VETERAN EDWARDIAN VINTAGE, November 1984
VETERAN EDWARDIAN VINTAGE
A SECTION DEVOTED TO OLD CAR MATTERS
The Type 43 Bugatti
IN the vintage years there was nothing quite like the Type 43 Bugatti for making the blood in an enthusiast’s veins flow faster and kindling excitement on the part of those who followed the sporting motoring scene. Because it has a close affiliation with the Grand Prix Bugattis in performance, road-holding, and making the right sounds, while being a four-seater touring car eligible for the contemporary sports car races, it stood out a mile, or kilometre, from lesser cars not so well endowed in these respects. The Bentley might be the personification of British sports car might, surpassed only by the 36/220 and 38/250 Mercedes-Benz, but the Bugatti was something else, rivalled in my book only by the Alfa Romeo, which in the hey-day of the Type 43 was a smaller engined confection, anyway. The Type 43 was ready in the Spring of 1927 and had many features similar to, or the same as, the Type 35B Grand Prix car, including the single overhead-camshaft 24 valve straight-eight 60×100 mm (2,292 cc) (120 bhp) supercharged ball-and-rollerbearing engine. The new Bugatti was immediately exciting be its mechanical aspects followed so closely those of the GP model. Indeed, the engine would run safely up to about 5,000 rpm, only 500 rpm below the top speed of she GP unit, and it developed some 120 bhp at that rate of crankshaft rotation, or only about ten hp
less than the racing Bugattis. There were minor modifications, as Hugh Conway has described in his delectable book “Grand Prix Bugatti” (Foulis, 1968), such as the addition of a starter motor, no cooling tubes through the sump, provision for a dynamo at the front of the blower-drive housing and a starter-ring on the GP flywheel, together with a few other, insignificant, changes outlined by Conway. The wet multi plate clutch was pure Type 35B, as were the back-axle internals. This scarcely modified racing power unit was put into a touring type chassis with some close affinities to the Type 38, but with 13 in brake drums. The. wheelbase was 9 ft 9 in and the normal 4.15 to 1 aide ratio gave 21 mph per 1,000 engine rpm. The single-door pointed-tail Grand Sport body, with a distinctly restricted width rear compartment, made of steel over a wooden ferment Molsheim, was entirely in keeping with the demeanour of the car. And, as someone once remarked, “the cockpit was less like that of a ship than those of GP Bugattis”, although the magneto was dashboard mounted. The Type 43 proved irresistible to true-blue enthusiasts all over the World. As well it might, with a top speed of some 110 mph, acceleration of the order of to 60 mph in 12 seconds, maximum speeds in the indirect gears being in the order of 40, 60 and 80 mph, yet the engine, with slightly lowered cr, so flexible that it was possible to drive off in top gear. The ride was good, the brakes effective, road-holding to the
inimitable Bugatti standard. Hugh Conway has told us that a normal Type 43 would devour a ss 1/4-mile in less that 19 seconds, a ss kilometre in under 35 seconds. Couple this with the splendid appearance of the Type 43, with its long, slim purposeful body, low single-pane windscreen, those alloy-spoke racing wheels, the spare strapped to the off-side, fixed cycle-type mudguards, and the long side-louvred bonnet (with a hole above the o/s line of louvres denoting a blower pressure-release valve lined up with it) and it is no surprise that Bugatti found many customers ready to pay the rather high sum of 165,000 francs for the Type 43 in France (some 15,000 more francs than for a Type 35B), or £1,250 from Col Sorel at the Bugatti depot at 1-3 Brixton Road, London. Jean Bugatti, Ettore’s son, enjoyed fast runs in one between Molsheim and Maxim’s in Paris, at averages of around 67 mph. . . . Conway says the Type 43 was displayed at the Paris and London Motor Shows of 1927, but although it made its debut early that year, I have an idea it wasn’t until 1928 that it made Olympia, where it was exhibited on Stand No 3, alongside the Type 40 and the big 3-litre Bugattis. The noted motoring correspondent, W. F. Bradley, was using a Type 43 as his personal car in France and had some interesting observations about it. He put its top speed as 112 mph at 5,500 rpm, ignoring tyre slip, but begged the question as a professional road-tester by saying he had never taken the Bugatti above 1021/z mph (5,000 rpm), cruising it on good roads at 921/2 mph for long periods, although he again rather begs the question by remarking that a good speed on Continental roads was about 70 mph, or, say, 3,500 rpm. He, too, spoke of the engine’s unexpected flexibility, pick-up from 20 mph in top gear, after perhaps starting of in that ratio, being perfectly normal, although the power curve rose appreciably from 1,400 rpm upwards. Bradley, like Ettore’s son Jean, achieved high average speeds, such as Paris to Le Touquet at 54.7 mph inspite of some traffic for the first half-hour. Sixty miles in the hour was seen on the more deserted roads, and without exceeding 80 mph it was possible to average over 50 mph. At the other extreme, Bradley had driven the Bugatti across France entirely in top gear, few hills calling for that quick drop into third gear. The well-known motoring journalist used his Type 43 for a total of 6,000 miles, from short runs in Paris to non-stop 400 mile journeys. Sometimes the Police outside Paris objected suits noise and racy appearance but passengers, even novices, soon gained confidence from the very safe road-holding and powerful braking. When driving fast, Bradley got about 12 mpg, but less ambitous use of the blown engine brought this down to 16 or 17 mpg, either on ordinary petrol or a mild petrol benzoic mixture. Oil consumption was low but he liked to use Castrol R. He
