Simanaitis Says

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THE TERM PUR SANG is French for “thoroughbred,” literally “pure blooded.” Pur Sang is also the quarterly publication of the American Bugatti Club, and has been so for more than 50 years now. I have several issues, incomplete but roughly from the period 1995–2000, from which I glean the following tidbits. 

A German Bugatti? In Summer 1972, reprinted 1999, Alec Ulmann wrote a piece titled “The 1913 Bugatti ‘Made in Germany.’ ” While not exactly a charter member of the Sports Car Club of America, Ulmann joined up just four months after its 1944 inception. He won its first race (on a one-mile dirt track in Langhorne, Pennsylvania). Inspired by visiting Le Mans in 1950, Ulmann organized the first American endurance race at an airport in Sebring, Florida, and in 1959 persuaded the FIA to sanction a Formula 1 race there (the first official U.S. F1). Impressive creds all around.

Ulmann observed, “Bugatti was Italian, born in Milan. His automobile activity, up to the outbreak of the war in 1914 was centered almost entirely in Germany and it was only after Molsheim was returned to France that Bugatti cars became a product of France.” 

“Consequently,” Ulmann said, “ it might be of interest to read a description of the 1913 car, as pictured in the German ‘Der Motorwagen’ magazine of October 20, 1913, an article by Fritz Klinkenberg of Berlin. He refers to the firm as Ettore Bugatti Automobilfabrik, Molshiem in Alsace, Germany.” 

“His general thesis,” Ulmann said of Klinkenberg, “is that here is a high performance, high quality car, built in miniature dimensions, in direct contravention to the general tendency of the automobile industry of the world and especially that of Germany.” 

A Type 13 Bugatti. This and the following images from Pur Sang of the American Bugatti Club.

A High-Efficiency Light Car. In the same Pur Sang, Cecil Clutton wrote of “A 1910 Type 13 Bugatti.” He said, “If the 1901 Mercedes was the first modern motor car,  the 1910 Bugatti was no less certainly the prototype of all modern, high efficiency light cars…. What sets the Type 13 apart from contemporary light cars is that it was a real motor car, at a time when other manufacturers were content with aircooled twins, the sketchiest of coachwork and Heath Robinson systems of transmissions and controls.” 

Writing in 1948, Bugatti authority, organist, horologist, and  writer Clutton could have replaced his Brit “Heath Robinson” with “Rube Goldberg.” That is, describing a simultaneously ingenious , overly-complicated, and makeshift contraption.

Clutton continued, “Another thing which made the Type 13 unique among its contemporaries was its high cost. At a time when no one owned a light car if he could afford anything larger, Bugatti set out to show that a small motor car was not merely a poor substitute for the real thing but that it was very much of a real car in its own right. So he lavished upon it perhaps even more craftsmanship and care than on most of his later models and sold it for the then very substantial figure of £300.”

“The critics,” Clutton said, “were universally captivated by what Charles Faroux described as this ‘boite de vitesse lilliputienne’ and the Motor remarked that ‘such a highspeed engine has only been made possible by the use of the finest and most expensive materials and the greatest care in construction.’ ”

Its four valves per cylinder identify this engine as a post-war Type 13’s, hitherto known as the Brescia. Four such cars finished 1–4 in the 1921 Brescia Grand Prix for Voiturettes.

Type 13 Versus D.H. 6 Biplane. On May 23, 1923, British driver Raymond Mays piloted his Type 13 Cordon Rouge in a competition with a de Havilland D.H. 6. “Cordon Rouge,” Pur Sang wrote in Winter 1999, “was the first of the two Brescias owned and raced by Mays; the second was named Cordon Bleu.”

Image by Gerald Freeman.

Pur Sang observed, “To render the gritty surfaces of the ‘roads’ on which he is driving, Freeman sometimes actually mixes sand with his paints.”

A Personal Note. The Editorial page of this particular Pur Sang included a Frank & Troise cartoon that first appeared in R&T. 

Wife Dottie, who often worked with these talented cartoonists, bought me the original of this canine whimsey as a birthday present. ds 

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2022 

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