The other day, for the whole day, I thought about a car that nobody really thinks of nowadays. A car that not even many true car enthusiasts bring up in their conversations, compared to things like the Enzo and the McLaren F1. A car that is, though it might be a bit of a bold statement, the greatest racing car in history.
It's the 1925 Bugatti Type 35. And I might be part-French and thus biased, but when a car wins over 1,000 races in its time - I think that's something.
The Type 35 was fitted with the arch grille that was quickly becoming a Bugatti trademark, and many of the models were fitted with two headlights just to the side of the grille (unlike the three on the Alfa 6C 1750 GS). Powered by a monstrous 2.0 litre straight-eight, from which a glorious sound erupted, it had the chassis of a typical racer – that is, no doors, and a compact body, with no roof. Many variations were made, the Type 35B being in my opinion the best, because of its bigger 2.3 litre straight-eight engine, and supercharger. It was basically raw power, on dangerous, thin wheels.
It was a winning formula, definitely. Of the thousand-plus victories to the 35's name, 351 of them were Grand Prixes.
With racing and racing cars more complex today, it mightn't seem as impressive. But in fact, the 35 was a pioneer. It was faster, more powerful, and just generally superior to its competitors. We can tell just by reading about this car that Bugatti was always meant to produce purebred racing machines. For Ettore Bugatti, this car was made to establish his brand’s reputation, and to build up what was, and still is, the elite cars for elite drivers. Amongst others, the 35 was driven by the legendary Louis Chiron.
When we think of early motorsport pedigree and pioneering, we often think of the Italians, and rightly so. But the greatest, I’d argue, was French.