The smell of oil, gasoline and leather: that's how I remember my grandfather's garage. As a young boy I spent hours in his time capsule, a sanctuary of engine parts, old chassis frames and vintage tools. In the heart of it all was his big pride: a 1930 Bugatti Type 44.
Huize Ivicke in 1966. Photo: collection gemeentearchief Wassenaar
The anecdote of how the Bugatti had come into his possession, has become legendary in our family. You see, my grandfather was an architect and after he had redesigned an estate near The Hague for a Bugatti collector (or actually his mother, but let's not get side tracked by too much details) he saw an opportunity and suggested a barter (no not that kind of barter, you dirty bastard).
The many photographs he was allowed to choose from contained photo's of Bugattis that were stored all over Europe, waiting for better times. These were the sixties, when the machines forged in the magical Molsheim factory could still be found in forgotten garages and abandoned sheds.
After a turbulent life in France and Czechoslovakia, our Bugatti Type 44 arrives at Gouda station, circa 1966. Photo: collection Godron
But that would soon change. Following in the trail of the sought after Grand Prix racers, the grand tour cars have become prized possessions in itself: nowadays, if an original Bugatti is found - no matter its condition - auction houses have their marketing and PR departments working overtime to secure a piece of the (expensive) pie.
Function before form
The Type 44 arrived in the Netherlands by train from Czechoslovakia and soon after that my grandfather - together with his petrolhead buddies - began with what we would now call a 'typical 70s restoration', meaning function definitely came before form.
The project turned into a multi-year project that involved as much oil as it did wine. The year was 1976 when the Type 44 was finally rolled out of the garage I would soon inhabit as a young car enthousiast. Firing it up for the first time marked the beginning of numerous rally adventures all over Europe.
After my father had taken up le baton (it is a French car after all), we initially decided to only fit proper cycle wings, but you know what they say about doing minor improvements on your car: in the end it always turns into a full body-off restoration.
Under the inspiring leadership of Bugatti specialist Harry Kouwen me and my father, together with our sworn car friend Edwin, worked on the resurrection of the Type 44 for more than 10 years, a process that not only included wine and oil but also involved tears: especially when we realized the engine needed a complete overhaul too.
But it was all worth it. When we unveiled the Bugatti during the annual spring rally of the Bugatti Club Nederland, we did much more than simply lifting the cover: we signaled the start of the next generation's Bugatti adventures. My grandfather would have been proud.
A Bugatti is a nimble car, but nevertheless: powering it through the apex is seriously hard work.
The characteristic and stylish front of a Grand Sport Bugatti.
Just trying to look like I know what I'm talking about.
My father (at the wheel) and grandfather descent in Elsloo (South-Limburg), during one of the first T44's rally's in the Netherlands. Photo: collection Godron
Here's a short clip we edited from one of the first rally's we participated in, and in which the Type 44 was crowned "Best of show".
© Text: Niels Godron - Photos: Jorn Veerbeek