Simanaitis Says

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ZORA, M. BUGATTI (AND, TRIVIALLY, ME) PART 2

I SUSPECT ZORA ARKUS-DUNTOV’S R&T article in January 1992 evolved from conversations I had with this famed engineer at the 1990 Monterey Historics. 

Zora had wonderful tales to relate, and correspondence starting in October 1990 led to “Zora and Monsieur Bugatti,” which finally appeared in R&T January 1992. 

A year and a half to prepare an R&T article? Well, not exactly. Here in Part 2 are details. 

The Article’s Appearance. What with one thing and another, it was a balancing act of editorial priorities such as new car and race reports, the Arkus-Duntov article’s timeless nature, and a letter from me signed “Cordially (and apologetically).” 

Zora and I were both delighted to see the article finally appear.

Image from R&T, January 1992.

Ettore’s Shoes. Directly from Zora’s story: “I met Monsieur Ettore Bugatti on the occasion of the Automobile Salon in Paris in 1937. It was morning and M. Bugatti, slightly corpulent, was dressed in a black cutaway, with the perennial derby hat on his head, diamond clip on his gray tie, white gloves on his hands, and patent leather shoes.” 

“A peculiarity of his shoes,” Zora observed, “was separation of the big toe from the rest of the foot. What is more, Bugatti vividly discussed with me the advantages of this arrangement.” 

A page of Zora’s original manuscript describing, among other things, the shoes worn by le Patron.  

The Cracked Type 30 Block. Zora owned a 1922 Type 30 Bugatti, on which a connecting rod “let go with devastating effect, cutting the engine block in half,” Zora wrote. “I salvaged the cast-aluminum box containing the camshaft and its 24 actuating fingers, and put this component to surprising use.”

“At the time,” Zora related, “I had a delightful though somewhat underage girlfriend, whom I occasionally entertained in my room. However, I also had had a torrid night with a stray girl and my tracks most definitely needed immediate covering. Out came the Bugatti casting coated with castor oil (the only oil my Bugatti used). I deposited this component on the bed, and my honor, such as it was, remained unsullied.” 

“If you recoil that I was an ogre,” Zora said, “maybe this will put your mind at ease: Later in Paris the sweet young girl consented to become my wife.” 

Zora and Elfi. They met when Elfi was a dancer at the Folies Bergere in Paris. Her 2008 obituary noted she passed away at “93 going on 19.”

Still Friends. Despite the extended editorial process, Zora and I remained good friends. Indeed, in a letter dated August 20, 1994, Zora wrote, “Dennis, rummaging in old papers I found a piece pertaining to Le Mans 1952.” 

Zora Arkus-Dontov and his Allard J2X at the 1952 Le Mans. Illustration by James Crawford, from R&T, July 1995.

I was a bit more efficient helping with “Zora’s Detour to Tours.” It made R&T July 1995 and had a cameo appearance here in SimanaitisSays in May 2015. ds  

© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2021 

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