Driver Signed Print of Bugatti’s Final Disaster
The Bugatti Type 251 was a GP racer, and the last-ever original-era Bugatti car, road or race, ever built. Development work began in 1953, under the supervision of project head Gioacchino Colobmbo, of Ferrari V12 fame. Powered by the firm’s first ever oversquare engine, it was nonetheless in traditional Bugatti twincam, inline eight cylinder form, though with four (instead of three) valves per cylinder, a detachable cylinder head, and transverse location within the chassis, all of which were firsts for a Molsheim car. Reportedly the motor ran very well, though was at least 20 HP down on the nearest competition.
Built with primarily off the shelf fasteners and fittings, a sad necessity born of the firms desperate financial situation of the time, it was already far from a real “pur sang” machine in true Bugatti form, but this didn’t stop Ettore’s son Roland from insisting that it be fitted with a solid front axle, claiming a machine built otherwise could not be called a Bugatti, citing his deceased father’s lifelong and steadfast refusal to ever fit a car bearing his name with independent front suspension. Colombo was given no choice but to fit the T251 with an incredibly antiquated solid front axle, which was located in its center axis with a kind of pin and slot and sprung on either end with a convoluted and heavy system of links, rockers, and coil springs as a desperate measure to endow the car with at least a modicum of handling—it failed, disastrously.
As written by H.G. Conway in his bible of Bugatti, “Le Pur-Sang Des Automobiles”, the 251 “…would neither hold the road nor steer. It was here that one can see the breaking point between the era when the highly competent Ettore, by intuitive skill could ‘imagine’ solutions to practical problems more often than not, and time when the younger son Roland, with little or none of his father’s talent, would seek to impose his ideas when troubles arose on his much more experience engineers.”
Driver Maurice Trintignant, after only 18 laps in the 1956 Reims race, returned to the pits and refused to leave again, saying he valued his life and wouldn’t drive such a death trap any further for any reason. Roland immediately complained to the press that any shortcomings were Colombo’s fault…
And that’s the tragically comedic end to Bugatti as they were once known, a ridiculous but somehow fitting end to a company that saw more than its share of ups and downs during its existence, high as those ups may have been.
This week’s Crave is an original photo taken of Trintignant behind the wheel during that final Bugatti GP appearance, and signed by the drive himself—it’s hilarious to imagine what might’ve been going through his head when he was autographing these photos, each a 36” x 24” sepiatone print taken directly from the original negative. The Collector’s Studio has a limited supply of these fascinating and historically significant prints available for $895 apiece.