Much as I dislike letters from people who get all stuffy about the correct description of their cars, I thought that I ought to write to correct the description of the 1912 Bugatti given in your VSCC Silverstone report in the May issue of Motor Sport.
The 1912 5-litre was Bugatti’s own racing car, with which he competed at the Mont Ventoux hill-climb and probably elsewhere, though I have very little history of the car as yet. I have had to make a replica body, since only the radiator and bonnet were with the chassis when I got it, but it is a replica, and I think it is a pretty accurate replica, of the 1912 car which Bugatti owned and drove. The Garros car was made for Garros in 1913, and it was the 1913 car which came to England and was christened Black Bess by Ivy Cummings. Black Bess differs in many respects from the 1912 car, which has a 6 1/2 in.-shorter wheelbase and a five-bearing crankshaft, whereas Black Bess has a 3-bearing crank. Black Bess was always a two-seater tourer, whereas the 1912 car was a racing car.
Therefore it was wrong to call the body a “replica Garros”, and it is also an anachronism to call the car a “Type Garros” since it was competing, with Ettore Bugatti at the wheel, a year before the Garros car was made. I wish I did know what to call it. The. experts cannot agree to any type number for it, or indeed for any of the 5-litre chain-driven Bugattis, of which the 1912 car was the first, and Black Bess the second.
Basset Down. NIGEL ARNOLD FORSTER
(I regret that this letter was necessary, as Black Bess was discovered by me in the early 1930s derelict at McEvoy’s garage in Derby before Col. G. M. Giles of The BOC purchased her; the visit to see her was made in a Type 40 Bugatti. As I dug out the car’s history, being intrigued by references to a by-then-forgotten chain-drive Bugatti having been raced at Brooklands and used in sprints by Miss Ivy Cummings, the history of these two 5-litre cars should have been clear to me. I would like to congratulate Nigel on a painstaking resuscitation and ownership of an exceedingly interesting Edwardian. –Ed.)