The Bugatti 35C: A Very Successful Race Car

The Bugatti Type 35 is perhaps the most successful of all the race car ever built.  It is said that the Bugatti Type 35 and its variants won over 1,000 races in its time.  A record perhaps only exceeded by the Porsche 911.  The Bugatti Type 35, in its various engine configurations, was built between 1924 and 1930, which is a production period much shorter than the aforementioned Porsche 911.  This post concentrates on one of those variants, the Bugatti Type 35C.

The Bugatti Type 35C

The Bugatti Type 35 was introduced in 1924 in time for the French Grand Prix.  At this time the Grand Prix formula had a maximum engine capacity of 2.0 litres and a minimum vehicle weight of 1,250 pounds.  The Bugatti Type 35 had an engine that was a further development of the 3-valve 1,991cc overhead-camshaft inline 8-cylinder engine first seen on the Bugatti Type 29.  The engine bore was 60 mm and while the piston stroke was 88 mm.  This engine produced about 90 horsepower.

The Bugatti Type 35’s debut was not successful due to tire trouble during the race.  This resulted in Campari winning the 1924 French Grand Prix in an Alfa Romeo, with Divo in 2nd place and Benoist in 3rd, both in a Delage.

In 1925 the 2.0 litre Grand Prix Formula continued, but riding mechanics were barred, however the cars still had to have two seats and be at least 31 inches in width.  In 1925, the biggest win for Bugatti was Costantini’s win in the Targa Florio.

As a matter of principle, Ettore Bugatti did not approve of supercharging, however in order to make the car more competitive, a Rootes-type supercharger was added to the Type 35 engine to improve the horsepower output without increasing the engine capacity and thus remaining within the guidelines of the Grand Prix formula.  This supercharged version became known as the Bugatti Type 35C.  The Bugatti Type 35C produced about 128 horsepower, a considerable improvement over the earlier Bugatti Type 35.

Bugatti Type 35C Engine

In the photo of the Bugatti Type 35C engine above, the supercharger can be seen mounted low on the engine.  The top speed of the Bugatti Type 35C was about 125 miles per hour.

The Bugatti Type 35C engine did not produce the highest horsepower compared to the competition of the day, but the chassis design resulted in a very nimble race car.  The Bugatti Type 35C won the French Grand Prix in 1929 and again in 1930.

The Bugatti Type 35C Was a Rather Small Race Car

The picture above shows a spare tire on the side of the car.  During most races the spare tire was not in place.  The picture above also shows that the tires were bolted on the rims.  During this period, tires sometimes went adrift of the wheels.  One of the most visible characteristics of the Bugatti Type 35 cars are the wheels which are very different from the wire wheels used on the vast majority of race cars of the day.

Most of the Bugatti Race Cars of this Era Were Right-hand Drive With External Levers

In the photo above, there are two external levers.  The forward lever activates the brakes.  It should be noted that Bugatti has been criticized for sticking with cable operated brakes that required more adjustment hydraulic brakes. The shorter lever adjacent to the cockpit is the transmission shifter.

Bugatti Type 35C Cockpit

Note how the transmission lever is connected to the transverse linkage rod that operates the 4-speed transmission.

The Bugatti Type 35 cockpit is rather sparse, which is not to be unexpected, however I note the presence of a time-of-day clock, presumably useful in endurance races.

The Sleek Shape of the Bugatti Type 35C

Sometimes the small, but stylish radiator of the Bugatti could lead to overheating if the cars sat at idle for too long.

The Carlos Demand painting below is a scene from the 1930 Monaco Grand Prix.  The race was won by Rene Dreyfus in a 2.3 litre version of the Bugatti Type 35 called the Bugatti Type 35B.  Louis Chiron was the runner-up in a Bugatti Type 35C.  The scene in the Carlos Demand depicts Dreyfus passing Chiron.  The 1930 Monaco Grand Prix was a race in which Bugatti cars dominated by finishing in the first six positions.

Carlos Demand Painting of the 1930 Monaco Grand Prix

The image below seems to indicate that the Bugatti Type 35 was a delicate car; however that is not true.  It was a small car, but a tough car.  A Bugatti Type 35 won the tough Targa Florio road race five years in a row from 1925 to 1929.  The roads in the Targa Florio were far from smooth.

The Bugatti Type 35C Was a Small, But Durable Race Car

Today it is not uncommon to see Bugatti Type 35 race cars at historic races.  The photo below was taken at Lime Rock at the historic race weekend in 2010.

A Bunch of Bugatti Cars at Lime Rock

All Bugatti Cars Are Very Stylish

Many Bugatti Type 35C Cars are Still Raced Today

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One Response to The Bugatti 35C: A Very Successful Race Car

  1. Pingback: Celebrating the Bugatti clan at the Mullin Museum | Classic Car Association of Europe

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