found the exhaust system rather low for driving along lanes and tracks. The Type 43’s weight was given as 21 cwt 91 lb with full tank and tools aboard.
Iii 1930 MOTOR SPORT had a Type 43 for road-test, and was clearly impressed. Indeed, the tester opened by remarking that “One of the cheering aspects of testing such a car as the 2,300 cc supercharged Bugatti is the relief from having to make excuses fonts performance. . . . There are no buts in the vocabulary of Ettore Bugatti. When he decides that a motor car shall be quick it is quick, and it is a very blase motorist indeed who could drive such a car and remain unmoved.” There was the surprise of finding a central gear lever, with normal gate-movements, and rather high-set seats, so that the driver (W. S. Braidwood, BA) looked over instead of through the windscreen. The gears were quieter than on previous .Bugattis and the supercharger remarkably so, but “there is one little lever, situated conveniently close to the passenger’s left hand which, legally, must be left alone in this country. However, what the ear 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.” Braidwood was, of course, describing the exhaust cut-out. It was reported that this Type 43 could be driven in ordinary shoes, whereas there had been Bugattis in which the wearing of light rubber ones had been desirable, and the flexibility of the engine was again warmly praised, given sensible use of the spark-lever and reasonable delicacy of treatment of the accelerator. The top speed quoted in this report was a claimed 108 mph, but not more than 100 mph was actually obtained, which could be reached from “an ordinary gentle cruising speed in any stretch of about a
mile”. Acceleration figures were dismissed as well nigh useless, vvheelspin taking its toll, which suggests that the car was not in MOTOR SPORT’s hands for long, nor taken to Brooklands. But speeds in the gears were given as 36, 56 and just under 80 mph. The cable-operated brakes, non-servo, were described as neither too heavy nor too light. The road clinging was consistent with what was expected from a make that had so regularly won the Targa Florio over the stiffest road course in the World, and “unpublishable” average speeds were possible, main road hills being breasted at “a good 85 mph” in third gear. The gear ratios of the car tested were: 11.4, 7.35, 5.27 and 4.14 to land the price in 1930 was quoted as £1,200. Later, MOTOR SPORT was able to do a 140-mile used-car road-test (a magazine feature discontinued since the end of my “Shopping For A “series) with the
Type 43 that G. M. Giles (who with his brother Eric Giles, had been a Founder-Member of the Bugatti OC) wanted to sell (for £525) in order to buy a later model from Molsheim. That was late in 1932, when the car had done 18,000 mil., and all the same good qualities were observed, and on two occasions 93 mph was seen along short stretches of straight road. Giles had done 110 mph across Salisbury Plain. The acceleration was clocked as 10 to 40 mph in eight seconds, 10 to 80 mph in 23 seconds, the gears, as ever, “notoriously noisy”, but double declutching not being called for. In this case the brakes were found to require considerable effort, but they stopped the Bugatti in well under 506 from 40 mph, the best stopping-distance MOTOR SPORT had ever encountered, equal, we said, to a co-efficient of friction of well over one. . . . Incidentally, by 1931 T&T’s were offering one of the 1’T Type 43s for sale at £325. The Type 43 Bugatti was not only a most intriguing road-going can in its day, but it was frequently used in Club competitions, at Brooklands and elsewhere by G. M. Giles, L. G. Bachlier (who built a special two-seater, Reg No AXW 7, in which he installed a pre-selector gearbox), D. G. Evans, Kenneth Bear, D. B. Rogers, G. T. Shapley, and in latter times by A. C. Whincop and others, and Sir Malcolm Campbell raced one at the Track, rumour suggesting that he was not beyond putting an engine of 35B tune in it, to fox the handicappers. It also appeared it, long-distance sports-car races. Confining ourselves to the most important of these British road races, the Ulster TT, we find that in the first of these races, in 1928, three Type 43s competed, entered by Viscount Curzon (Lord Howe), Malcolm Campbell and Baron d’Erlanger. The last-named finished third in Class-D and ninth overall,
more than before.
