From the publishers that brought us the ultimate book on Alfa Romeo in Argentina, comes another defining volume - the history of Bugatti in the same country with a detailed examination of chassis numbers, drivers and owners, race results and some ‘where-are-they-now’ stories on cars that in the ‘20s and ‘30s were cast-offs from European racing but nowadays priceless collectors’ pieces.
As with the Alfa book, the authors take great time setting the scene, with a consideration of the political situation and the design and architecture of the time, and modest but informative biographies of the Bugatti family, including of course Le Patron Ettore, his father Carlo (the designer and furniture maker), brother Rembrandt (the sculptor who took his own life in 1916), and his son Jean, who died at the wheel of one of the Type 57 Le Mans ‘tanks’ in 1939.
The design of the cars, both from an artistic, as well as an engineering, standpoint was of course genius at the highest level. The heyday was probably the 1920s, and the Argentine story starts at Indianapolis in 1923 when five special Type 30s carrying the country's colours lined up at the famous 'brickyard'.
Only one finished - in 9th spot - and the drivers complained bitterly about the poor standard of finish and preparation compared to the local Millers.
The following years saw more Bugattis come to Argentina and they were - inevitably - the Type 35, one of the most recognisable shapes in the world and a customer racing car par excellence. Many victories followed, against opposition from Alfa and the fast but less sophisticated products from the USA, on the arduous marathons across country that so characterise the location and period.
Take Ernesto Bossola’s victory in the 1926 Cordoba Audax Race, 500 kms over rough roads that he completed at an average of 144 km/h. Driving car number 14, he can also been seen post-race relaxing with a glass of red wine in one hand and a leg of barbecued lamb in the other...
The late 1920s sees more victories, with Argentine-born Englishman Eric Forrest Greene taking first place in the 1928 500 Millas Argentinas on a Type 35 with a blown 2300 cc engine on loan from Francisco Chas. This was against an imposing entry that included V12 Delages and an SSK Mercedes.
As the twenties turned into the thirties the number of cars dwindled, many were converted to carry American motors, and the heyday of the marque in Argentina (with one exception, the early career of the Porsche, Gordini and Maserati driver Roberto Mieres, in his ex-Varzi Type 51) gradually closed. During that period the children of wealthy families had the opportunity of owning Type 52s - the miniature model of the Type 35 - twenty three of which were purchased by Buenos Aires City Zoo for rental to visiting cub racing drivers.
This story, as well as features on the Bugatti Register Argentina, the discovery and restoration of ‘lost’ cars in the 1960s, the now famous Argentine Pur Sang Bugatti recreation company, and a car-by-car breakdown of contemporary race results are all included in the final chapters.
Despite its narrower field of subject than the Alfa Romeo book, ‘Bugatti Argentina’ is nevertheless equally fascinating and a worthy addition to most bookshelves.
For the Bugatti fan and lover of the romantic inter-War period it’s essential.
Bugatti Argentina, by Cristián Bertschi and Estanislao Iacona is priced at $US175.00, airmail shipping included worldwide. Hard Cover, 30 x 25 cm size. English / Spanish. 248 pages. 208 b/w duotone photographs.
Orders can be emailed to: [email protected]
Text: Steve Wakefield
ClassicInside - The Classic Driver Newsletter