Car of the Day #24

1912 Bugatti Type 18

1912 Bugatti Type 18 ‘Garros’ 5-Litre Chain Drive

This outstanding car is the oldest Bugatti racing car in the world, as driven by a young 30-year-old Ettore Bugatti himself.  He campaigned this car at both at Le Mans and the Mont Ventoux hillclimb, where the Bugatti won its class and came fourth overall.  By the time Bugatti built this car, he had more than a decade of experience designing vehicles for other French car companies – De Dietrich, Mathis and Deutz – before setting up his own factory in 1909.

Although Bugatti’s first model was a four-cylinder 1327cc car, he had ambitious plans for a large 5-litre engine for use in a racing car.  Of the six or seven 5-Litres subsequently built, only three of the Type 18 ‘Garros’ (named after Ettore’s close aviator friend; Roland Garros) are known to exist today, with this example being the first built, and Ettore Bugatti’s own car.

The Type 18’s design is as remarkable as anything conceived by Ettore Bugatti. The four-cylinder engine had three valves per cylinder, two inlets and one exhaust, driven from a vertical front shaft from the five-bearing crankshaft below. There is a four-speed gearbox and a multi-plate clutch, just like those he had designed for Deutz. This was a quite remarkable specification for 1912.  This Bugatti will be joined at Hampton Court Palace by two outstanding and rarely-seen Type 57s at this year’s Concours of Elegance (5-7 September).