for the Gran Turismo cars by Jean Bugatti (Ettore Bugatti's eldest son) rivalled that of the leading French and Italian coach builders.
The Type 35
was probably the most famous racing Bugatti of all. Ettore Bugatti had an extraordinary ability to secure the right drivers - both able mechanics (Friderich, Pietro Marco, Baccoli) and gentlemen who passed on some of their own prestige to the marque (men like Tchaikowsky, the younger de Vizcaya, the Marquis de Casa Maury, Prince Cystria, Varsi and Dreyfus - not to mention that likeable self-made man Louis Chiron).
This ability resulted not only in the opening of a small hotel at Molsheim, with a table prepared for friends, drivers and the most loyal customers, but also in the achievement of securing the services of Meo Costantini - already an excellent driver-as unpaid team manager. Long before the technique of public relations was developed, Bugatti was unsurpassed in the creation of a glamorous image for the marque and in his ability to develop a select clientele.
A Passion For Leather
everyday life - full of stylish little eccentricities, such as constantly having himself photographed in riding clothes and wearing a bowler hat - played a not unimportant part in the formation of the legend, as did the continuous flow of improbable or completely useless inventions. Luigi Castelbarco, who knew him well, reports a previously unpublished anecdote: it seems that Bugatti in order to be more comfortable had several pairs of shoes made with toes, as if they were gloves.
This was perhaps only one of the results of his passion for leather-work and for small cabinet-work and the minor arts in general - evidently inherited from his father's professional milieu. Bugatti possessed an enormous collection of saddles - both for dogs and horses - but he demanded that the saddle makers were lodged in the factory so that he could supervise their work while looking after the all-important motor business.
Like most Latins, Bugatti adored his children and surrounded them with solicitude. He trained Jean to be an excellent successor, only to lose him in an accident. He lived in a princely fashion, as the part demanded, but he was not a rich man, nor was the business wealthy, as all available money was invested and sometimes wasted in research or development of new inventions. He overcame his financial difficulties by the most unusual methods and in a free-and-easy way.
For example, in order to pay Dreyfus's salary (he received a very modest amount for his services as test-driver); Bugatti was obliged to devise a means of giving Dreyfus several chassis to sell for himself. However, Bugatti's extraordinary realism and enormous organisational ability made amends for his bizarre pleasures.
When he presented the new Grand Prix Type 35 at Lyon in 1924, he not only organised a display of the cars, which attracted the attention of the world's press to a new system of fitting the tyres to the rims, but he arranged accommodation for 45 people in a field of tents equipped with running water, electricity, refrigerators and individual showers, for the convenience of the guests.
When sales of the Royale declined, leaving a large number of engines lying idle, Bugatti contrived to install them in railcars, thus placing France in the forefront of the locomotive field. This contribution makes it easier to forgive him for the fact that his aero engines were not able to fly and that he spent sleepless nights trying to design a superfast torpedo-boat.
The years of the depression were difficult for Bugatti, as they were for many other firms, and they changed irreparably the significance of his creative presence in the factory. His paternalistic management was no longer acceptable to a work force made aware of the first stirrings of organised trades unions and this induced him to spend long periods in Paris, leaving the management of the business to Jean and the excellent Pietro Narco, who eventually inherited the job of technical manager.
Jean Bugatti, who had been forbidden to compete in races, died when testing a car in August 1939. The business more or less died with him, although the out-break of World War 2 also influenced its fate: the occupying forces transformed the Molsheim works into a torpedo-factory.
After the liberation of France, the factory was occupied by the Canadians and Americans. The former accidentally caused a fire and the latter removed most of the surviving machine tools and dispersed drawings and documents.
In a fit of stupidity, the new French government confiscated what remained as the property of an enemy: Bugatti had, for sentimental reasons, always retained his Italian citizenship. He was obliged to take the case to court, where his rights were restored after an exhausting debate. Nevertheless, weary from exertion and weakened by adversity, he did not live to see car production resumed: he died in 1947.
The company attempted to re-enter the car market under Pietro Narco's management, producing a luxury car-the Type 101 (1951) - based largely on the pre-war Type 57. The principal differences were the chain-driven camshaft and the electromagnetic pre-selector Cotal gearbox. Very few 101s were produced and the experimental competition car, type 251, never raced.
The new reality of the second post-war period did not have room for cars like the Bugatti, nor was it possible to keep the legend alive after the death of the man who inspired it.
Bugatti Automobili SpA
Italian entrepreneur Romano Artioli acquired the famous Bugatti name in 1987, and established Bugatti Automobili SpA. The new company built a factory designed by the architect Giampaolo Benedini in Campogalliano, Italy, a town near Modena, home to other performance-car manufacturers De Tomaso, Ferrari, Pagani and Maserati.
By 1989 the plans for the new Bugatti revival were presented by Paolo Stanzani and Marcello Gandini, famous designers of the Lamborghini Miura and Countach. The first completed car was labelled the Bugatti EB110 GT, advertised as the most technically advanced sports car ever produced.
From 1992 through 1994 famed racing car designer Mauro Forghieri was technical director. On 27 August 1993, through his holding company, ACBN Holdings S.A. of Luxembourg, Romano Artioli purchased the Lotus car company from General Motors.
The acquisition brought together two of the greatest historical names in automotive racing, and plans were made for listing the company's shares on international stock exchanges. Bugatti also presented in 1993 the prototype of a large saloon called the EB112.
By the time the EB110 came to market the North American and European economies were in recession, and operations ceased in September 1995. A model specific to the United States market called the "Bugatti America" was in the preparatory stages when the company closed. Bugatti's liquidators sold Lotus to Proton of Malaysia.
In 1997 German manufacturer Dauer Racing bought the EB110 license and remaining parts stock to Bugatti in order to produce five more EB110 SS units, although they were greatly refined by Dauer. The factory was later sold to a furniture-making company, which also collapsed before they were able to move in, leaving the building unoccupied.
Arguably the most famous Bugatti EB110 owner was racing driver Michael Schumacher, seven-time Formula One World Champion, who bought the EB110 in 1994 while racing for the Benetton team. In 2003 Schumacher sold the car (which had been repaired after a severe crash the year he bought it) to Modena Motorsport, a Ferrari service and race preparation garage in Germany.
Bugatti Automobiles SAS
Volkswagen AG purchased the rights to produce cars under the Bugatti marque in 1998. They commissioned ItalDesign to produce the Bugatti EB118 concept, a touring saloon (sedan), which featured a DIN rated motive power output of 408 kilowatts (555 PS; 547 bhp), and the first W-configuration 18-cylinder engine in any passenger vehicle, at the Paris Auto Show. In 1999, the Bugatti EB 218 concept was introduced at the Geneva Auto Show; later that year the Bugatti 18/3 Chiron was introduced at the Frankfurt Motor Show (IAA). At the Tokyo Motor Show, the EB 218 reappeared, and the Bugatti EB 16.4 Veyron was presented as the first incarnation of what was to be a production road car.
Also see: Lost Marques - Bugatti (Aus Edition)