Simanaitis Says

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ETTORE BUGATTI, Le Patron, died in 1947, the same year that Road and Track published its first issue. In November 1953, the magazine was six years old when it chose to devote 13 of its 48 pages to a celebration of the Bugatti marque.


Here, I collect some Bugatti images from that time capsule, with comments gleaned from the text—including a particularly curious letter to the editor.

The magazine’s “Correspondence” section contained an item titled “Anyone Seen the Banner?” The letter was from a U.S. Army Major who wrote, “Because of the widespread circulation of your fine magazine among sports car fans, your aid is respectfully requested in the location of a banner which formerly belonged to The United German Automobile Club of Nurnberg, Germany, and which was taken as a souvenir by an unknown soldier in April of 1945.” The war in Europe ended on May 8, 1945.

“The banner, the only one of its kind in existence, is forty-eight years old and is of great sentimental value to the club of its origin. It is understandable that the club members wish to recover it, if possible, and any information leading to its recovery will be gratefully received.”

The Major continued, “Material: heavy silk. Size: Approximately 50 inches by 60 inches. One side is blue with a gold winged figure. The other side is white with blue stripes and has a red and gold colored crest in the center of the field. The initials A.D.A.C. appear below the crest.”

Today, almost 63 years later, where do you suppose this banner resides?


1927 Bugatti Type 35C. This and the following images from Road and Track, November 1953.

The Type 35 Bugatti was one of the world’s most successful race cars in the late 1920s and 1930s. In one of the articles, Technical Editor John R. Bond noted, “While Ettore’s engine designs may be open to serious questions in light of modern scientific knowledge, the typical Bugatti chassis exhibits distinction and intuition best expressed by the saying ‘what looks right, is right.’ ”


The front axle is hollow, with square machined holes through which the springs passed. A complex approach? But certainly an artful one.



The Type 35C’s cowl assembly shows its artful engine-turned dashboard and elegant steering wheel. At left, the magneto protrudes into the cockpit, its lever providing spark control of the ignition.



The Bugatti’s brake drums are integral with its wheels. Thus, a tire change replaces the drums as well as the rubber. The wheel spokes are angled to act as turbines, their airflow cooling the drums.



The Type 35C has friction shock absorbers, with multiple discs pressed against each other. The shock is adjustable by rotating the gizmo on its face, the arrow on the pointer indicating the correct rotation for stiffening.



The Road and Track caption: “Cross section of the type 37 engine shows the many unusual design features and a very poor water jacketing around the valves.” This engineering wisdom from Technical Editor John R. Bond; he taught us a lot.



A Type 57 powerplant, c. 1934. Its double overhead camshafts are gear-driven from the rear. The cylinder heads are integral with the block’s upper portion. There’s an architectural flair in the artful shapes.



This 1938 Bugatti Type 57 SC exhibits coachwork by Ganglof. The magazine observes, “Designed with typically French flowing lines and curves, it gives alternately a feeling of lightness or weight, depending on the viewpoint.”



From the magazine: “Corners are taken easily and practically without body roll at speeds that an American car simply couldn’t match.”



Nor could few cars match the elegance of a Bugatti Type 57 SC.

Time capsules can be very satisfying. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2016


  1. Philippe de Lespinay
    August 12, 2016

    Great issue, one I kept… showing the great divide between art and sometimes antiquated tech such as cable brakes and combustion-chamber design…

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