DRIVE Legend: Ettore Bugatti 1881-1947. And the car became art…

Born in the west of the 19th century, Ettore Bugatti recorded an epic unlike any other. The son of a famous art furniture maker in Milan, Ettore took “free” design lessons. In the family atelier he polished his innate ability to distinguish the “beautiful and the well-made”, while cultivating an incredible freedom of spirit.

Curious about everything, he was quickly seduced by engineering, motorcycles and horse-drawn carriages. After his classical studies, he left the family environment to get a job as an apprentice in a workshop. There he acquired incomparable dexterity in his hands, while his intense observation allowed him to overcome his almost complete ignorance in technical knowledge.

Prototype Bugatti Type 35
The Type 35 is Bugatti’s masterpiece. Wonderful and with a stormy performance, he achieved over 500 victories in a single racing season, in 1926. Here you see the original, in the year 1924.

Since then, artist and engineer in the person of Bugatti have become one. As a result, Ettore’s entire life would be plagued by two obsessions: authenticity and aesthetics. The first would lead him to frightening technical impasses, while the second would make him ignore the concept of efficiency and profitability. Early recognition for his early creations merely confirmed Ettore’s determination and natural self-confidence.

In a short time he began to suffocate working for manufacturers without imagination and vision, and with the support of a financier he founded in 1910 his own company in Alsace, in Molsheim. His studio was not just a craft / car industry, but an operating environment from another era. A manor where he reigned as a feudal lord. Elitist, proud, with a dose of intellectual arrogance, he was the “boss”.

Ettore and Jean Bugatti
Impulsive, unyielding in quality and intolerant of any criticism, Ettore Bugatti also knew how to be generous and sensitive with his employees. In the photo with his son, Jean.

Soon, his car victories at the world’s biggest races brought him money and fame. And socializing with the greats of this world. But then the wind stopped being strong. The Bugatti 35 with its two thousand victories was exhausted and the Great Crash of 1929 crushed the almost delusional Type 41, also called the Royale.

Bugatti Type 41 Coupé de Ville by Henri Binder
With off-site dimensions (6 m), the most famous Bugatti, the Type 41 better known as the “Royale”, was built in just six pieces. The one you see is the Royale Coupé de Ville with body by Parisian bodybuilder Henri Binder.

And as if that were not enough, Jean Bugatti, just as creative as his father, who was trying to get the company out of a one-dimensional, high-paying avant-garde course, was killed in a car crash in August 1939. A few days later war broke out. Bugatti, forced into exile, would never return to Molsheim, as Alsace was annexed to Germany by the occupiers.

Bugatti Type 41 Royale by Armand Esders
Ettore’s son Jean poses in front of the Royale dressed by Armand Esders. The same car would be re-dressed by Henri Binder to become the Coupé de Ville.

In 1947, with a court decision, his property was returned again. Exhausted and ill from the long court process, he was defeated by a stroke and died a few weeks later.

The dates stations
1881 Ettore Bugatti is born on September 15 in Milan
1899 The first car, the Type 1
1910 Automobiles Ettore Bugatti is founded
1935 The Bugatti 35 dominates the Grand Prix
1937 and 1939 Victory in the 24 Hours of Le Mans
[1945Last victory of a Bugatti in a race
1947 Ettore Bugatti dies in Paris on August 21