Brought to you by TheJudge13 chronicler: BlackJack’sBriefs
On this day… 11th August
1938 & 1953
When I started compiling these stories it was not my intention to cover births (I can’t really get excited about celebrating what people have yet to accomplish…), nor deaths (which I usually find too upsetting to write…), nor even on/off marriages/girlfriends and pet-peeves… but… today involves the passing of two motoring greats, albeit fourteen years apart – in 1953 the legendary Tazio Nuvolari suffered a stroke, at just 60, as all Italy, and the world, mourned. In 1939 the designer and engineer, Jean Bugatti, son of Ettore, crashed while road-testing one of his cars, at the tragically young age of 30.
First son of the founder, Ettore Bugatti, Jean was born Gianoberto Maria Carlo Bugatti in Koln, Germany, but their factory was in the Alsace region which, after WWI, became a part of France. Ettore’s father, Carlo, had moved from the family home in Milano to France, so this was a very (upwardly) mobile family, and perhaps an innate passion for cars is not surprising.
At the age of 23 Jean had designed the Type 41 Royale, one of the largest (and arguably one of the best) cars ever made, which had been intended as a limited edition of twenty-five, for the royal houses of Europe but, with the 30‘s Depression, only six were produced, only three of which were sold… and none to ‘royals’. Legend has it that Ettore refused to sell one to King Zog of Albania, asserting: “the man’s table manners are beyond belief!” All six cars still exist and, for those interested, individual histories are nicely recorded on Wikipedia.
Jean’s body designs complemented Ettore’s engineering skills to make Bugatti a force to be reckoned with, on the racing circuits and in the salons of Europe, but Jean Bugatti was also an inspired engineer and did much to advance independent front suspension design, as well as improve twin-cam engine design. By the age of 26 Jean was effectively in control of the Bugatti car company, as Ettore moved on to other fields.
On 11 August 1939, while testing the Type 57S Tank car that had just won at Le Mans, he swerved to avoid a cyclist, and crashed into a tree. Incidentally the Bugatti web-site says the car was the Type 57C Tank, which had been the winner of the 1937 Le Mans, and also the 1936 French GP…
The Type 41 Royale Napoleon at the 2008 St Cloud Concours d’Elegance…