The irregular functioning of the speedometer, or rather of the mileometer, again interfered with records kept during the Siddeley’s third year, but it was calculated as continuing to give 12 mpg. Tyres now cost more but repairs only just over a guinea, which indicates commendable reliability, over approx. 13,320 miles. The chauffeur had had a rise, too — of 22s 6d a year. . . . Under “sundries” is the item of a 9s 9d to someone to keep him quiet in respect of an accident (perhaps to an animal?), and the Siddeley had needed a new horn and a new petrol tank, costing only £4 7s — the two.
Running costs for the car’s fourth year in service, when it did 5,460 miles, averaged 8s 7d per mile, including a new six-guinea speedometer and new shock-absorbers. Little or no night running figured in its fourth year, basin its fifth year the Siddeley was worked harder than ever, doing over 6,000 miles, but few repairs and no replacements are listed. The car continued in use from 1913 to October 1914, doing 6,523 miles at 8s 2d per mile, fuel-thirst up around 12./4 mpg. There was little difference in the 1914 / 15 running costs, which if anything were lower, so it is not suprising to find the car in use for mother year. However, it was laid up from May to July in 1916 for “complete renewal to chassis and body”, at a cost of a mere £175 14s I Id, Spence & Johnstone doing the mechanical parts, including fitting a Zenith carburetter, and William Denby & Sons the coachwork. The faithful old Siddeley, which was the property of Sir W. Q. Ewart, was temporarily laid up in August 1917, but was in use again from October of that year to August 1918, when it was finally laid up “due to the petrol shortage” — which seems to have come rather late to Ireland — after a total mileage of approximately 45,350. In its ninth year it needed inexpensive slceving and new bearings in its wheels and running costs were up to 11. 75d per mile. Perhaps seeing the end of the Siddeley in sight, the some owner ordered an 18 hp
Rover, chassis no. 01937, in the summer of 1913, from the Ulster Motor Works. It came with a mixture of Limousine-grooved and straight-sided Dunlop 880 x 120 tyres and Wm Denby & Sons made for it a body with a detachable limousine top. This increased the (chassis) weight from a ton to 33 cwt. The chassis cost £400, the garage getting a 71/2 per cent discount and charging £10 for number plates and a detachable wheel (no tyre)) The body, which had special leather upholstery, luggage-rails and a one-man hood in Kapac with plated fittings for use when the limousine top was not fitted, cost £182 15s, the hood accounting for £22 of this and the odd amount being for painting on three crests. . . . Extras included a set of Rushmore headlamps with Flare reflectors, fed from a B-type generator, Lucas side and tail-lamps, an Autovox horn, a cardandriven Watford speedometer, a Lucas SE horn, and the extra charge for aluminium number plates, the last perhaps an afterthought. The garage got its 71/2 per-cent discount on the lamps and horns. The total cost to the owner was £604 18s 6d. This Rover would have been the model sometimes known as the 20hp. It seems to have been about as reliable as the Siddeley, or Wolseley-Siddeley to give the other car its full title, but to have cost rather more to run, and to have done around 111/2 mpg after it had settled down. It was in use for eleven years, to July 1924, after which it was sold that December for £190 and became a Hackney-carriage. It’s mileage by then was about 54,500, and along the years inclusive running-costs had averaged 7.70, 7.77, 8.95, 12.01 and 13.94 pence per mile up to the summer of 1918. Replacements over the eleven years had been a recuperator (also provided for the Siddeley, but I have no idea what this was!), an EUK starter, an £8 Zenith carburetter, Gabriel snubbers, and a generator and accumulator, while in 1915 its lamps were replaced with replated and refurbished ones from an old Chambers car (see below). In 1921 the Rover went to Brighton for a while, looked after by another garage, and it was laid up several times and
needed extensive repairs, costing over £116. In that year its regular chauffeur, J. Graham, went into hospital and a William Johnston took over for three months. The regular man returned in 1922 bathe died in 1923, having been off work for 13 months, during which he received £1-a-week gratuity. Incidentally, wages had risen, to £140 a year by 1922/23.
