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UNCOVERING BUGATTI MEMORABILIA got me thinking how fortunate I’ve been in experiencing these legendary machines. I never tire of telling people (even when they tire of it…) the first sports car I ever rode in was a Bugatti Type 44 Grand Sport at Giant’s Despair Hillclimb in 1957. I was an enthusiastic teenager who “just happened to be at the right place and the right time to be offered a ride in that wonderful automobile.”
And so it says in an archival piece posted at R&T Online, dated November 25, 2021. Gee, I didn’t even know it was there until Googling “Simanaitis Bugatti Type 44” and my July 1994 article popped up. Talk about legs….
Here are several tidbits about the Type 44 and other Bugattis I’ve been around, in, almost driven, and driven.
Type 13 and 55 Art in Tokyo. In “Japan’s Other Race Circuit,” I described Hajime Tanaka’s efforts in the 1990s to host two Formula 1 Grands Prix at TI Circuit Aida. As part of his motor sports commitment, he also established a private club, the Bugatti Bar, in Tokyo.
A Type 35 on the Targa Florio Route. In 1995, Pirelli introduced its P7000 Supersport tire along the famed Targa Florio road circuit in Sicily.
Paul Foulkes-Halbard gave thrill rides down the road from the pits of the Piccolo Madonie. As cited back in “My Targa Florio,” I wrote, “Riding mechanics in those days were evidently smaller guys.”
A Type 44 Refrigerator Magnet at Home. I’ve forgotten where I bought this artistic rendering of a Bugatti, but I believe it’s a Type 44 Grand Sport from the rakish slant of its erected roof.
A sibling, chassis No. 441008, is described by RM Sotheby’s.
A Type 57C Atalante Christmas Greeting from the Queeners. Chuck Queener used to call Wife Dottie “Dots” when they worked together at R&T. Chuck and his wife Beth remain friends after he moved east and set up queenerdesign.com.
There’s other Queener art work around here, including one of the Morgan Family Tourer, Wife Dottie, and me on the Northwest Classic Rally.
A Type 57 SC Christmas Greeting from Germany. The fine illustrations by Michael Stirm are of the Bugatti Type 57 SC Atlantic. “Frohe Weihnachten und ein erfolgreiches Neues Yahr” the card reads, with an added “And best regards” in the artist’s hand.
A Shoulda-Asked Type 43 at Amelia Island. At the 2002 Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance, I presented the R&T Trophy to Gale and Henry Petronis and their 1929 Bugatti Type 43 Grand Sport.
What with the award’s “The Car We’d Most Want to Drive,” I was tempted to ask for a stint at the wheel. Only timidity on my part precluded this.
A Did-Ask Type 51 at the Colorado Grand. In R&T, April 1997, I wrote “Colorado’s Grand!” And no wonder: At the 1966 Colorado Grand, I drove Sherman Wolf’s Ferrari 212 Export Barchetta and also Colorado Grand grandee Bob Sutherland’s special bodied Type 51.
The Bugatti Type 51 was a racing version evolving from the outstandingly successful Type 35B fitted with twin-camshaft power. As described by Christie’s at its August 2000 Auction of Exceptional Motor Cars, “This particular Type 51 Bugatti was assembled in England in the 1980’s for Bob Sutherland…. The coachwork is a scaled-down copy of the Atlantic fixed head coupé design which was fitted by the factory to one prototype and just three production examples of the much larger Type 57S model, two in 1936 and one in 1938.”
Christie’s continued, “The completed car was presented at the 1985 Pebble Beach Concours where it won a First in Class. Since then the car has been driven regularly by its owner, notably most years on the Colorado Grand.”
Indeed, “driven regularly by its owner,” and through his exceptional kindness and trust, also by me: I wrote in R&T, April 1997, “… as soon as I wedged into the tight little cabin, I recognized this was a racing car onto which touring coachwork had been fitted. My heels rested on a chassis crossbeam, my feet barely skimming clearance among the three pedals. I amazed myself with fairly clean pause-a-tad upshifts and double-clutched downshifts of the crash gearbox, all the while entertained by wondrous hot smells of oil and machinery, a cacophony radiating from just about every element of the Bugatti that whirled, whirred, spun or reciprocated.”
Very much a Bugatti enthusiast in 1996 after 39 years. And, come to think of it, still one after 26 more. ds
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2022
I was too respectful of despoiling the elegance and engineering of the car and despoiling my thin wallet to ever own a Bugatti, though I had some opportunities. I treasure my ceramic reminders of the marque, mementos of my visits at Rene Dreyfus’ Le Chanteclair in Manhattan … an obligatory and always memorable place to take a comely date. That guaranteed an attentive visit from Rene, who had an affinity for beauty in all forms.