The Italian Junkyard

Thoughts, ideas, criticism about cars. Interesting news and facts from the world of the automobile. Events in Italy and Modena. What you can find elsewhere, filtered through the eyes of a discerning enthusiast. Design, style, everything on the chopping block. Nobody is safe anymore.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

10.1 The Bugatti Empire. Italy, Germany and France.

Most of the times, people are amazed by pieces of art even if they aren't into that field, the artist who created it or simply into art in first place. There is a sort of universal language that manages to communicate almost to everyone when what they are looking at is a thing of beauty, elegance, class and most of all, perfection.
We don't know much more about that, but we like what we see with a passion.
Now just think if we did know something more about it, we surely could understand much better what was the purpose of the artist, what he was thinking, or simply where that thing comes from, and eventually we would appreciate it even more.

I may be an enthusiast, but I'm short on Bugatti trivia and historical facts.
So I took a little bit of my time and did my homework.
I already know the Bugatti family wasn't short on heritage even before of founding one of the most famous and iconic automotive brands in the whole automotive history (which is just 120 years old or so).

One step at a time, follow me.

It all started with Giovanni Luigi Bugatti, or at least, that is as far as I could go back trough quite some different websites, some times with contradicting info as well. Probably right because there are many different versions of anecdotes and historical facts, the very Bugatti website isn't very rich about information on the family, just the usual stuff a lot of other sources report.
He was an architect and sculptor, or more specifically a decorative stone carver some reports say, and he lived in Milan. Not much else is know, except that he married Amalia Salvioni.

In 1856 Carlo Bugatti was born to them. He studied at the highly renowned Brera Accademy of Arts in Milan, and there he developed his skills in the art of furniture design. He also studied at the Académie des Beaux Arts in Paris.
In 1880 he became an architect as well, and in 1888 he founded his workshop in Milan and had the possibility to exhibit his creations twice, at the Milan Industrial Arts Exhibition and the Italian Exhibition in Earl’s Court London. Another major achievement, he created the furnitures for the Turkish Salon at the Waldorf Astoria, in New York.
The peculiar aspect of his works was the mixture of different cultures he became familiar with during his years at school. Those were his source of inspiration, and what made his famous.
He earned the silver medal at the International Exposition Universelle in 1900, and two years later in 1902, he exhibited four room interiors at the Prima Esposizone Internazionale d’Arte Decorativa Moderna (the First International Exhibition of Decorative Arts) in Turin. His skills have been worth the most prestigious award, the Diploma of Honour.
In 1904 he sold his studio in Milan to move in Paris, where he started working for Maison Defayel and for Au Bon Marche as well. He was anxious to express his own creativity again though, and in 1910 he left those companies to set another studio of him, in Pierrefonds, near Compiegne.
Here he developed his skills in jewelry design as well, and it was elected major of the town from 1914 to 1918.
In 1935 he moved to Molsheim, were he died during April, 1940.

Talking about his personal life, he married with Teresa Lorioli in 1880, and his first and perhaps most important (to us) son, Ettore, was born just a year later in 1881. In 1883 his sister Deanice was born, and a year later, in 1884, it was Rembrant's moment. If this name sounds weird, maybe we should welcome his large field or friends from the artistic panorama of both France and Italy.
During his years at school he became a good friend of orld famous composer Giacomo Puccini which was just two years younger than his, as well as famous painter Giovanni Segantini.
This man, who had a very tormented life, married Carlo's sister, Luigia "Bice" Bugatti the same year Carlo and Teresa married each others. It was Segantini to suggest the name for Carlo's last son, Rembrant.
It should also be remembered the role "Bice" still has in the artistic field, as many artistic schools, prizes and concourses are paying homage to her name and her role during his life, as a patron for his own family's artistic figures as well as other talented persons she met. The Bice Bugatti Club was founded two years ago in Nova (MI, Italy) as historical documents managed to track the Bugatti's members back to the XVI century as citizens of that small town.

Now we can focus on our main character, Ettore Arco Isidoro Bugatti, born the 15th of September, 1881. His life and achievements are far better documented.
It may be almost pointless to repeat his career here, but it should help understanding the size of the man. At 17, in 1890, he was working at a bycicle shop, Prinetti & Stucchi. It wasn't clearly enough for him, as he quickly used his skills to built a tricycle, motivated by not one but two De Dion engines. The first Bugatti was born, under the Type 1 moniker.
Thanks to the financial support from Count Gulinelli he designed his first car in 1899/1900, dubbed the Type 2, built again by Prinetti & Stucchi. This car was equipped with four engines, two per each axle. This first spark of talentous madness was rewarded by an a award during a fair in Milan.
Success was just behind the corner, and in 1901 Ettore left Milan for Niederbron in Alsace to take up the job of technical director at De Dietrich's local plant. It should be kept in mind that during those years Alsace was under the Germany's jurisdiction (from 1871 to 1919, and once again from 1940 to 1944).
The contract was officially signed by his father Carlo, as Ettore was still underage.
As with his father, Ettore wasn't born to work for other companies, and in 1904 he left the German company after having learned quite a lot in the automotive field.
In the three years there he created the Type 3 and 4 (built in abut 100 units), developed the Type 5 prototype (or Hermes) together with Émile Mathis in 1903, equipped with a fur cylinder engine, a four speed manual gearbox and equipped with chain drive. This more modern car was later produced as the Type 6 and 7 in about 1000 units. All these models were produced under the Dietrich-Bugatti name.

