More Early Bugattism
By Cecil Glutton
IN MOTOR SPORT for May, 1941, I gave some rather disconnected information about Ettore Bugatti’s early career as a designer and maker of motor-cars. The Editor has now asked me to supplement that article with further information which has subsequently come to light, relating to the Type 13 Bugatti and the Bebe Peugeot, which latter, as is well known, was also designed by Bugatti.
Recapitulating for a moment, when Bugatti set up in business on his own about 1910, his first two models were the 1,327-c.c. 8-valve model, later known as the Type 13, and the 5-litre machine whose sole representative in this country is the superb ” Black Bess ” of Col. Giles. At an even earlier date, Bugatti had shown his preference for the overhead camshaft, remarkable ” banana ” tappets, multi-plate clutch and other features which remained prominent Bugatti characteristics for many years ; but various authorities have pointed out the really striking resemblance which exists between “Black Bess” and the 1910, 10-litre, G.P. Fiat, similar to that now owned by Anthony Heal. The “Black Bess” type must have been on the drawing board in 1909, since the prototype machine competed in the 1910 Prince Henry Trials. The Fiat was also well on the way to completion in 1999, since it is almost certainly the machine which was intended for the abortive 1909 Grand Prix. Bugatti must, therefore, have had very advanced knowledge of the Fiat arrangements, and I think that dispassionate examination of the two cars must carry conviction that the similarity is not accidental. Even the little 8-valve model shows evident signs of Fiat influence, but here I cannot help suspecting that Bugatti must, in some measure at least, have been influenced by the several high-efficiency 62-mm. bore, 4-cylinder cars which ran in the 1908 G.P. Voiturette class. This reads like an attempt to rob M. Bugatti of all the credit for these undoubtedly pioneer efforts, but I do not think that this is really so. The Fiat people had, since 1905, been producing G.P. machines of startlingly modern design, but owing to their immense size they did not influence normal design. It was just another of the many cases where Bugatti saw a means of putting the ideas of another to more profitable uses than had the originator. In this case, he showed himself the first to realise that the Fiat racing design, if greatly reduced in size and stepped up in crankshaft speed, would result in a perfectly practicable production machine. This in itself was a sufficiently revolutionary notion, be side which the apparent plagiarism be comes comparatively unimportant. “Black Bess” and the Type 13 can
therefore lay very strong claim to be the forerunners of all modern high-efficiency sports cars, both large and small. The original Type 13 of 1919, described in my previous article, was fairly soon modified in several particulars, and by 1913 or 1914 it had become much more tyl)ically I3ugatti ; it will therefore be of interest to the Bugattisti to see the eventual shape of this famous type. Briefly, it will be remembered that the 1910 effort had a quite non-Bugatti radiator, and a 65 x 100 engine, with a capacity of 1,327 c.c. The wheelbase was 6 ft. 7 in., track 3 ft. 9 in., and total weight of the Complete car only 6 cwt. The price, complete, was £300. The crankshaft was carried in two main roller bearings,
and was said to be capable of turning at 3,000 r.p.m. The cruising revs. were 2,300 per minute. Maximum speed was 60 m.p.h., a most remarkable figure. The overhead camshaft was wick lubricated, and the main lubrication was assisted by exhaust pressure. The 4-speed gearbox was 3-point mounted, with one bearer on the off side and two on the near.
It was this little machine which finished second in the 1910 Grand Prix, the winner being the very 10-litre Fiat to which it so largely owed its inspiration. In its final form, with typical Bugatti radiator, the Type 13 was interviewed by a now defunct Iliffe publication, the Light Car (not to be confused with the current Temple Press periodical of the same name) of March 14th, 1917, from which the following particulars are taken. The engine dimensions were as before, but the crankshaft, of chrome nickel steel, hardened and ground, was supported in three phosphor-hronze bearings, described as
possessing anti-frictional properties and being a secret of the designer.”
