In their early days, automobile businesses were mainly in the possession of families – which was also the case for Bugatti. “Le Patron” had chosen his son, Jean, to be his successor. Already as a child, Jean was a regular at the factory buildings. Like his father, Jean never completed a university education.
From the end of the 1920s onward, Jean Bugatti increasingly influenced the development of the Bugatti brand, with both his design and engineering ideas. He had a strong grasp on technical developments and in contrast to his father, was also inspired by other car brands. He bought two Miller racing cars and transferred his findings to the development of the Type 50.
Before Jean Bugatti joined the company, the brand was mostly known for the lightweight racing cars that characterised the era of Ettore Bugatti. With Jean’s immaculately designed car bodies, the brand also became famous for the outstanding design of its vehicles.
Jean’s spectacular design of the Type 41 “Royale” is legendary, made for the textile entrepreneur Armand Esders. This car features a dancing elephant as a hood ornament, a sculpture by Ettore Bugatti’s brother Rembrandt, who died in 1916.
Starting in 1936, the company’s founder passed the management of the company almost completely to his son. On the racetrack, Jean concentrated on long distances. In 1937 and 1939, Bugatti racecars won at the 24 hours of Le Mans.
But on August 11, 1939, misfortune struck – Jean died in an accident during a test drive near the factory. Ettore Bugatti was forced to assume responsibility once again. With this, an era came to an end, as the tragic death of his successor also buried his hopes of a long-term family business.
Jean Bugatti and a Type 41 Royale