THE TYPE 43 SUPERCHARGED BUGATTI
ONE of the most cheering aspects of testing a car such as the 2,300 c.c. supercharged Bugatti, is the relief from having to make excuses for its performance. There is none of the tiresome business of trying to find possibilities, which are not evident, no feelings that the speed is really quite good considering the size of body, or considering the small engine, or the temperature or the barometer, or the state of the road, quite good but ought to be better in fact !
There are no buts in the vocabulary of F,ttore Bugatti. When he decides that a motorcar shall be quick it is quick, and it is a very blasé motorist indeed who could drive such a car and remain unmoved.
On taking over the “type 43” for the first time there were a few features which were strange to us in relation to previous Bugatti design. For instance, the gear change is now centrally operated and the movements are made to follow more usual practice, that is to say one pulls back into top instead of the older push forward change of the earlier models. We must confess to a liking for the older type, as it made the change down to third a beautifully crisp and snappy operation. However, the more standard method is probably the best, taken all round. Also the seats are higher than we expected and although this may have advantages in the way of giving greater view of the extremities of the vehicle, we would rather be more in the car. That is a mere bagatelle however, and a visit to Mr. Moseley, and the substitution of one of his air cushions for the present deeper upholstery would soon put that right, and at the same time would enable a fairly large driver to look through the windscreen instead of over the top of it.
Although this model is really a racer by instinct and upbringing, it has achieved a degree of refinement tinapproached by previous Bugattis of this type. The interior of the cockpit is more like that of a sober motorcar and less like the engine room of a ship. In general equipment it is distinctly continental, and there is one lever, situated conveniently near the passenger’s left hand which, legally, must be left alone in this country.
However, What the car of the law does not hear, the notebook of the law will not record, and when far from human habitation a little extra noise does no harm, and incidentally eases the exhaust valve temperature.
The supercharger is, of course, permanently functioning, but is remarkable quiet, and at ordinary cruising speeds, scarcely noticeable. The gear box is much quieter than on previous models, and retains the lightness of control and ease of changing which has always been a Bugatti feature. In handling the car, one found that a light touch is necessary to drive it well, which is as it should be with a car of this type.
The man who wants a woolly big-engined top gear vehicle would have little use for this particular Bugatti, and M. Bugatti has equally little use for him.
He realises the obvious—that is impossible to get a hotstuff, high-revving, hundred-mile-an-hour job which is also the complete town-carriage, at least not in 2,300 c.c., and he doesn’t spoil a good car by trying to do so. He can make a perfectly good touring car if he likes, better than most people in fact, and does so, but it is another model entirely.
From this it must not be inferred that the supercharged ” Bug “is intractable, for it is not. What it requires is intelligent handling, and a little concentration. With suitable use of the spark lever, and a reasonable delicacy in the treatment of the accelerator, it will pick up perfectly well from about 10 m.p.h. in top, which is a good thing in places where one does not wish to attract unwelcome attention. Once in the open country, however, such treatment would be absurd. What is the good of a beautiful 4-speed close-ratio gear box, and 5,000 r.p.m. well within the engine’s speed range, if these properties are not exploited ? In this respect the new Bugatti excels the older models in every way. The speed range of the engine is greater, and although a reasonable touch is required, it has grown out of the stage of having to be driven in light rubber shoes, which on some of the older racers were, if not necessary, at least highly desirable.
So much for control ; now for road performance. With such a car, acceleration figures from a slower rate to one very little faster are well nigh meaningless, especially in the gears most likely to be used at these speeds. These figures are governed much more by the ability of the road surface to resist wheelspin than by anything else. It is in attaining high speeds quickly that the amazing performance becomes evident. 80 m.p.h. from a standing start takes little over three quarters of a minute, while quite unpublishable average speeds can be safely achieved without ever reaching the maximum of which the car is capable. The top speed is stated to be 108 m.p.h., and would naturally vary slightly according to the conditions. We were unable however to check this, the highest road speed we attained in our test being 100 m.p.h., which can be reached from an ordinary gentle cruising speed on any stretch of about a mile. Braking from this speed is easy and safe. The brakes operate direct without servo mechanism, and the pressure required is very well arranged, being neither heavy enough to be hard work,
or light enough to be liable to cause trouble.
As for the steering on corners and the straight,— well when a make can so consistently win the Targa Florio over the stiffest road course in the world, further comment on its handling from the pen of an ordinary mortal is merely superfluous—in fact, almost impertinent.
Apart from its maximum speed, the great point of this car is its hill-climbing powers. Main road hills, given a clear road can be breasted at a good 85 m.p.h., and when third gear is employed it is merely to reach this speed sooner, not because the hill requires it. The gear ratios are :-1st, 11.4; 2nd, 7.35; 3rd, 5.27, and top 4.14 to 1. The useful maxima on the gears are approximately 36 m.p.h. on bottom, 56 m.p.h. on second, and just under 80 m.p.h. on third. These could, of course, be exceeded, but to do so would be quite pointless and merely asking for trouble.
The price of the ” 43 ” Grand Sport model is £1,200.
In this class of car there can be no half measures, a man either wants racing performance or he does not, and if he does Ettore Bugatti is the man to supply it.