NotesThis 1928 Grand Prix Bugatti was designed by Ettore Bugatti. Born in Milan in September 1881, of an artistic family, Ettore Bugatti's father, Carlo was an accomplished sculptor. The family wished young Ettore to follow in the family tradition. However, he quickly realised that he did not have the same talent as his father or brother and, after an engineering apprenticeship with the firm of Prunetti and Stucci, Ettore turned his energies towards the still-infant motor vehicle industry.
By the age of 18 he was competing successfully in races on a twin-engined tricycle and built his first automobile in 1900 at the age of 19. He subsequently worked as a designer for De Dietrich at Niederbronn, Alsace (1902-4), Emile Mathis at Graffenstaden, Alsace (1904-6), and Deutz at Cologne (1907-9). While working for Deutz he designed and built, it is said in the cellar of his house which was actually inside the Deutz premises, a small car with a four-cylinder eight-valve 1208 cc engine and shaft drive. This was the prototype of the cars which Bugatti began to manufacture after he had resigned from Deutz.
Bugatti was the pure artist whose only scientific knowledge resulted from learned experience and a natural mechanical ability aided by a gift of observation. He did not believe in calculations, formulae or principles and eventually surrounded himself with talented engineers whom he paid generously, but demanded from them total anonymity.
This magnificent hand built Bugatti racing car was built at Molsheim, France. In 1909 Bugatti had began renting a disused dye works at Molsheim, Alsace, a few miles west of Strasbourg and machinery for his works began arriving in January 1910. Only five cars were built in that year but by 1911 a total of 75 were delivered and the factory workforce had grown to 65 men. Bugatti cars then began to appear in racing, driven by Bugatti's partner Ernst Friderich who won his class in the 1911 Grand Prix de France. In 1913 came a much a larger car, with a 5-litre engine and chain drive, the prototype of which Bugatti had completed in 1910. This model is historically important as the engine had three valves per cylinder (two inlet, one exhaust), anticipating the three valve Type 30 and 37 engines of the 1920s.
During the First World War the Molsheim works were idle as the machinery had been removed for the German war effort. (Alsace was a German province from 1871 to 1918, and all pre-1919 Bugattis were German cars.) Bodies were mostly by Gangloff of Colmar who did much work for Bugatti right up to 1939.
Ettore Bugatti spent the War years in Paris, with his family, designing aero engines. At the end of 1918 he returned to Molsheim which was by then once again in French territory. He restarted production of the Type 13 and its successor, the sixteen-valve model which came to be known as the Brescia after Friederich's victory in the 1921 Grand Prix des Voiturettes at Brescia. About 2000 Brescias were made until 1926. This was followed, in 1922, with a 2-litre straight eight Type 30 giving Bugatti an entry into the higher priced market and beginning a line of straight-eights which the company was to make until the end of production.
The Type 35 was the most successful racing car of the inter-War period and the only car, which could be bought by the amateur, capable of winning Grands Prix combining performance with aesthetic quality. In 1926 the Type 35 won 12 major Grands Prix and in 1927 Bugattis claimed to have won 2000 sporting events, (though this figure presumably includes the successes of the Brescia). Although reluctant at first to fit a supercharger as his competitors had, Bugatti eventually added one to the car in 1926 to produce the Type 35C, 35B and 39.
Also in 1926 a 4 cylinder engine appeared, similar in layout to the 8 cylinder engine, but with a 5 bearing crankshaft, which, when fitted to the Grand Prix chassis, became the main sports car version, the Type 37. Later this too had a blower (or supercharger) fitted and became the very potent 37A.
During the period 1926-29 a profusion of models were listed including racing Types 35, 35B 35C, 39 and sports versions 35A, 37 and 37A. Bugatti started building bodywork in the 1923 Grand Prix cars. The beautiful Type 35 bodies were almost certainly made at Molsheim and by 1927 he had a fully fledged body shop.
Other models followed including the Type 40 using the four cylinder engine from the Type 37, a Type 43 Grand Prix sports four-seater, then the fastest car in the world (110 mph), the Royale, and the Type 41, Bugatti's greatest folly of which only 6 cars were made and only 3 sold.
In 1930 Bugatti entered into the high speed road car field and extended the factory and increased the work-force to 1400. This direction was opportune as the Depression had hit the car market. In 1936 the Bugatti factory, in common with most others in France, suffered a serious strike. The autocratic Ettore was so offended he retired from Molsheim to Paris, where he designed aircraft and boats, leaving his 27-year old son, Jean in charge.
It was Jean who was largely responsible for the last serious production Bugatti, the Type 57, with 3.3 litre twin-cam straight-eight engine introduced in 1934. In August 1939 Jean was killed while testing a racing car near Molsheim and less than a month later the Second World War broke out. Again the Molsheim factory contributed to the German war effort and Ettore moved to Bordeaux. After the War he and his younger son Roland began work on the Type 73 but few complete cars were made and Ettore's death in August 1947 put an end to the project.
The Molsheim factory continued under Pierre Marco, and then in 1963 Automobiles Bugatti was acquired by another once famous car manufacturer Hispano-Suiza, by then involved with diesel and aircraft engines. It was later absorbed by SNECMA, the French national aerospace industries combine and the factory continues to make aircraft parts.
Between 1909 and 1939 no more than 10,000 Bugattis were built spanning 36 different models. The name will liver forever as the great Grand Prix racer of the 1920s, exquisitely designed from the hollow polished steel axles to the delicately tapering body.
The Museum's type 37A Bugatti left the Molsheim factory on 13 September 1928, and was delivered to the London agents, Sorel. The car was imported to Australia for Arthur Terdich of Kew Victoria, without the rear half of the body work to avoid paying duty on the body. Terdich, who owned a furniture factory, had a wooden tail manufactured for it and the Light Car Club of Australia badge painted on the rear section.