THE LATEST SPORTS BUGATTI
BLOWN AND UNBLOWN MODELS TESTED AT THE MOLSHEIM FACTORY (The second part of this article will be completed in the June issue together with illustrations)
MASS production has done wonders in cheapening and popularising the motor-car and there is no lack of vehicles on the road to-day capable of 80 to 90 m.p.h. How many of them are safe and exhilerating to drive all-out on winding roads and to swing round corners at the limit of tyre adhesion is another matter, and to attain these qualities the discerning owner must still turn to one of the hand-made sports-cars, unhappily Fo reduced in number, which remain to delight the enthusiast.
Ettore Bugatti has long been a believer in road-racing as a proving ground for new developments, and as a consequence the cars which bear his name are always associated with high speed and exceptional road-holding. Some of the earlier models, it must be confessed, though fascinating to drive, required a good deal of” fiddling” to keep them running at the highest pitch of efficiency, but this criticism in no way applies to the latest Type ” 57 ” cars, which of course are fitted with 3.3-litre unsupereharged straight-eight engines. Important modifications were made last year to engine, transmission, springing and brakes, and a new supercharged model, the ” Grand Tourisme,” added to the range, so it was with the greatest interest that we accepted the invitation of Monsieur Jean Bugatti to visit the factory and to put the new cars through their paees.
The regular demonstrator cars were all out on runs in different parts of the country when we arrived at the factory, and so Monsieur Bugatti brought out his own car, a neat grey sports saloon with the swept-back windscreen and faired wings now.
We started away from the garage on bottom gear, went straight into top, and purred gently round the factory buildings at 8 m.p.h. to the main road. Here we swooped up rapidly to 60 m.p.h. and gained the open country beyond the Route Nationale from Strasbourg.
Clear hedgeless highways are an inducement to high speed, and the car sped along at 80 m.p.h. with the comfort and quietness one associates with the Type 57. What was astonishing and at first a little alarming was the way that one could charge up to a right-angle corner at something like 70 M.p.h.. swing round on a slightly adverse camber without ill-effect and then negotiate a bumpy level crossing without feeling the suspension was in any way too hard. Furthermore this has been achieved with non-adjustable hydraulic shockabsorbers, capable of running a year or more without refilling or any other attention.
Further fast stretches brought us to a succession of old-world Alsatian villages, with pave and winding streets to test further the springing and the slowrunning on top. Proceeding in this way, we reached the piece de resistance of the afternoon’s tests, the twisting 000 feet climb to the summit of the Mont Ste Odile.
Running still on top we pulled slowly out of a village up a 1 in 15 bank, then encountered a wmding ascent with a gradient of close on 1 in 10, culminating in a sharp bend which was almost .1i, hairpin, whiclt we negotiated as smoothly as any ” woolly ” “iransatlantic saloon at 25 m.p.h. This point passed, Monsieur Bugatti exchanged a significent glance with our .second passenger, who hooked his arm through an arm loop on the side of the body. A snick into second gear and down witit the accelerator and we were shooting away up the remaining mile of the corkscrew ascent at anything between 50 and 75 m.p.h. So ” right” was the suspension, still the gooct old system of semi-elliptics in ix out and reversed quarter-ellipties behind, that even on the sharpest corners there was no trace of roll and just a momentary trace of tyre squeal on two of the sharpest corners. The whole thing .was a most shiking demonstration of peifect suspension and weight dishibution, and an induction system which functions equally well at five hundred r.p.m. and five thousand. Returning to level ground at a more moderate speed, we then proceeded to check the all-out speed and acceleration, timing the car by stop. watch over a fivekilometre straight. The mean of several runs over .a flying kilometre gave a maximum speed of 96 m.p.h., while the acceleration figures, in each case front 12)2 m.p.h. (20 k.p.m.) being as follows :—
These figures are extremely creditable for an unsupercharged car and also show a useful improvement over earlier models of the ” Type 57 ” which actually took three seconds more to reach a speed of 75 m.p.h.
At 80 m.p.h. on top gear, the engine was running at about 4,000 r.p.m. In the indirect ratios it can be taken quite safely up to 77 m.p.h. in third and 55 m.p.h. in second, these figures representing 5,000 r.p.m.
The brakes proved fully adequate in dealing with the car’s high maximum, and brought it to rest in 56 feet from 40 m.p.h. Monsieur Bugatti slammed them hard on at 60 m.p.h. without causing the car to deviate and repeated this several times On a wet stretch of road just to show there was no deception !
After these tests were finished we were invited to take the wheel and in a very short distance were confirming the high opinion we had formed in the passenger’s seat. Running smoothly and silently at 75 to 80 m.p.h. the kilometre stones glided by almost unconsciously and we were quite willing to believe that Bugati i has achieved the 435 kilOmetres to Paris in just under 31 hours, in this very car, an average of 77 m.p.1-.
The top gear performance, as has been. said, is quite up to touring car standards, while with a maximum of 75 m.p.h. in third, one can maintain high speedseven in hilly country. Second and third gears are virtually inaudible, the engine is free from vibration, and the gear-change a matter of finger and thumb. Synchromesh is not fitted, but one soon got accustomed to the neat rapid change. The clutch is lighter hl action and smoother than on earlier models, but can still be let in with a bang at 2,000 r.p.m. if one wants to practise racing starts on the open road.
The brakes, which are now hydraulically operated on the Lockheed principle, with independent pistons for the front and tear pairs of brakes, are smooth and safe in action at ordinary pedal pressures, while capable of locking all four wheels if one treads really hard. Steering is lighter and lower-geared than heretofore, quite free from backlash, has a pleasant caster action, and is perfectly accurate ‘even on loose-surfaced
outer cambers. The front axle is no longer articulated, but is steadied on ore side by a torque rod above the axle, with an anti-kick shackle on the driver’s side, an arrangement which insulates the steering in from brake reaction and kickback when passing over rough surfaces. In cornering the driver would never suspect for -a moment that the wheelbase is nearly eleven feet, and with an ample lock hairpins can be taken with impunity.
The driving position was comfortable and alert, with pedals and controls to hand. The ignition control is on the facia board, but with automatic retard is only used for slow running in towns. To be continued