SPORTING CARS ON ROAD AND TRACK.
The 11.9 BUGATTI.
WITHOUT being in any way disrespectful towards a real masterpiece of light car engineering, we should describe the 11.9 Bugatti as “the cheekiest thing on wheels.” The choice of adjectives will be readily appreciated by those of our readers who have owned or driven one of these remarkable little cars, and those who have not been so fortunate will gather what we term ” cheek ” in the course of our remarks dealing with a test run. Whatever style a driver may have cultivated, his methods are inevitably controlled by the particular class of car he happens to handle. For example, we know the luxurious kind of driving which comes naturally when one is at the wheel of a Rolls-Royce, the resigned feeling when taking a trip in a car with a low maximum speed, and the strained tension when trying to urge a low-powered light car to its maximum effort. Each kind of car forces its particular personality on the driver, and the Bugatti, when getting up its “revs.” seems to say, “Come along, let us have a bit of fun on the road to-day,” and, before one has been driving it for five minutes, the Bugatti has exerted its winning little ways, the merry song of its engine and the scream of the gears combining to rouse a real joie de route, if one may be allowed to coin an expression.yj
The car we had out on test was an absolutely standard model, which, far from being kept up to real concert pitch, had been slashed about on all kinds of demonstration work by all sorts of drivers, so that it was not just a case of handing out a specially tuned car to impress a motoring journalist.
“The engine is of the monobloc type, with four cylinders 69 mm. by Ioo mm.,” but you can get all that sort of stuff out of the catalogue, so suppose we go right ahead with the performance ! Before handing over the car, the chief demonstrator at the Service Depot of Messrs. Charles Jarrott & Letts, Ltd., went to a lot of trouble to explain certain mechanical details, and pointed out what should be done in the event of anything being needed in the way of adjustments ; but during the week-end run none of these attentions were required. Anyhow, we got off with the Bugatti, and before a mile was covered, it started humming a little tune, something on these lines :— ” Johnny had a little BUG, it changed gear with a flick,
The guy that wants to catch that BUG, has gotta be damn quick.”
Then the policeman at the corner of Chelsea Bridge dropped his arm, and the Bug. tried to jump across the river, for, with a quick change into second, and a light dab on the accelerator, it toddled off at over forty miles an hour. That, of course, is something like acceleration ; but later, with a clear bit of road, a speed of FIFTY-TWO miles per hour was attained on second gear !
The second, third and top gear ratios are fairly close, so that, with a little practice, it is possible to do some very pretty work with the gear lever, and to cultivate just the style of driving suited to the temperament of the lively little engine. It has been said that there are difficulties in changing gear on the Bugatti car, but we failed to discover anything out of the way in this direction, though at the same time one has to become accustomed to the high speed of the engine and the close ratios of the gears. From the foregoing remarks concerning the acceleration of the Bugatti, it should not be assumed that there is any trouble about driving slowly on top gear, for during our test we frequently reduced speed without changing gear to conform with regulations where the ten-mile limit was enforced. It is also possible to pick up from a crawl and get into a good speed on top gear, but as the charm of the Bug. is its wonderful
acceleration on the indirect gears, there are few drivers who would prefer to hang on to top.
The Value of a Long Test.
It is quite conceivable that, in making a short test on the Bugatti, one might be so mesmerised by its outstanding qualities as to overlook some of the minor points calling for criticism, for the modern sporting driver is a very discriminating person and sometimes hard to please. For example, we found it difficult to read the speedometer at all when travelling fast, on account of its position at the extreme left of the instrument board. Then, again, the position for the driver is quite comfortable ; but the passengers, es
pecially those in the rear, are apt to get very fatigued, owing to the narrow seats and lack of adequate support for the back. Another very inconvenient thing is the arrangement of the petrol tank filler, to which access can only be gained by removing the spare wheel—a very messy job in muddy weather. We had no occasion to use the hood or side curtains, but they did not strike us as providing sufficient protection against the storms of our summer, to say nothing of what happens in the winter months. As we have remarked, a long test emphasises such points, but it also enables one to draw conclusions as to the reliability of a car, and, in the case of the Bugatti, the qualities vastly outnumbered the few minor defects, and it must also be remembered that Continental motorists have very different ideas
to ours on the subject of bodywork and equipment hence the popularity of English-built bodies for foreign , cars.
Where the Bugatti Scores.
To appreciate the little Bugatti to the fullest extent, one should choose a route upon which many other cars are travelling, and if there is a fair sprinkling of motorcyclists, so much the better. The fun commences when the first car begins to sound the Klaxon warning all the small fry to clear out of its way. Then the Bug. will prick up its ears and begin chuckling. First of all it will probably let the large car pass, but, persuading its driver to change down, will jump after its adversary,
to nip past at an astounding speed. If the driver of the large car sees the shape of the radiator, he will probably be content to remain behind, but if not, the merry little contest continues, till the Bugatti decides to stop teasing and goes ahead to look for more victims. Motor-cyclists are its particular prey, for it will allow one to creep up alongside, and, just as the two-wheeler thinks he can pass, that astounding acceleration on a quick drop down makes the motor-cyclist think that he has started to go backwards. The car we tested was fairly well-behaved in traffic, but on several occasions would persist in darting between other vehicles like a minnow in a school of roach. That is what we mean by its “cheek,” and it is such a delightful little car that one cannot be really cross with it.
It seems rather futile to describe how the Bugatti climbs hills simply because, unless one hangs on to top gear, no ordinary incline makes the least difference to its speed. To get any idea of the power available on the lower gears, one must tackle some extraordinarily steep incline, such as the one shown in one of our photographs.
The remarkable steadiness of the car when taking sharp right angle bends must be experienced to be believed, but, here again, the camera has come to our assistance, and one of the illustrations depicts the cornering abilities of the car far better than a whole paragraph of description.
There may be cars as good as the Bugatti for the class of work for which Signor Ettore Bugatti intended his little wonder, but we have yet to find one, especially a marque so distinguished for sheer reliability as well as speed.
Sole Concessionaires for the Bugatti : Messrs. Charles Jarrott & Letts, Ltd. London Agents : Messrs. B. S. Marshall, Ltd.