Bugatti engines have, like the cars, been wonderfully designed and built since the birth of the “marque”. They are designed like true sculptures, and Ettore Bugatti paid great attention not only to the mechanics itself, but also how they looked from outside. The external surfaces were also buffed especially in a circular pattern, just like the cockpit and dashboard panels.
His son Jean Bugatti continued the tradition of unique panache and style. Not only did he design magnificent factory made bodyworks, he also helped develop magnificent twin cam Bugatti engines which saw light in the thirties.
The twin cam version was seen amongst others in the Type 51 Racing car, which made its debut in 1931. This formidable engine, which I drew here in ink, enhancing it with some water color touches, was the 160 hp (119 kW) twin overhead cam evolution of the supercharged 2.3 L (2262 cc/138 cubic inches) single overhead cam straight-8 found in the Type 35B racing car.
This car, contrary to the 35 biposto, was to be very rare indeed: only some 40 examples of the Type 51 and 51A were build.
On my drawing, one clearly sees the compressor, and its small circular waste gate with its …. openings which protruded outwards at the bottom of the louvered right side of the foldable engine bonnet.
The pencil drawing – I used the 2B grade – shows the cockpit of the 51 “Voiture de Course”, with a very rare Cotal preselector gearbox. This was a manually controlled epicyclic box, as similar construction as the famous Wilson box. The difference is that instead of band brakes, it used electromagnetic clutches. Drivers could preselect the lower or higher gears under braking before or accelerating out of a corner, and it was seen on other French thoroughbred racing cars, like the Talbot Lago 4,5 liter monoposto for instance.
Twin Cam engines are also to be found on the type 57, and later variants (including the famous Atlantic and Atalante) was an entirely new design created by Jean Bugatti.
A lot more can be told about Bugatti’s, the cars and their creators, and as this drawing series is only beginning, you are in for much more in the future… stay tuned!
Hans Knol ten Bensel