Occasional paper 5: Nuts and bolts of patina.

Following recent work on the head gasket of a 1926 Th. Schneider I was rummaging through some nuts and bolts from the engine. I had cause to pause to consider the humble nuts themselves for a moment. They display evidence of a hard life with marks of a cold chisel having been applied to loosen them at some point in the past. But of interest is how they also reveal some of the story of the way automobiles were manufactured in the 1920s. The automobile industry in the 1920s was in transition from largely individually hand produced automobiles to what we now know as “mass produced”. As I understand it automobile production in France in the 1920s was largely still small volume  and to a significant extent hand produced. Prior to the economic depression toward the end of the decade there were hundreds of small automobiles producers in France.

It isn’t clear how the nuts were produced or to what extent they were mass produced but what is apparent is evidence of having been hand finished. So the sides show hammer signs, perhaps by hand. And they have clearly been machined finished on the ends. They bear the hallmarks of, if not hand production, at least hand finishing.

DSC01155It is this evidence that underlies the importance of preserving such automobiles, and of course much other machinery, houses etc, rather than restoring. Too often the results of a restoration is the loss of the original components and along with that, the loss of the way in which the artifact was originally produced together with the skills that were required to produce it.

We may be able to “manufacture” patina but it is a truism that an artifact is original only once.

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Occasional paper 4: Bugatti type 59 at speed.

I’ve had an un-identified image of a Bugatti type 59 for sometime. Recently I was looking through the online Bugatti Trust archive of images and found what I believe is a match although the backgrounds don’t seem to be identical. The archive describes it as car number 16 driven by Robert Benoist in the 1934 ACF at Montlhery. It is, in my mind, a powerful evocation of speed.

Bugatti type 59 driven by Robert Benoist 1934 ACF Montlhery

Bugatti type 59 driven by Robert Benoist 1934 ACF Montlhery

Source: Bugatti Trust

Source: Bugatti Trust

Occasional paper 3: 1930 French Grand Prix Pau image

On the 21st September 1930 the French Grand Prix was held at Pau. 25 laps of a 15.835km circuit. The event was notable, if for no other reason than for the entry of Tim Birkin’s stripped down 41/2 litre supercharged Bentley. As the course contained long straight stretches it suited the high top speed of the Bentley. What it lacked in handling it made up for in raw power. Among the 25 starters the field was otherwise dominated by French marques including no less than 16 Bugattis, 2 Peugeots and a Delage. There was also a high number of seasoned, skillful drivers including Louis Chiron, Marcel Lehoux, Stanilass Czaikowski, Jean-Pirre Wimilie, Philippe Etancelin and the Englishman William Grover-Williams (1).

Over the course of a fiercely contested race Birkin in his Bentley gradually climbed to second position in the final laps behind Etancelin in his Bugatti 35C. In the end Etancelin held on to finish a mere 14 seconds ahead of the ‘blower’ Bentley. What made the victory of Etancelin more noteworthy was that after crossing the finishing line his clutch gave out and he had 1 litre of fuel remaining. A number of the more favoured drivers experienced various mechanical issues over the course of the race. Bouriat and Chiron, for example were both forced to retire in the last lap due to oil leaks.

The other notable incident was the accident suffered by Louise Charavel or “Sabipa” as he was known. On the 11th lap he hit the corner known as Morlaas and rolled his Bugatti. In so doing he was thrown from the car and found himself lying on the road in front of oncoming cars. It was reported that the two Peugeots and the Birkin Bentley only narrowly avoided hitting him as he lay on the road. Fortunately his injuries were not life threatening but it must have been terrifying to be narrowly missed by cars travelling at speed(2).

The image below is interesting on a number of levels. It appears to show the rear section of the starting grid prior to the commencement of the race. So we see #52, a Bugatti 35C driven by George Delaroche (retired due to engine problems), #48, a Peugeot 174S driven by Henri Stoffel (finished in 8th place), #58, a Bugatti 35C driven by William Grover-Williams (retired due to oil leak), #54, a Bugatti 37A driven by Jean Gaupillat (retired), #68, a Bugatti 35C driven by Max Fourny (retired due to engine problems), #66 a Montier Ford driven by Ferdinand Montier (finished but unclassified) and #64 a Bugatti 35B driven by Aristide Lumachi (retired with engine problems).