The o.h.c. was driven by a shaft at the front end and carried by three ball bearings. Valve operation was by the remarkable Bugatti ” banana ” tappets of hardened steel, working in white metallined brass guides. Clearantes were adjusted by normal shims and thimbles. The inlet valves lived in detachable cages so that the valves could be replaced without dislodging the whole cylinder block. Exhaust valves would be dropped through the inlet orifice, slid across the piston till they registered with the exhaust valve guides, and raised deftly into position by winding up the piston.
The valve arrangements generally are of considerable interest, especially as to the timing diagram. The inlet valves opened 22′ before t.d.c. and closed only 14° after b.d.c. The exhaust valves opened 62° before b.d.c. and closed as much as 43′ after t.d.c. In considering this diagram it must be explained that the exhaust valve •opened very slowly, and the other valve operations were fairly rapid. The inlet valve diameter was 39 mm, with a 10 mm. lift, and the exhaust valve diameter was 36 mm. with an 11 mm. lift. The effective valve openings were therefore practically identical. The total overlap is 65°. The head was flat, as was the case with all Bugatti types until Type 50, and as the total valve diameter exceeded the bore the combustion chamber had to be L-shaped, the extension being on the Inlet side, which, in conformity with the customarily perverse Bugatti practice, housed the sparking plugs. Contrary to the later Bugatti reliance on cast-iron
cylinder head and valve-seat cooling, the Type 13 is provided with fairly copious water passages round the head. Considering the low r.p.m. it is remarkable that such large valves were considered necessary, and one cannot help feeling that smaller ones would have improved performance as a whole, and certainly at low revs. The same diameter (39 mm.) and the lower lift of 9 mm., in
conjunction with a 40′ overlap, was considered adequate for the P.3 Alfa-Romeo engine which was capable of 6,500 r.p.m., the cylinder dimensions of the two engines being identical. The valves were composed of “the best chrome nickel steel.”
Lubrication was by plunger pump and the merflow from the pump lubricated the camshaft. Big-end lubrication was by splash ; consumption was claimed to be 2,000 m.p.g.
Turning to the transmission, power was put through the usual beautiful Bugatti multi-plate clutch (5 c.i. and 6 steel plates) and a 4-speed gearbox, most rigidly held by an immense bearer stretching right across the chassis. This must have had an admirable stiffening effect, as also must have done the 4-point engine mounting.
The overall gear ratios were the admirable ones of 3.43, 4.5, 6.25 and 11 to 1. At the permitted maximum engine speed of 2,500 r.p.m. in the gears and 2,700 in top (less than the 3,000 r.p.m. of the original 1910 model) the road speeds were 18.5, 32.7, 45.4 and 65 m.p.h.
The chassis followed usual Bugatti lines with open propeller-shaft, torque arm, semi-elliptic front springs and reversed quarter-elliptics behind. The wheelbase was 7 ft. 10f in., and track 3 ft. 91 in. Overall weight was 101 cwt. The foot-brake worked on the transmission, and the handle operated large drums on the rear axle. Bugatti brakes were consistently poor until the late ’20s, and these seem to have been no exception. Apart from this, the roadholding, steering, comfort, speed, billclimbing and accelerative powers of the little machine came in for high praise.
In 1914 the Type 13 was practically superseded by the Type 22, which was a sort of transitional model between the 13 and the famous Brescia, Type 23, which made its bow in 1923. It is not intended to deal at length here with the Type 22, but it may be mentioned that it had a slightly larger 68 x 199, 1,453-c.c. engine and four valves per cylinder. The gear ratios were almost identical to the Type 13. A team of these cars was entered for the 1920 Voiturette G.P. at Le Mans, and the winning car, driven by Friederich, averaged 57 m.p.h. At half distance the Bugattis lay 1st, 2nd and 3rd. It seems that the cylinder dimensions in this case may have been 66 x 100. Although not marketed until 1923 it seems that the Brescia was first raced in September, 1921, when it won the Brescia light car race, from which it took its name. The Full Brescia differed from the Type 22 in having two magnetos on the dash, as distinct from the Type 22’s one driven by a skew-gear from the camshaft. The Brescia, too, had a centre
main roller bearing for the crank, shorter wheelbase, and plugs on each side of the engine.
