Ettore Bugatti was the visionary and inspiration behind a car company that gave birth to some of Europe’s best racing automobiles that could outrun many larger and more established automakers. Bugatti was a young genius–born in Milano, Italy, 1881–who could trace his lineage back to a succession of artists and artisans. His artistic expertise was expressed in his work as a painter, sculptor, silversmith, and wood carver. While studying at the Accademia di Brera (Brera Academy of fine arts), young Bugatti discovered his passion for automobiles and pursued his decision of becoming an engineer.
By the age of nineteen, Bugatti completed construction of his first real car. In the beginning of the 1900s, his first automobile seemed almost futuristic. The car had a four-cylinder overhead-valve engine, a four-speed transmission, and features that only a gifted builder could have envisioned.
In 1922, Bugatti introduced a revolutionary car shaped like a cigar (Type 29/30) which featured hydraulic brakes and the manufacturer’s first eight-cylinder engine. Dubbed “the Cigar” the car made its debut at the AFC grand prix in 1922 and took second place. One year later, Bugatti introduced the Type 32 which caused sensation due to its wing-like design, short wheelbase and covered wheels. The Type 32 was dubbed “the Tank” and boasted a redeveloped version of the previous 8-cylinder engine.
In 1924 Bugatti entered the Type 35 in the French Grand Prix held in Lyon. While the car’s design turned to its time’s traditional open-wheels design, the Type 35 retained the previous 8-cylinder engine and steadily became the car to beat for the next decade.
Bugatti’s last great victory in motorsport happened in 1939, when at his son’s request, the company prepared a supercharged Type 57 which won at Le Mans, driven by Pierre Wimille and Pierre Veyron. Unfortunately that very same year on August 11, his only son Jean died in a testing run of the same Type 57 car. Only a few days later World War II broke out.
Finding a pre-war Bugatti isn’t easy, but what makes these cars so expensive, collectable, and desirable? Watch this video of Roman interviewing Victor, owner of High Mountain Classics, to learn the history and details behind this storied brand.