It is possible to speculate that the person sitting on #58 is the Bugatti works driver William Grover-Williams. And could the gentleman behind Grover-Williams in a suit and hand on hip be Ettore Bugatti? There would appear to be more than a passing resemblance.

1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1930_French_Grand_Prix

2. http://www.kolumbus.fi/leif.snellman/gp3011.htm

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Occasional paper 2: Carrosserie of the mystery Bugatti type 23.

In Occasional paper 1 I posted this image.

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Handwritten on the photo are the words “Carroseria Profile”. I had assumed that this was the name of the coach builder. I then wondered whether there were any Bugatti type 13/23 with similar bodies. And came up with the following.

This Bugatti type 23 #2519

Bugatti type 23 #2519 Maron-Pot et Cie

Bugatti type 23 #2519 Maron-Pot et Cie

Described by Bonhams as a “…late example, Brescia chassis number ‘2519’ has the 1,496cc engine and according to factory records was delivered in May 1925 to Paris where it was bodied by the little-known coachbuilder L Maron, Pot et Cie of Levallois-Perret. The staggered two-seater torpedo body was commissioned by the Bugatti’s first owner Jean Haimovici, (Reference Bugantics, Vol 30, Number 1), a Romanian living in Paris who took the car with him when he moved to Czechoslovakia. Documentation on file lists various owners in Czechoslovakia and the car also comes with Czech registration documents dating back to 1947. The last of these owners is one William Kevin Stewart, from 4th May 1959, who brought the car to the UK where it was registered by Automo Ltd of London NW6 in August 1959. Miraculously, the Bugatti had survived in remarkably original condition; indeed, it is one of only a handful (The Brescia Bugatti book by Bob King would indicate only five Brescia’s are complete with these original parts) retaining its original body, bonnet, engine, gearbox and axles.”(1)

bugatti-brescia-0e14e1f2617981e3ae-940-0-1-95-1

#2519

#2519

Arguably some similarities with the mystery photo though not it would appear the same car. A period advertisement of Maron-Pot et Cie carrosserie also shows a Bugatti with clear similarities.

Scan 1

Below is another example of the coach work of Maron-Pot et Cie on a Bugatti type 13 although a different body style.

Bugatti type 13 #2628 Maron-Pot et Cie

Bugatti type 13 #2628 Maron-Pot et Cie

However, aside from the obscure carrosserie Maron-Pot et Cie I found one other period image of a Bugatti type 23 with a similar body style and flared wings but this time bodied by Lavocat et Marsaud. Different again but with similarities in the treatment of the wings and the under-tray.

Bugatti type 23 Lavocat et Marsaud.

Bugatti type 23 Lavocat et Marsaud.

All of above suggests that the carrosserie of the mystery Bugatti is the company Profilee and not Maron-Pot et Cie or Lavocat et Marsaud. I do not have much information on Carrosserie Profilee but believe that they did produce small series and “one-off” bodies in the twenties and thirties. Evidence of their work, including a record breaking attempt by Peugeot as follows:

(1). https://www.bonhams.com/auctions/21906/lot/318/

Occasional Paper 1: Bugatti type 23 mystery image

The types 13/22/23 differ, among other things, by virtue of wheelbase length. The image of a period photo below is, I believe a type 23 judging by the wheelbase. However I’m not certain.

Bugatti type 23 mystery photo

Bugatti type 23 mystery photo

The photo has hand written text in what matches with Spanish. The text appears to relate to details of the car including a price. The details include information to the effect that the car is a four cylinder Bugatti, possibly delivered in June 1925, one carburetor, one magneto, four brakes and body by “Carroseria Profile”.

The image is sharp depicting a car that is used, judging by the tyres, a third central rear seat, no driver’s side door, good paintwork and interesting steeply raked fenders.

So perhaps a car with a Spanish or South American history. I wonder if the car still exists?

 

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ZEVACO

The Zévaco was a cycle-car assembled at Eaubonne until the middle of the period on question. For the 1923 season the company listed two chassis. One was equipped with a two-cylinder with dimensions 80mm x 99mm (995cc) and three-speed gearbox. The other was a four-cylinder with dimensions 58mm x 95mm (1,000cc) and also with a three-speed gearbox. Both chassis were shod with 700 x 80 section tyres.[i]

[i] Omnia, no. 30, December 1922, supplement.