In 1907 he joined Deutz Gasmotoren Fabrik (Cologne, Germany), where he developed the Type 8 and 9. In his spare time he created another car, the Type 10, between 1908 and 1909.

During 1904 Peugeot also unveiled the Bébé, at the Paris autoshow, and when in 1912 the time was come for an updated version, it was Ettore to be put on charge for the new car, called Type BP1 or Type 19, according to sources. This car was initially designed for Walderer, but sold in France as a Peugeot under license. The French company never adopted Ettore's own 4 speed gearbox though.

When Ettore left Deutz, he settled in Molsheim, (Alsace, Germany) looking for a factory to built his car. The final design put in production was called Type 13. The already advance overhead cam designed was updated with 4 valves per cylinder, as opposed to the original 2 valve, creating almost a first in the industry. In 1910 only 5 cars were built, but one of them managed to grab the second place at the Le Mans grand prix.

First World War came, and Bugatti had to escape from the disputed territory. He came back to Milan with two Type 13s, and buried near the factory what he couldn't take with him. After the war was over, he came back to his factory and started his business again.
New variants of the Type 13 were created, the Type 15 and 17 with longer wheelbases, which then evolved again in the Type 22 and 23.

Racing successes came in various competitions after the worlds, more remarkably the Brescia Grand Prix in 1921, with a 1-2-3-4 dominance with the Type 13s. A road going versions the Brescia Tourer was created to capitalize the well gained and deserved fame.
From now on, Bugatti was an affirmed and unbeatable name of the automotive field.
He also designed an U-16 engine for airplanes, a motorized railcar and even a plane, which never flew though.

His technical abilities should be enough to depict an almost epic person, but it wouldn't be all.
In 1907 he married Barbara Maria Giuseppina Mascherpa, and the two had two sons and two daughters. The most famous is surely Gianocaro Maria Carlo Bugatti, better known as Jean Bugatti, born on 15 January 1909 in Cologne.
He soon became a vital figure for the family business being responsible for many designs, from the engines to the chassis of his father's cars. He then gradually became responsible for the whole automotive business, as his father was focusing on the autorail division which helped the company during the great depression. He also became a test driver for their cars, as his father never allowed his to enter races.

Eventually, he died driving one of his own creations.
It isn't clear he was just driving on his way back home or if he was actually testing the car on the local track in Duppigheim near the factory. He was driving the Type 57 Tank car which had just won at Le Mans in 1939, when a drunk man on his bicycle appeared on the road. Jean had to swerve quickly and lost control of the car, dying because of the impact of the car against a tree. In the hypothesis he was testing the car on the track, it seems the cyclist erroneously entered the track, again being drunk, trough a hole on the tree fence. He was only 30 years old.

This is a very important moment for Ettore Bugatti, as he will lose his father just a year later, and then his wife died as well. WWII came into the picture too, with Nazis occupying the company.
It was too much for the aging Ettore, which tried to recover marrying Genevéve Margherite Delcure who gave him a son and a daughter, but eventually the brilliant Italian man died in Paris on 21 August 1947. Some sources report he died in not wealthy conditions because of the war, and relatively alone.

As final notes, his brother Rembrant has been an excellent contributor to the car company as well, with his most famous touch being the elephant emblem positioned on top of the grille on Royale models. Being a sensible person, during WWI he volunteered himself as a paramedic aide at the Red Cross Military Hospital in Antwerp. This experience left a deep mark in his inner side, trying to help sick and dying soldiers and fighting the immense monstrosity of war. He felt into a protracted depression which soon reflected itself on his career too. On 8 January 1916, Rembrandt Bugatti committed suicide.

As sad as it ended, the Bugatti empire should show us how important it is to have a view of our dreams, wills, and abilities. Their artistic and cultural background gave them a solid basis from which they could develop their skills and attitudes being conscious of them, and giving a complete aspect to their creations, without them being just engineering marvels, or selfish pieces of art. Everything could be found, from perfection to proportions, technical achievements and gorgrous bodyworks.
It may have also helped that during those years the market which they were selling at was made by persons like them, nobles, aristocratic persons, people who were surely able to understand and appreciate their cars as much as the Bugattis did.

With this I hope exhaustive background, a more complete view on the present Bugatti should be achieved.
Stay tune for more.

All images copyright: Bugatti Automobiles S.A.S.


Anonymous said...

Bugat is a Russian word that Means to be rich. We're the bugattis Russian emigrants?

Damiano Garro said...

I think that's just a coincidence, Ettore Bugatti was Italian, and as far as I know his relatives and descendants never emigrated to Russia.


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