✨ “Take it easy driving – the life you save may be mine.”
― James Dean


Monday, 28 April 2014

Car of the month April 2014 - Bugatti Type 35B

The Bugatti Type 35B - The rawest thrill that is road-legal - once you've heard the tearing-calico exhaust note that is a blown 35 at full rip, you'll yearn to drive one.

The straight-eight is a cacophony of aural delight, with each sound individually identifiable by its timbre even to the tone-deaf: valves chime, chains sing; revs howl and the b lower shrieks once the car's running past the fouled-plugs stage, and the outside gear-change works as fast as you can move it. this is a Grand Prix racer - 1926 world championship winner - and looks like a million bucks, which is what they cost now!

All Bugattis are handsome, but the 35 is a work of art, the square-cut engine castings contrasting with the elegant arch of the horse-shoe grille, the beautiful detail of the engine-turned dash and zig-zag wired body panels - and the Heath Robinson arrangement of chains, sprockets and cables that constitutes the brake linkages.

Ettore Bugatti ploughed his own furrow through life and that came to making his idiosyncratic automobiles, manifested in the exquisitely sculpted hollow front axle (whose springs pass right through the tube), the cast-alloy wheels with integral iron brake drums, the roller bearings hidden away in the crankcase - and the complex opening arrangements for the three-valve-per-cylinder valve gear. All with no gaskets...

William Grover-Williams' Type 35 beat 15 cars to win the inaugural Monaco Grand Prix in 1929, kicking up dust for a gruelling four hours and 100 laps. It was worth it though... Williams was 100,000 francs better-off - 1000 francs per lap.

BUGATTI TYPE 35B 1924-1929
ENGINE - 2262cc Eight-cylinder
POWER - 140 bhp
PERFORMANCE - Top speed : 120mph - 0-60mph : 6sec

Following the Second World War, Etorre Bugatti's fabulously engineered, but vastly expensive creations, were at odds with the times, and production never really restarted. There were many attempts to revive the name, but none was very convincing - until a man called Roman Artioli stepped into the arena. This canny Italian magnate managed to rekindle the Bugatti magic in spectacular fashion, but ultimately the dream prove over-ambitious and ended in bankruptcy.

THE PLAN WAS GRAND : a state-of-the-art factory was built in northern Italy, industry greats were hired (including Paolo Stanzani as technical director and Marcello Gandini as designer - both of them effectively fired later on), and a brand-new V-twelve engine was created from scratch.

The new BUGATTI EB110 was to be a superlative mid-engined super-car, the sort of car that Ettore would have been making if he were still alive. The EB110 name was chosen as a composite of Ettore Bugatti's initials and the fact that the car was to be launched on the 110th anniversary of his birth.

The aluminium-bodied Bugatti's styling (created by an Italian architect) was dramatic but controversial: the lines were hardly harmonious and the traditional Bugatti horseshoe grille looked almost farcically small on the car's nose. Inside, meanwhile, the lever of finish was superb, and equipment levels were generous, but space was severely limited.

Mechanically, the Bugatti was highly advanced. Its centre-piece was a V-0twelve engine fitted with no less than four turbo-chargers and 60 valves, developing 553bhp. There was a six-speed gearbox mated to a four-wheel-drive system and suspension, which delivered handling akin to a grown-up Lancia Inegrale. Bugatti claimed a top speed of 212mph (341kph) and stated that this was the fastest road car in the world; Jaguar with its XJ220 and McLaren with the F1 might have questioned this, but no one was in any doubt that the Bugatti was an extraordinarily fast and very capable machine. .....

BUGATTI EB110 (1991-95)
ENGINE - V-twelve-cylinder
CAPACITY - 3500cc
POWER - 553-611bhp
TOP SPEED - 212-221mph (341-356kph)
NO. BUILT - Not known
Info from 'the World Encyclopedia of Cars' - Martin Buckley and Chris Rees


Sunday, 20 April 2014

Classic cars - Technical development

In the beginning, cars were motorized horse carriages or, in the case of the three-wheeled Benz of 1889, relied heavily on cycle technology. Most cars were braked only by the rear wheel; steering, often by tiller, was slow and ponderous. a shoulder-high centre of gravity threatened to top the car over. All this was containable at the 4mp (6.4kph) first allowed in Britain for motor vehicles and not too scary at the 14mph (22.5kph) allowed by 1896, but as speeds rose, something had to be done. Makers who introduced each refinement created classics along the way.

ABOVE : Cord's 810 used a super-charged V8 Lycoming engine with revolutionary front-wheel drive. 

Excellence began with high-class cars such as the Rolls-Royce and Bentley. Steadily, the technology filtered down to such humble transport as the Austin Seven. By the start of the Second World War, bodies were generally made of steel, sat on a separate chassis, and there were brakes all round. Jaguar brought disc brakes to the world's notice at Le Mans in 1953; five years later they appeared on Jaguar's road cars and soon every maker used them.

Four-wheel drive, with anti-lock brakes, was pioneered by Ferguson Formula. It first appeared in a passenger car on the Jensen FF of 1966, along with Dunlop Maxaret anti-lock brakes derived from aircraft technology. It was expensive and complex - only 320 were built.

ABOVE : The Lancia Aprillia was a ground-breaking saloon of the mid-1930's. 

Overhead camshafts allowed more direct operation of valves and a better combustion-chamber shape. They were used on specialist racing cars such as the Alfa Romeo and Bugatti from the 20's onwards and were introduced to the mainstream in the straight-six XK engine in the 120 of 1948. Soon, makers realised they could run double overhead camshafts and multi-valve layouts.

Self-leveling was a standard feature of the futuristic DS launched in 1955 by Citroën. Even the cheaper 2CV had a modicum of leveling, because front and rear suspension were inter-connected by springs. The British Motor Corporation (BMC) 1100 and 1800 of the 60's - and Minis of the period - are inter-connected hydraulically. Self-leveling was used at the tail-end of the Range Rover from its launch in 1970.

ABOVE : The revolutionary Mini, a masterpiece of packaging. 

Front-wheel drive used by BSA, Cord and Citroën since the 30's, did not hit the mainstream until the Mini appeared in 1959. While scorned by purists, this layout makes for safe, predictable handling and better packaging - more interior room for a given size - than rear-driven counterparts.

All the while, chassis improvements and tyre technology shadowed each other: Citroën's Traction-avant was the first car to use radial tyres, the narrow and distinctively treaded Michelin X.

ABOVE : A 1956 Chevy: crude - but comfortable and well-equipped. 

In America, spacious cars with powerful, six- and eight-cylinder engines were common, even before the war. Makers loaded cars with every device to take the work out of driving: automatic transmission, power steering, power brakes, air conditioning, self-dipping headlamps. Engines, generally under-stressed by large capacity, show-cased maintenance-free features such as hydraulic tappets (initially used for quietness).

- Extracted from 'The World Encyclopedia of Cars' by Martin Buckley and Chris Rees

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