Bugatti’s beating heart

Three generations of expertise in one family business

The knowledge required to work on pre-war Bugatti Grand Prix and road cars is not something you can master in a day – indeed the Dutton family has taken three generations to learn the trade. The dynasty started with Victor Dutton, who was a riding mechanic in the 1920s. He was followed by his son Ivan, who set up his own business in the early ’60s. Then came his son Tim, who now runs the family firm.

Such expertise in these most celebrated of cars is rare, and Dutton’s hard-earned experience is in demand with owners the world over. From ground-up restorations to reconditioning of engines and gearboxes, Tim’s understanding of Bugatti’s quirks is rightly valued. Business is helped by the current economic climate. “Brexit has been good for us,” he says. “When the pound weakened people we’d been talking to for years were on the phone to us. ”

These days he’s even finding himself teaching owners how to drive. “Back in the day owners had grown up with old machinery, but we’ve got a generation now who’ve got the money but don’t have any experience of cars from this era.”

Having driven his first Bugatti – a Type 51 – aged just 18, Tim Dutton says his passion is for the Type 35 and other classic Grand Prix cars. As values rise and opportunities open, however, he sees the market moving towards road machines, of which the Type 44 is a personal favourite. Sales are a sideline compared with the servicing and restoration work but the family passion for rare and interesting racing machinery seems in safe hands.