For most of this Type 22 and 23 information I am indebted to Mr. Laurence Pomeroy ; in fact, there is nothing original about this article at all.
It is known that M. Bugatti was experimenting in 1913 with a straight eight composed of two Type 13 blocks on a common crankcase, but the first straight eight was not made available to the public until 1923, when the 2-litre (60 x 88), three-bearing Type 30 was put on the market. However, it is not generally known that a straight eight was shown at the Paris Salon in 1921. Nothing seems to have come of it, and it was probably made of wood ! It seems to have been a sort of pre-Type 30, with two Solex carburetters. A two-speed gearbox lived on the back axle, as was later to be the case on the Types 41, 46 and 50.
If the Type 13 was the forerunner of all modern high-efficiency sports cars, it is equally true that the Bebe Peugeot fully anticipated the modern baby car, having been in successful production over ten years before the Austin Seven. Although built by Peugeots, the car was designed throughout by Bugatti. Briefly, the particulars were as follows : The engine capacity was 855 c.c., the bore and stroke being 55 x 90, which gave a
Treasury rating of 7.5 h.p. The b.h.p. was stated to be about 10, which seems rather surprisingly low. I should have expected 12 or 13. The whole engine was in one piece, with just a plate at the bottom of the sump. The top end was T-shaped, with inlet and exhaust valves on opposite sides, and detachable valve caps. The beautiful four-branch Bugatti exhaust manifold was in evidence, and induction took place by courtesy of a Zenith carburetter. Sparking by Bosch, lubrication by gravity and sight feed, and cooling by centrifugal pump and gilledtube radiator. A leather cone clutch passed the power to a novel two-speed arrangement. Incidentally, this provision of only two speeds, despite the small size of the engine, was a marked weakness of the design. The overall ratios were 3.3 and 6.7 to 1, which gave maxima of 26 and 40 m.p.h. With the minute (wire) 550 X 65 wheels this suggests a peak engine speed of around 2,600 r.p.m. The engine could, therefore, hardly be over-revved in top, on which the theoretical maximum would be 52 m.p.h. There was no normal gearbox, there being two propeller shafts, one inside the other, and both enclosed. Each engaged with a different set of teeth on the crown wheel. The ” gearbox ” contained only a double-faced dog-clutch, which engaged one or the other propeller shaft. By this ingenious arrangement direct drive on
each ratio was obtained. Two bevels and an idler bevel (engaged by a Bowden control) on the clutch shaft, provided a reverse gear, working through the lower ratio.
The Chanel steel frame was a typical minute example of Bugatti, with reversed 1-ellipties behind, and semi-elliptics in front. In fact, the whole machine was a complete miniature car, in marked distinction to contemporary cycle-cars, which were little more than 4-wheeled motorcycles. The wheelbase was 5 ft, and the track 3 ft. 5 in., so that the overall weight cannot have exceeded 5 cwt. ! I myself have lifted the whole front end of one without much effort. Shock-absorbers were a distinct novelty on touring cars pre 1914, especially on light cars, and the Peugeot was remarkable in fitting them as standard. The make was ” Truffault,” whatever they may have been. The riding and performance of the car were much admired when it was tested by the Light Car and Cyclecar (predecessor of the modern Temple Press Light Car) in their issue of August 13th, 1913. Marketed, complete with hood and windscreen, at £160, the Bebe Peugeot was a really remarkable advance in very small car design, and it gave reliable service in the hands of numerous unskilled owners. It is certainly one of the many feathers with which M. Bugatti would be well justified in decorating his headgear.