Simanaitis Says

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ROAD TESTS FROM R&T appearing here at SimanaitisSays these days are all, in a sense, magazine classics. But for awhile there, the magazine also published what it termed Classic Tests: “Not an actual test on the car in question,” R&T noted, “but the data presented are an accurate synthesis of material published during the time the car was produced.” Appropriately enough, many of these syntheses were accompanied by other articles.

Here are tidbits gleaned from R&T, February 1959, about the 1930 Bugatti Type 49.

June 1930. “Three years ago,” R&T wrote, caught up in the spirit of things, “Ettore Bugatti startled the automotive world by introducing the Type 44—his first attempt, in recent years at least, towards producing a docile, touring-type machine.”

“The subject of this test, the Type 49,” the magazine continued, “is merely a further development and refinement of the Type 44. Like its predecessor, the Type 49 has a straight-8 engine which features a single overhead camshaft, three valves per cylinder and no less than nine main bearings.”

This and other images from R&T, January 1959.

R&T recounted, “Engine changes are principally a cylinder bore enlarged by 3 millimeters and spark plugs (dual) relocated to give smoother running with less tendency towards ‘oiling up.’ ”

I’m reminded of Tony Hogg’s warm-up ritual with his Type 37.

Other Technical Niceties. In an accompanying article, Jack Campbell praises “A unity in its design, both inside and out, is the Type 49’s obvious advantage over most cars built today [1959 being something of a reductio ad absurdum in automotive opulence].” 

“The steady-handed delicacy of the radiator outline is repeated in the fender edges, and the front fenders and running boards are one unit…. Hood louvers are representative of the period,” the author noted, “but the repetition of their rhythm in the wheel spokes is not.”

“The brake drums,” Campbell described, “are integrally cast with the aluminum wheels, and the spokes take the form of turbine blades, blowing air over the deeply finned drums.” 

“The brakes are superb,” the Classic Test reported, “and show no sign of deterioration even after repeated and very severe use. They are, of course, mechanical, and the peculiar and elaborate linkages beloved of Le Patron seem fully justified by the results in terms of rapid deceleration without side pull or any tendency for the rear end to slide out and around.” 

Handling. R&T wrote, “Road holding is truly phenomenal. Though the springing is a little stiffer than on American sedans, the ride is very comfortable, particularly over rough roads at speed.”

“From an esthetic viewpoint,” the magazine described, “the chassis exhibits beautiful finish and attention to detail of the highest order. The Ganglof body, reputed to have been designed by young Jean Bugatti, is well made and beautifully upholstered in genuine leather.” 

R&T observed, “Instrumentation is rather far from the driver’s eyes, but functional, readable and not so extensive as to be confusing. At night the steeply sloped windscreen is of real aid in reducing reflections, and the powerful Marchal headlights are also much appreciated.” 

A Virtual Summary. “In short,” the magazine said, “the Type 49, though a complete turnaround from the traditional sports-type machines of Molsheim, is an extremely interesting car whose practicality and high quality cannot be questioned. It also possesses sports-like qualities which are not usually associated with a touring car.” ds

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2023 

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