Whilst visiting Alsace, in France, Molsheim is always a mandatory stop. A pilgrimage for every car enthusiast. There sits the Bugatti factory and just nearby the Saint Jean castle, headquarters of the brand. As all passionate of the elephant symbolized brand, I had to stop to admire the places and hope to see one. But this week-end was rather special, and I had to stop for a little longer, with the Festival Bugatti taking place. Text (French) and photos : Thomas Z. © English translation : Mickael B. ©
For its 32th edition, the Festival Bugatti, organized by the Bugatti enthusiasts did not disappoint. In fact, sports, collector cars and passionate of the brand were there. What more to ask when modern automotive events are crowded with “show-off” people, whose only purpose is to show off their money (or alleged fortune) throughout only the latest luxury models ?
At the Festival Bugatti, the atmosphere is far from that. Everyone loves its car for what it represents, and not for the value it has to others. Every car has its history, and each owner has a multitude of anecdotes to tell. Talking about anecdotes, let’s talk a bit of Bugatti’s history. In 1930, at the Paris Motorshow was presented the replacement of the Type 44, called the Type 49, which had a similar design than its predecessor, but was singularly different with a bigger 3.3 litre engine offering the car more torque. It was more importantly the last model of the brand with a single head camshaft, and 85 years after, the Festival Bugatti had decided to pay it a tribute, by choosing it as its star.
Still, what’s the Festival Bugatti all about ? Well, it at least has all the key elements of a good car event: a rallye, a concours d’élégance, and above all passionate people. The Festival being free for the general public, the city center of Molsheim gets very quickly full of curious locals and tourists who come there to admire the cars as each year or were simply attracted by the engine sounds growling… Therefore, in order to better be able to admire the cars, and more easily be able to chat with the participants of the event, it is highly recommended to meet with them at the different stops during the rally.
Being highly passionate, some of the participants will bring as well their own hand-made replica that they have built for years every evening, and which similitude with a real model of the brand will fool any amateur, but not an expert. Here for example, an example which inspiration was a Type 37. This project lasted over 8 years for its owner, between the research of the different plans, specific parts, and hand building the whole bodywork…
If some bring their own creations, the original cars built by Ettore Bugatti’s company remain the main attraction of the event, and there are quite a few. Between the legendary race models that made the reputation of the Pur-Sang brand, like the Types 35, 37 and 51s, as well as the Grand Tourer models, as this Type 57 below, which won the Concours d’Elegance this year. The Type 35B Grand Prix you can see on the photos with number 84 won over 2000 races throughout its history. A little anecdote for uninitiated people regarding the Type 35s and 37s, which have come up several time. How do you recognize each one ? The biggest visual difference is the number of lateral aerations rows each car has, with the 35s having two against one for the Type 37s, in order to ensure the cooling of the additional four cylinders of the 35.
There are other rather special cars, like a Type 44 freshly restored by the Bugatelier, who pushed the concept of barchetta even further. Ariel Atoms and KTM X-Bows beware ! Another really outstanding find was a Type 46 with wicker coachwork, which name was “La Farbie”. This really singular car was converted in a truck during the second world war and was then rebodied as it is today, providing it with a lighter bodywork, better performances and really typical charming design.
Looking at modern sports cars, there were quite a few nice surprises. One of the only two fully functional EB112 was there, accompanied by two beautiful EB110s. One of these EB110s was the Supersport car which established the ice speed driving world record in 1995 at a top speed of 296.34 km/h. The other one was a racing EB110 prepared for the North American WSC GT races, and both of them were from the Pastor collection in Monaco. Two Bugatti Veyrons had as well joined the meeting, one of the 5 WRC, special edition which was built after Bugatti’s top speed world record for a road car, achieving a top speed of 431 km/h, the other one being the prototype 5.1 belonging to Daniel Irion.
So how can we sum up this edition ? Well, it is very difficult to compared each edition of the Festival, as I had been to the 2009 and 2010 editions before, each year has its lot of surprises. I regret a little bit the amazing setting around Gérardmer lake in 2010, but the presence of the EB112 this year made us really forget this detail. In conclusion, I think we can say that this edition was a true success, between exceptional cars and authentic passionates of the brand, the Festival has once more ravished myself. The only regret being, of course not being able to get back home in one of these beauties.