Type 43 Bugatti
As threatened, this letter follows my cable requesting a little information on the Type 43 Bugatti.
My Type 43 is the only one in this country and has had a somewhat chequered career. It appears to have been imported in 1929 when new, and passed its first four or five years in a most energetic manner ; races, hillclimbs and trials being the daily recipe. Disaster befell in 1934, perhaps not for the first time, as a result of energetic but unfruitful attempts to clear an oiled plug. A rod revolted. Rebuilding was not completed until 1936, since when a very small mileage only has been covered.
It may be of interest, and almost certainly will cause horror, when I tell you that Le Patron’s design has been modified. The big-end rollers are now held in steel cages instead of the original phosphor-bronze affairs. Also three less rollers per bearing are used, the whole thing being copied from the Norton mc arrangement. I have not yet thrown discretion to the winds, so do not know whether the new big-ends are a success or not. Petrol being so scarce, a run in the Bugatti is a precious thing indeed, and is always shared by my wife. The latter, in addition to being a most long-suffering Englishwoman in a strange land, and more or less permanently surrounded by strange motorcars, is nervous at speed. This may have something to do with the relatively trouble-free motoring which I have, with a few variations, enjoyed. The immediate result is that the Type 43 has not yet been extended. Four-five in top always produces a tap on my left shoulder and an appealing look. With 19-in x 6.00-in rear tyres as fitted, top gear gives 22.2 mph per 1,000 rpm. At four-live the supply does not appear to be exhausted by any means, so the thing is quite brisk for its kind. I hope to explore possibilities in a solo run shortly.
With trepidation may I put forward a few comments on the evergreen subject of vintage versus modern ? I do not think Mr Cecil Clutton’s dissertations on this could be surpassed for both wit and logic, and many other contributors have, I am sure, caused either rage or amusement. Broadly, it would appear that a vintage machine costing £1,000 or more when new was still a better performer in 1939 than any modern costing less than about £500 at that time. Since pretty good vintage specimens could then be bought for about £150 to £200, the financial balance appeared to favour vintage, for those who want performance plus that something which goes with a car that is really built for the buyer and not for the benefit of the shareholder, to the exclusion of all else. I have had a little experience with vintage machinery as represented by four Bugattis, a blown 41/2-litre Bentley, an assortment of Delage, and a reasonably rapid early Riley. To balance these my garage has, at one time or another, been graced or disgraced by a 4-litre open 4-seater Lagonda, a Lagonda Rapier, Le Mans (sic) Singer, a Hornet Special and a Ford V8. Many, many miles have also been driven in parental Americans and uxorial Austins. The whole thing seems to boil down to the undeniable fact that what is one man’s beer is another man’s hogwash, as was ever. My esteemed parent would not keep a ”30/98″ or similar under any circumstances, whereas I am reminded of lying in a tepid bath when driving the relatively high-class Yanks which are to him the ultimate in comfortable motoring.
The supporters of so-called modern construction deem it extremely odd that anyone in his right mind should prefer the older types of, say, Aston-Martin or Frazer-Nash, when these have not even outstanding performance on their side. The answer seems to be simply in the manner of their manufacture ; perhaps I should say creation. A hand-fitted motor-car (if based on sound design) usually possesses that nearly indefinable “controllability with confidence,” commonly called “feel.” Bugattis have it, in my opinion, to a greater degree than any other make of which I have experience.
Another subject which has filled lots of your columns is the argument over the relative merits of British and Continental family conveyances. Mr CWP Hampton has put up a sterling and, indeed, impassioned fight for the Continentals, and in doing so seems to me to have forced his opponents on to unfavourable ground. The weight of the discussion has been pushed on to performance and roadholding (presumably at relatively high speeds for the type under discussion). I can only say that there are a devil of a lot of people who use their cars solely as a means to get from place to place at less than 45 mph, at a low cost both in tax and petrol. If their cars meet their requirements in this respect, the detailed manner of doing matters not, so it is better that they should come from a British factory than another. It would probably he safe to say that agents for Austin, Morris, Standard and Singer count their sales in hundreds in Australia, while representatives of Lancia, Fiat, Citroen are counting their single successes. One is tempted to ask if all these buyers are wrong and Mr Hampton alone is right ?
On the other side of the record Mr Marshall’s exhortation that we (the English) should be fair to ourselves, sounded a note of complacency which definitely jarred the car. Lighter weight and independent suspension, at least in front, must become standard practice on all mass-produced light cars in the interests of controllability and safety. England should have a great opportunity to develop overseas car markets at the end of the war. European factories are likely to be slow off the mark, but the British product will have to embody all the desirable features to which the prospective customers have been accustomed, plus any improvement anyone else is likely to think of in the immediate future. The British small car has many good features, mostly related to comfort and reliability for size, but they do seem to fall short on the score of performance.
If large chunks of surplus weight could be thrown overboard, big improvements in this and economy should result.
Please let me say how much I enjoy Motor Sport, and express my admiration for the remarkable standard of interest that has been maintained by enthusiasm and genius alone.
My brother, who is with the RAAF in England, has been instructed to send you further supplies of Air Mail stamps for use by anyone who would be so kind as to tell me any of the things of which the canny Type 43 owner bewares or embraces, if he would go fast and far.
I am, Yours. etc,
T Luxton (Lt Col), Victoria, Australia.
[Letters from other Bugatti Owners, preferably on Air Mail paper, will be forwarded.—Ed]