Sunday, March 18, 2012


As a twelve-year-old I devoured books of instruction, from the WWII NAVPER books on hand tools, to a Kodak "data book" on how to take good pictures; from a book on how to shoot with bow and arrow, to one on fishing with fly rod, and (a little later) another on maintenance of two-cycle outboard motors. Though I was notoriously a daydreamer, this reading wasn't entirely removed from reality. I never mastered any of the skills, but I did make a not-so-bad-for-a-sixth-grader attempt at all of them. On the other hand, it's true my favorite book was on a subject about which I could only fantasize. This was a little mass-market paperback by Ken W. Purdy called The Kings of the Road. The image at right shows the cover of my copy, now a majestic 58 years old and one of only a handful of books I've retained that long. Purdy was then editor of True magazine and, you can read in the book's acknowledgements, had written some of the book's chapters as articles in the mag.[1]

The best of them is Chapter II of the book, "The Fabulous Bugatti," which had appeared in True's issue of October 1949.

This chapter (along with all the rest of them) is now available on a blog:
The Kings Of The Road - by Ken W. Purdy by a British student who calls himself Scooby_Lab.

Here's an excerpt.
[Ettore Bugatti] ... was a demonstrable genius, a combination of artist and engineer. His life was a compound of paradox. He did not particularly care for motor racing, yet his cars were fastest over the ground of their time. He was a mild and courteous man, yet he liked to be given, even in his home, the autocratic title, ‘Le Patron’. ... The products of his wizardry were twentieth century to the minute, yet he ran his factory, with which was combined his aviaries, his kennels, his stables, his vineyards, his museums, his distillery, his boatyard, like a prince’s domain. ... He was not wealthy, but he refused to consider the question of cost in the making of a motor-car.

What kind of cars inspire this devotion? Are they dead silent, smooth riding as mobile feather beds, quick to start in the blackness of zero mornings, so easy to drive that a child can manage them? They are not! Most Bugattis are noisy in every way a car can be noisy, plus a few ways peculiar to themselves; when the temperature slips to the area of 30F. most of them are seized with a stubborn reluctance to fire at all, and indeed Bugatti himself blandly advised purchasers of his cars to invest in heated garages. ... And no Bug ever built was designed to be driven by children of the rich. ... The multiplate Bugatti clutches are often either all in or all out and nothing in between, giving the car a marked tendency to start off with a neck-snapping jerk. The clutch on some models must be adjusted to a hair and dosed with just the right mixture of kerosene and oil, lest it refuse to come free at all, thus forcing the hapless driver to make gear changes with hope and prayer. Bugatti favoured cable-operated brakes demanding heavy foot pressure, and on one occasion loftily told a customer that he made his cars to go, not to stop. Heavy though they were, the race-bred Bugatti brakes were efficient and virtually fade-proof. Bugatti detested detachable cylinder heads. On one model the rear axle, transmission and crankshaft must be removed before the valves can be ground. The Bugatti water pump is something to make strong men weep, and some of the racing models fling oil about like a gusher gone berserk. ‘It comes out of everything but the tyre valves and gets into everything including your hair,’ one devoted owner reports.
Purdy's passion for the Bugatti came to mind recently when I saw this photo.

It comes from a photojournal of flickr images by Ken Hircock called saxonfenken's photostream. This link takes you to the original post: Vintage Bugatti. His full-size image of the car is here.

There are lots and lots of Bugatti photos on the web. What sets this one apart is the condition of the car. It's not another Concours-d'Elegance showpiece, but rather a "driver." It's clearly not an car that's kept for show and only given infrequent and short outings. About it, Ken Hircock says "In a small Utah country town of Hanksville, a convoy of Vintage Bugatti's pulled up for breakfast, they were touring the United States and had already travelled 1500 miles"

I judge this car to be one of only fifty that were manufactured between 1928 and 1930, the supercharged Type 35C. Of the various Type 35 models, the author of a wikipedia article says: "The Type 35 was phenomenally successful, winning over 1,000 races in its time. It took the Grand Prix World Championship in 1926 after winning 351 races and setting 47 records in the two prior years. At its height, Type 35s averaged 14 race wins per week. Bugatti organized the Targa Florio as a special spotlight for this car, and it claimed victory there for five consecutive years, from 1925 through 1929."

