The Bugatti company and, most particularly, the company’s founder Ettore Bugatti are venerable fixtures in the world of automobile engineering.
From the very beginning, Bugatti’s unique constructions and high aesthetic standards have enthralled the public and spawned a virtually boundless passion in those fortunate enough to own such automotive works of art.
The origins of this outstanding company’s history are intrinsically tied to that classic automotive era of the interwar years, and the image of Bugatti in this period was influenced most significantly by the sport of motor racing. Not only the company drivers but numerous amateurs, too, secured hundreds of Bugatti victories. The private drivers, however, were of a kind that would be unimaginable in modern-day Formula 1 races. Many industrialists, affluent publishers, and a large number of noblemen as well as the occasional gigolo cultivated motor racing as a costly and very hazardous hobby.
Safety standards – a matter of course today – were unheard of then. The daredevil motorists, some of them women, drove without helmets, with open tops, and the windshields didn’t even offer protection against dirt and rain. Engine breakdowns, axle fractures, and tyre punctures occurred frequently and often led to severe accidents. But for the European and American socialites, these dangers were part of the sport’s fascination: cars in a seemingly untouchable leading position could fail at any moment, upsetting the entire field. And one should keep in mind that leads in those days weren’t measured in milliseconds but could amount to many minutes in longer races.
The proud owners and the motley crew of those drivers, for whom love and pain, victory and death were always just a heartbeat apart, were the source of many unforgettable tales. As we look back today, these extraordinary people seem to be characters out of romantic novels – and yet they were a very real, if slightly eccentric, part of our modern times.