The 1913 Rover having been laid up in July 1924, a replacement was needed and in the previous month Lady Ewart (had Sir Ewart died, or simply given up motoring?; took delivery of a 30hp Armstrong Siddeley enclosed-limousine, finished in purple lake. It was car no. 2603, chassis 1211T1, Reg. No. 01 4475, should the Armstrong Siddeley OC be interested. (It might be seen as allegiance to the former make, except that Armstrong Siddeley Motors of Coventry had in fact no direct connection with Wolseley-Siddeley of Birmingham). The massive new car with its imposing vet radiator was purchased by Booth Bros. for Lady Ewart through Capt. Haddow of). B. Furguson Ltd., for £1,250. The she of the new possession can perhaps be gauged by the acquisition of a pair of folding steps, 16 in high, at a cost of £8, the following month, suggesting that Lady Ewart may have had difficulty mounting to the car’s parlour. . • • With these and the number plates the cost increased to £1,259 17s 6d.
In its first year the Arrnstong Siddeley ran 6,000 miles, costing nothing for repairs, but £52 19s 4d to tax and insure. Petrol cost on average Is 8d a gallon and consumption was at 12 mpg. The car remained in use certaitilY until the summer of 1926, but unfornmately that is where the records end. It ran ahnost as far in its second year, when repairs eas. £11 13s 100, slightly increasing the total running costs over the former 101/2d Per mile.
Thc other car to which these old records refer is interesting as it was of Irish make, namely, a 12/I6hp Chambers, bought how the makers in Belfast in December 1909. It was a comparative lightweight, at 23 with its brougham top in place. It is obvious that each of the cats belonging to the Ewarts had esn’ chauffeur; but quite where Booth Bronco in isn’t clear. Maybe they were under contract to supply cars and drivers w the Ewan family. On the contrary, the recorls may have been those of the Ewan s head-chauffeur, and Booth Bros simplY the firm from whom Sir Ewart ordered his ears. At all events, the fact that the Chambers, was given the three crests and side blinds the other cars implies that it was used bY Evart. It cost £380 with she brougham blinds, and 810×100 tyres. .This ; increased to £501 17s 401 alter accessories had been fitted, such as deco .ichablme folding-chair seats by Hooper, wheels, an ammeter and voltage teB1….–, for the lamps, bucket front seats, Well% electric light with its own batter,’ OUT OF THE PAST— continued
caPe-cart hood, sliding luggage carrier, sPeedometer, etc. Allowing for a slipping speedometer drive was estimated that the locally-made Chambers ran some 3,500 miles in its first Year, at 11.12 mpg, soda total cost of 7.83 Pence Per mile. The erring speedo, clearly a weak feature of Edwardian cars, was still off fvreep50 the Chambers’ second year but Hs mileage was taken as 4,656, or 9.10 ppm (12 .P8). The speedo was again not working when the third year’s costs were Meted, but at 12 mpg, a low estimate,
4,752 miles cost 11.48 ppm. Repairs cost over £62, as new doors soda new front axle were required — could there have been an accident? Although running costs were down for the year 1912/13 110.42 ppm), the car was then advertised for sale, the Ulster Motor Co. finding a buyer in the Belfast Co-Op, who paid £225 for it, the buyer who came to see the car getting a pound, and the Ulster Motor Co. a fiver, as commission. One wonders if the Chambers survived the war. . . . It is interesting to learn how much it cost to run such cars in Edwardian times and I am grateful for the data. — W.B.