And about the 35C: "The Type 35C featured a roots type supercharger, despite Ettore Bugatti's disdain for forced induction. Output was nearly 128 hp (95 kW) with a single Zenith carburettor. Type 35Cs won the 1928 and 1930 French Grand Prix. Fifty examples left the factory."

This Youtube video of a 35C show car is lovingly filmed with decent audio of the engine sound. Note the instrument panel to be seen between 20 and 30 sec. and the external gear shift and hand brake levers between 30 and 40.

{Uploaded by carchannelclassic on Sep 14, 2011. "I recorded this beautiful blue Bugatti Type 35 B during Concours d'Elegance Antwerp."}

This Youtube shows the 35 in full race mode.

{Uploaded by 4kam on Jul 8, 2010. Monaco Historic Grand Prix 2010, Bugatti Type 35 onboard video footage courtesy of Duncan Pittaway. The Bugatti Type 35 was the first ever winner of the Monaco Grand Prix in 1929. Footage shot with a 4Kam Onboard Camera and DV4 Solid State Video Recorder.}

You can see still photos of this car and its driver here. It's clearly a version A of 1925 (dual-carbs and not supercharger).

You'll find a bunch of other good Type 35 videos here.

There's a famous story that the great Isadora Duncan was killed in an accident while riding in a Type 35 (or maybe a Type 37). As the story has it: "According to oral tradition, her last words were: 'Farewell, my friends, I am off to glory!' As the car drove off, she threw a long silk scarf around her neck, which entangled in one of the car’s open-spoked wheels. The heavy embroidered silk pulled instantly taut and snapped the dancer’s neck."[2]

You can find a description of the 35C engine, with photos, here and this video gives a CAD tour of the engine, inside out, including the blower.

Two other videos.
Tour en Bugatti Type 35

Bugatti Type 37A at Road America


Some sources:

Bugatti Type 35 35B 35C 35T

Bugatti type 35

Bugatti Models

1927 Bugatti Type 35B

Bugatti Type 35 engine

Bugatti Type 35 (1924)


General note: I've reproduced text and photos under fair use provisions of U.S. Copyright Law and will remove any for which it's shown fair use does not apply.

Notes to text:

[1] This is the cover of the issue of True magazine in which Purdy's article on the Bugatti appeared (Oct. 1949).

Issue Date: OCTOBER, 1949; VOL. 25, NO.149
COVER: Special Fly to Hunt map. Cover by John Atherton.

BOOK-LENGTHER: The Pioneer Baron of Burglars ... Alan Hynd. In the palmy days of bank burglary, the top man of them all was Maximilian Shinburn, a real artist at turning off a jug. Full page color illustration by David Berger.

The Champions of the Northland ... Bruce A. Wilson. Illustrated by John Pike.
A Time for Battle ... George Scullin. Full page color illustration by Tom Lovell.
The White Magic of Voodoo ... Allan Gould & Emile C. Schurmacher.

"We Will Be First to Die" ... Richard Tregaskis.
The Hamster Man . ... Robert M. Hyatt.
Store Hair ... Fred Rosen.
Your Clothes Do the Talking.
TRUE Tested Trends.

PERSONALITIES: TRUE'S Who: How to Pick Pockets in Public ... Daniel P. Mannix.

Good Hunting--and Where. Map by John R. Hull.
Cricket Is for Men Only ... Bob Deindorfer.
You Want to Watch Them ... Marshall Goldberg.

The Fabulous Bugatti ... Ken W. Purdy. [With color photos!]
What's New in Scope Sights? ... Lucian Cary.

PICTORIAL: Vip's Tips for Men--How to Baby-Sit ... Virgil Partch.

FACT MYSTERY: The Case of the Naked Widow ... Archie McFedries. Full page color illustration by Louis Glanzman.

SHORT FEATURES: TRUEly Yours; Next Month; The Editor Speaking; Man to Man Answers; TRUE Goes Shopping; Books for Men; This Funny Life; Strange But True; The Mountain Boys; A Slight Oversight; The Offshore Bus; Pennsylvania's Last Buffalo; Build It Yourself; Never Underestimate an Eskimo; Know These Railroad Records; Twists. TRUE, A Fawcett Publication.
-- source: eBay}

Here's a different, but representative, article from magaszine: The Sky-High Invention, Hiller's Flying Platform, by John DuBarry, True Magazine, September 1956

[2] I've mentioned Isadora Duncan once before.

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