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DAUGHTERS ARE GOOD as biographers, especially if you’re the biographee. (Suz and Beth, take note.) Assuming they leave the hagiography to others, daughters certainly have first-hand knowledge of their subject’s strengths and weaknesses. They’ve likely seen dad at his best and worst.
An example of this is The Bugatti Story by L’Ebé Bugatti.
“Everything in this book, ” L’Ebé Bugatti writes in 1966, “has been carefully verified, and a special effort was made to collect the illustrations, many of which are here published for the first time.”
With this in mind, here in Parts 1 and 2 today and tomorrow I select tidbits from The Bugatti Story that I don’t recall encountering elsewhere.
Ettore the Artist. L’Ebé observes, “It has been said that fundamentally Ettore Bugatti was an artist. The paradox is that he was an artist in a field which no one considered to be artistic until he came on the scene….”
As noted here at SimanaitisSays, Ettore’s father Carlo was a highly regarded designer of Italian Art Nouveau furniture and jewelry. His younger brother Rembrandt was a renowned sculptor of animals. Daughters L’Ebé and Lidia were family chronicler and artist, respectively. Sons Jean and Roland became talented engineers.
From Factory to Family Estate. In 1909, Ettore established Automobiles E. Bugatti in the then German town of Molsheim in the Alsace region of what is now France.
“At that time,” L’Ebé writes, “it is true, the Molsheim works had little resemblance to the traditional image of a factory. My father, having first rented the place, had soon become the owner and decided to make it a family home.”
She continues, “My brother Jean had been born in Cologne on 15th January, 1909. Then, I had arrived, and been given the curious name L’Ebé; my father was so overjoyed at having a daughter that he thought up this name from his own initials… Lidia was born after me, so there were three children in the family when we all moved to Molsheim, to the house and grounds which were soon to become the hub of the Bugatti world.”
L’Ebé writes, “… horses remained his one real passion—apart from cars, of course…. The workpeople would watch the Guv’nor and his horses go past with unconcealed pleasure….”
The Hotel. L’Ebé continues, “We lived so much under the sign of the horse, in fact, that when my father decided to have a small hotel, or clubhouse, for visitors to Molsheim it seemed only natural for the name to be the Hôtellerie du Pur-Sang. My mother arranged and furnished the place very nicely; there was a dining-room and bar, but only four bedrooms. These soon proved to be barely sufficient, until the time when a typical Bugatti incident enabled an extension to be made.”
Pur-Sang Chickens? “My father,” L’Ebé writes, “suddenly decided to keep chickens, and at once, as was his habit, gave orders for some chicken-houses to be built—four of them, at equal distance apart. Then he changed his mind and never bought the chickens. So the huts were converted into extra bedrooms for the Pur-Sang; and as each was a small building standing by itself, with insulated walls so that the chickens would have been neither too warm nor too cold, many guests preferred these bedrooms to those in the main building….”
Tomorrow in Part 2 we continue with L’Ebé’s recounting of her famous father. ds
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2022