Synonymous with luxury, refinement, speed, mechanical and aerodynamic innovations, often qualified works of art or “thoroughbred”, the cars Bugatti have always been prized, sought after, admired, dreamed of. Inseparable from this stylistic and technical epic, a man, Ettore Bugatti.
Born in Milan on September 15, 1881, son of the famous designer sculptor and goldsmith Carlo Bugatti, brother of the famous sculptor Rembrandt Bugatti, he was immersed in artistic circles. He attended the famous Brera Academy of Fine Arts in Milan, but what excites him, these are the cars. He apprenticed by making and racing races on motor tricycles. Very quickly, he designs new ones, develops them and at just 19 years old, he manufactures his first car. Spotted for his talent by manufacturers, after multiple alliances and collaborations, notably with the Alsatian company De Dietrich, Ettore Bugatti settled in Alsace and developed his industry there. He will somehow get through the difficulties economic of the two world wars, of the chaos of the 1930s.
A man in the image of the historic factory in Alsace
Cars and a man in the image of the historic factory in Molsheim (Bas-Rhin). A place where we have the reflex to whisper as it is elegant and where we still welcome any buyer of the car. Private lounge, space for design, manufacturing, reception… An absolute for those who want to “understand the work of Ettore Bugatti”, explained in an article Paris Evening in 1929.
“You must have visited the Molsheim factory, which cannot be compared to any other factory in the world, assures the newspaper. The harmony that presided over its creation, the state of mind that reigns there, and where, in the least of things, we feel the intervention of the “boss”, his search for order, meticulous cleanliness , extreme mechanical precision which is, in short, probity pushed to its highest point. »
He is not yet 20 years old when he is already celebrated in the press. Like The Gazetta dello Sport in 1921, as reported in 1923 by the newspaper Economic and financial information. It is written that it is already, “in the automotive world, universally recognized”. Curious, “he studied all the various engine types, analyzed them, noted their faults, imagined the modifications, glimpsed in his imagination a perfect car”, adds The newspaper. But it was with the Bugatti Type 35, at the very beginning of the 20th century, which marked its first commercial success but also in competition with a racing car with 2,000 victories. He sells the car to wealthy private racers. It is the only one at the time that can run on the circuit or on the road. With it, he signs the automotive adventure. Even today, it is just as much on the vanishing lines of the Chiron or the Veyron, that we still perceive the stroke of genius of Ettore Bugatti, but also that of his son Jean who later became his partner, before dying in a tragic accident. There remains the sobriety of the line, the accuracy of the curves, the mechanical precision.
Passionate about speed, he lived with the times but always with concern for the future and concerned with a certain way of life. Curious, for example, he made an electric car in 1931, the Type 56, a two-seater coupe originally designed only to move around the factory site and around his home. Model that he ends up producing at the insistence of his customers. “Is it because he did not learn mechanics that he is a genius mechanic?, already wondered in his columns Gallic in June 1927. Is it because he looks like a pure amateur guided only by his imagination and the constant search for originality that he is considered one of the best balanced brains that today animate the industry? »
A visionary, he was also demanding: when an everyday object did not suit him, he improved it or made it. “A technical product was only perfect when it was also perfect from an aesthetic point of view”, recalls on its Bugatti house website. This is how he made a spaghetti-making machine with a flywheel, created the personalized arrangement of a table service and had its own cutlery with his initials EB. He also made surgical instruments for a friend, a professor at the Strasbourg hospital, five-toed shoes, a chicken coop on wheels, “automatic door handles, a fishing rod with an advanced system”, further details the newspaper. DawnAugust 23, 1947.
“At first sight, this man is a constant paradox, because he puts art into the materiality of things, because he realizes the idea born of his reverie with the precision of an optician”, analyzes Gallic. The editor of the article, Georges Bruni, underlines Ettore Bugatti’s “wonderful sense of the possible”, “an astonishing power of anticipation” continuing: “he finds before looking. He guesses before he examines. He has the instant of matter, of its virtues, of its weaknesses. »
This is how, even today, this genius inventor and builder keeps the dream alive. On his death at the age of 66 on August 21, 1947, Ettore Bugatti, who became French late in life, left the imprint of a legend, with more than a thousand patents for inventions. An imprint in automotive legend that recalls, according to the newspaper Dawn in a chronicle published the day after his death, another legend, that of Henry Ford: “Both of them were not content to sign their cars, and their activity went far beyond the automotive field alone. They invented everything. Inventions yes, but always with style.