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BUGATTIS AT INDY

LINK THESE: BUGATTI, the Indy 500, a Prince, a Count, Ian Fleming and Muroc Dry Lake.

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1923 Bugatti Type 29/30 Indianapolis. This and several of the following images from Beautiful Bugattis, Christie’s Monaco Auction at the Loew’s Hotel, May 22, 1990.

This linkage is all the more astounding because it is exmplified in a single automobile: a 1923 Bugatti Type 29/30, Lot 119 at the Christie’s 1990 Monaco Auction.

This particular car was one of five Bugattis that were entered in the May 30, 1923, Indianapolis 500, that Memorial Day running denoted the 11th International 500-Mile Sweepstakes Race. Only the cars of Harry Miller were better represented that year, with 11 entries.

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Bugattis at the 1923 Indy 500 brickyard: From left to right, Prince Bertrand de Cystria, Pierre de Vizcaya, Raul Rigatti and Count Louis Zborowski. Not shown, Martin de Alzaga, in No. 21.

The race had high attrition, only 11 cars completing the full 200 laps. Tommy Milton’s Miller won. The sole Bugatti crossing the finish line was Prince de Cystria’s No. 19 in ninth place. Three others of the Bugatti team dropped out with connecting rod failure; the fourth, with a fuel leak.

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Prince de Cystria with Bugatti Indy entry chassis no. 4004; Count Zborowski at the wheel.

As his name suggested, Bertrand Marie Ponce François Raphaël Lucinge, Prince de Faucigny-Lucinge et Coligny, Prince de Cystria, came from a line of French aristocrats. It appears he financed his racing career in part by selling off a family castle and vast domain of Coat-an-Noz in 1923.

The Prince’s French Wikipedia entry cites his ninth-place finish at the 1923 Indy as his best performance. Other participation included that year’s Grand Prix of France held at Tours and the 1924 inaugural event at the Montlhéry Circuit south of Paris.

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Bertrand Marie Ponce François Raphaël Lucinge, Prince de Faucigny-Lucinge et Coligny, Prince de Cystria, 1898–1943, French auto racing driver and Bugatti enthusiast.

Louis Zborowski’s aristo lineage was somewhat less lengthy than de Cystria’s: Eliot, Louis’s American father and also a race driver, tacked the Count title onto the surname, which actually had been Zabriskie a generation back. Family ties with the New York Astors, seven acres of Manhattan real estate, including several blocks of Fifth Avenue, and the Higham Park estate near Canterbury in England didn’t hurt. This last bit made Zborowski English through and through.

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Louis Vorow Zborowski, 1895–1924, English race driver and automobile constructor.

Among Zborowski’s automotive enthusiasms were three huge aero-engine cars, Chitty-Bang-Bang I, II and III. These, in turn, influenced English author Ian Fleming (yes, James Bond’s Ian Fleming) to write the wonderful kids’ book Chitty Chitty Bang Bang: The Magical Car, 1964.

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Rare for the marque at the time, the 1923 Indy Bugattis featured hydraulic brakes; only for their front actuation, though. The rears retained cable operation.

Chassis no. 4004, the sole surviving 1923 Indy Bugatti, was driven by Zborowski with later success at England’s Brooklands Circuit. At this latter, Zborowski and the car won its class at the 1924 Easter Meeting.

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The Type 29/30 was powered by a 1991-cc straight eight, with single overhead camshaft and what came to be Bugatti’s characteristic three valves per cylinder.

During the late 1950s, chassis no. 4004 was mated with the engine from its sibling no. 4006. This latter engine had powered a land speed record attempt at California’s Muroc Dry Lake in 1929. The locale got its name when brothers Ralph and Clifford Corum petitioned the U.S. Post Office, only to find that Corum was already taken; thus, the reversal of letters.

Curiously, Lora Lawrence (L.L. “Slim”) Corum and his Fronty-Ford T finished fifth at the 1923 Indy 500. I could find no familial relationship between Slim and the brothers who founded Muroc. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2016

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