Saving the 'Black Bess' Bugatti
In 1933 I heard that at McEvoy’s works in Derby there was a mysterious Bugatti with chain final drive languishing there which they had no time to restore. To investigate I went in Mr J D Aylard’s Type 40 Bugatti.
What we found was the 5-litre Edwardian ‘Black Bess’, a car I later discovered had been raced at Brooklands in 1925 by L H Preston, an Oxford undergraduate, when it lapped at 90.06mph, though by then 12 years old. It was afterwards owned by James Robinson Justice who took it to McEvoy’s with gearbox problems, where we found it. Ettore Bugatti built only a dozen such cars, the first going to the famous pioneer aviator Roland Garros.
I could not afford to restore it but Col G M Giles of the Bugatti O C had a magnificent rebuild undertaken. He drove ‘Black Bess’ on the road and in competition events with great enjoyment. Peter Hampden then acquired it. Another owner was David Heimann, and I drove it up Kop Hill for a BBC film.
It was run very successfully in speed trials and hillclimbs by Miss Ivy Cummings long after Louis Coatalen, the Sunbeam designer, had owned it. More recently it was purchased by Evert Louwman for the Dutch National Motor Museum.