Letters from readers, April 1943


For nearly twenty years I have been a Bugatti fan and any new “gen” sends my ears back with a click and brings a gleam into me old eyes! Reading Mr. H. F. Hart’s experience of a Type 40 when he quoted the Reg. No. (UF 4800), I at once dashed across to my garage to confirm my suspicion. Yes, it is— I actually own the identical job! It must have had a very rough time since it did 80 m.p.h. at Brooklands until when I found it at a wrecker’s in Leeds. At first sight it looked pretty hopeless— I could only spot two redeeming features; a very good gearbox had just been fitted (ex-Type 43) and the engine looked good. The wrecker said he bought it in Edinburgh and the engine had had a £40 overhaul! I should have asked when!

However, I needed something to take my mind off the international situation during the long winter evenings, and I certainly got it—until I got held up for spares, and progress from now on will be very slow; but I intend to finish it one day, as I think it has the “makings”, after a few modifications to my own ideas.

It is interesting to note that in spite of the years (it is a 1929 model), the caning and duff workers, etc., of which there is evidence, it will rebuild once more. The greatest cost would be labour, but, of course, it is a labour of love (at times, anyhow).

The back axle and brake drums are very good, the five main bearings and journals perfect, and the big-end journals have only 0.002 in. ovality (it is case-hardened), but they are scored rather badly. Some hard work stoning down considerably improved them. The real snag, in the engine department, was a badly cracked valve seat (the usual trouble) necessitating a replacement block, as I have never heard of a successful welding job.

The rest of the trouble is mainly bodywork. This is the French steel-type and rust had done the usual damage. By cutting away here and there and a little plating and metal bashing, the original 3/4-seater is now quite presentable as a 2-seater, as I shortened the body by about 18 in. and lowered the rear part from the scuttle 3 in., thus eliminating the rotten parts. The general design of the Type 40 is quite sound, but there are_ one or two snags, in my humble opinion.

The worst is the oil cooler of longitudinal tubes in the sump, which forms a first-class sludge trap, and is made even worse by having the oil drain, at one side and the oil pump pick-up opposite, so that the filth deposits at the place where it can do most damage.

It is impossible to clean the sump without dismantling the engine—a job not to be lightly undertaken. This probably accounts for undue wear in oil pump, and possibly scoring of big-end journals.

I have removed the offending tubes and plated crankcase ends.

Another bad feature is the extremely heavy flywheel, most unusual in Bugattis; presumably M. Bugatti’s method of detuning, as otherwise the engine is similar to Type 37 G.P. The flywheel and starter ring weigh 43 lb., and to this must be added the clutch assembly, another 24 lb. I have machined off about 20 lb. from the outside diameters, thus reducing the flywheel effect as much as is practicable.

This is all the tuning I propose to do, as the resultant performance should be adequate, and, of course, it is the manner of its going that puts Bugatti in a class of its own.

In the distant future I hope to compare Type 40 performance with my old love— a 1926 modified “Brescia”. The Type 40 should score on brakes and roadholding, but the latter has the intriguing 3.5 to 1 top gear, which has always appealed to me. I should be most interested to hear any further details of UF 4800’s earlier history, if Mr. Hart can oblige.

I am, Yours etc.,

J. Fawcett.

Ossett, W. Yorks.