Classic Cars: The History and Evolution of the Bugatti Brand
Unlike other automobile companies of its time, the story of Bugatti is not that of a company that had to face countless financial problems, nor is it one of a company who had to rely on establishing sales venues or building plants across the Atlantic. Instead, the story of the Bugatti is that of a young visionary who came from a long line of artists and artisans. Born in Milano, Italy in 1881, Ettore Bugatti was on a path to become an artist, however decided to become an engineer when he was just 17 years old.
At this time, the young Ettore Bugatti started working and in only one year, he had designed and built a three-wheeled vehicle powers by two engines. Despite its small size, this prototype almost wiped clean the prized thrown in at the local races, having won an amazing 8 out of 10 events.
By the age of 19, he had just completed building his first real car. Considering the overall technological development at the time (in the beginning of the 1900s) his automobile seemed almost futuristic. The auto featured a four speed gearbox, a four-cylinder overhead-valve engine, and a variety of engineering improvement that only a gifted builder could have come up with.
In 1911, Ettore Bugatti decided to build a small, lightweight racing machine to compete in the Le Mans race. Although it was a tiny can in comparison to its giant competitors’ cars such as Fiat, De Dietrich and others, the small but swift and powerful automobile came in second, proving that Ettore was a more talented car designer than many of the older engineers at the time.
In the following years, Ettore Bugatti had many more automobile victories, with his last great one happening in 1939, when at his son’s request, the company prepared a supercharged Type 57 which won at Le Mans. Unfortunately, also in this year, his son passed away during a testing run of the same Type57 car, and a few days later World War II broke out. Given these circumstances, production of the Bugatti was halted.
After the war, several attempts to revive production were made, but there was never a distinctive result. German car maker Volkswagen took over the company in 1998 in an effort to revive the sports luxury brand, and maintains ownership of the brand today.
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