Simanaitis Says

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TONY’S BUG PART 1

I WAS IDLY LEAFING through the 1960 volume of R&T when I came upon its February Bugatti Issue. One of the articles was “Bugattis Were Meant to be Raced,” by none other than Tony Hogg. I got to know Tony very well later as he was Editor-in-Chief when I joined the magazine in 1979.

This and following image from R&T, February 1960.

In 1960 Tony was yet to be on the masthead; curiously enough, a guy named David E. Davis, Jr. was listed (as Director of Advertising and Sales Promotion). This Bugatti article was, to the best of my research, Tony’s second appearance in R&T and a fine article indeed. Here in Parts 1 and 2 today and tomorrow are tidbits gleaned from it, those in quotes being Tony’s.

The Bug Bites. “I vividly remember my first contact with them. I was probably five years old at the time and was walking along a London street with my parents when we passed a blue Bugatti which was parked at the curb. It so impressed me that I recalled making a mental note to buy one as soon as I was old enough to start borrowing money.” 

The Urge to Compete Bites as Well. “Many years later, in the early spring of 1949, I was looking for a car which would be both satisfying to own and competitive in the racing which was going on in England at that time. Few cars of a competitive nature had been built since the war and my finances would not cover them anyway, so I had been looking at various hybrid Rileys, Frazer-Nashes and Aston Martins, none of which met my requirements, or if they did were much too expensive.” 

Tony’s Type 37 Bugatti in full commuting trim.

Ettore’s Type 37. “However, I finally found myself face-to-face with a type-37 Bugatti, which was reposing in the back of a garage belonging to a dealer who bought and sold this type of equipment…. After a quick demonstration run through the back streets of London, I arranged to go deeper and for longer in hock than I have ever been before or since, and the Bug was mine.” 

His Investment? Tony doesn’t name a figure, but a later reference puts the Type 37 in perspective: “Had I purchased an MG-TC, the then-current product of the MG works, I would have had to pay a far higher purchase price and then spend large sums on modification before it would perform like the Bugatti.”

R&T’s Classic Test of a 1949 MG-TC showed a List price of $1895; thus, its home-market ticket would have been a bit less in Pound Sterling of the day ($1895 in 1949 being equivalent to £460).

This and the following image of a restored Type 37 are from Bugatti Magnum, by Hugh Conway with Maurice Sauzay, Motorbooks International, 1989. Note the single Solex above and “bunch of bananas” below.

A Bunch of Bananas. “Although the intake side of the engine was seemingly inefficient (one Solex carburetor), the exhaust passed through a genuine ‘bunch of bananas’ to a carefully designed pipe. Apart from its efficiency, this system has the added advantage that, in the case of a fouled plug, you can find out which one it is by spitting on the individual pipes.” 

By the way, Tony accompanied his “Were Meant to be Raced” with the subhead “And, unlike some children, should be heard as well as seen.” 

Don’t you enjoy Tony’s writing?

The Correct Driving Suit. “Although no flywheel was installed, the clutch housing acted as a flywheel and contained 19 steel and cast-iron plates. These plates ran in a mixture of engine oil and kerosene blended to a consistency and color of beer, which came out in the form of a light spray on your shoes and trousers.”

Rationed Gasoline. “At this time, gasoline was severely rationed in England, and there was only one grade (of about 72-octane) on the market. The fuel companies would supply small quantities of 80-octane gas and benzol to people who raced. I normally ran the Bugatti on a mixture of 45% 80-octane gas, 45% benzol, and 10% methanol, with a shot of Castrol R for purely medicinal purposes.” 

And for that wonderful aroma recalled by those of us of a certain age.

Tony and his Type 37 ahead of an MG at Wilshire’s Castle Combe circuit.

Run Whatca Brung. “The methanol had to be omitted for sports car events…. Also, I normally drove the car to and from races and, as I could not afford to drive it on the alcohol mixture, I was obliged to change from one mixture to another before and after the race, which was entirely too complicated and required an enormous number of cans.”

Printer’s Ink. “However, at the time I had a friend who worked for a large printing company, and benzol is used in the printing trade for, I think, the thinning of printers’ ink. By subterfuge we were able to divert some of this company’s benzol to a much better purpose than that for which it had been originally intended!”

Tomorrow in Part 2, Tony goes racing—with an artfully employed handkerchief and a “rather oily pair of size-10 sneakers.” No doubt stained the color of beer. ds 

© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2022  

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