4 min read •
Bugatti, History and Renaissance - Part 5: The production continues
Between 1912 and 1914, Bugatti produced a small series of 6 vehicles with a specific numbering and which were characterized by their high cylinder capacity. For this Type 16, Ettore used the Type 8 chassis design, equipped with the innovative leaf-spring rear suspensions, in inverted ellipse quarter, maintained the chain transmission and installed a new 5 liter engine. capacity and 3 valves per cylinder, two inlet and one exhaust. This type of distribution would be resumed a few years later, in some of the most emblematic models of Bugatti, as was the case of the Type 35 and the Type 41 Royale. One of these models was sold to Roland Garros and would be nicknamed "Black Bess" by the next owner, an English driver. Two of these Type 16 were registered and participated, without much success, in the Indianapolis 500 of 1914 and 1915.
In 1912, Bugatti built a prototype with two 4-cylinder longitudinally arranged tandem engines. This solution would be used, many years later, in the Type 28, equipped with an inline 8-cylinder engine.
Meanwhile, the series of 8 valves, with the different Type 13, 15 and 17, continued to leave the Molsheim plant at an increasing rate. Despite this, the renewal of the range was necessary in order to increase competitiveness.
Thus, in 1913, Type 15 and 17 would be replaced by Type 22 and 23, respectively. As novelties, they presented an evolution in the lubrication of the engine components, the radiator with ovoid shape and the rear suspensions with the springs in inverted ellipse.
Type 13 would be renewed in 1914, with the adoption of these technical solutions. This model, exclusively intended for competition, would remain, however and by Ettore's decision, faithful to the philosophy that presided over its construction, and without brakes on the front wheels. According to “le patron”: “My cars are built to move fast, not to brake”. In the early twenties he got angry with a private driver who dared to race with his “Brescia” equipped with front brakes.
This is yet another example of the strong personality of Ettore Bugatti, who, at times, made him maintain anachronistic technical solutions. The praise of the specialized press contributed to this, rendered to the effectiveness of those small bollides, very light, fast and easy to fly.
In 1914, the prototype of a Type 13 was built with an engine with an unprecedented distribution using four valves per cylinder. With the start of the First World War, the production of this Type 27, equipped with the new 16-valve engine, would be postponed to 1919, when the Molsheim plant resumed its productive activity.
At the beginning of the Great War, Ettore closed the factory, kept the models and engines built and buried himself, first in Italy, then in Paris. It would be in this city that it would design, at the request of Diatto, an inline 8-cylinder engine, with distribution by 4 valves per cylinder, intended for aeronautics. These engines were built in a Duesemberg factory and, at the request of the US government, were tested assembled in sets of 2, in a U shape, so that a gun could be installed between the two engines. This project would never go beyond this experimental phase.
After the War, Ettore returned to Molsheim and after being unearthed, the last Type 13 8-valve valves were sold and production at Bugatti Automobiles restarted in 1919. The following year, the Type 13 were equipped with the new 4-cylinder engine and 16 valves, whose cylinder range varied between 1,400 and 1,500 cc. At the same time Bugatti sold production licenses for this new model to foreign companies, and, although in small numbers, the Type 16 16-valve under the designation Rabag in Germany, Crossley in the United Kingdom and Diatto in Italy.
The new Type 13 proved to be more efficient and with performance superior to its predecessors, thanks to the new suspensions and lubrication, but above all due to the new distribution, which allowed a power gain of about 50 CV.
Corroborating this increase in competitiveness were the victories of the Type 13, with Friedrich at the wheel, in the light vehicle GP held at Le Mans in 1920 and in Brescia the following year, in the latter case ahead of other 3 Types 13 of 16 valves registered by Bugatti. As a way to celebrate this victory, Ettore nicknamed Type 13 with the name "Brescia" and Type 22 and 23 as "Modified Brescia". It should be noted that the winning vehicle at Le Mans, in 1920, had an innovative double ignition, with two spark plugs per cylinder arranged on either side of the engine block. This technology would be used again, a few years later, in the Type 41 Royale.
Of the approximately 40 units of Type 13 “Brescia” that were built, the nickname “Cordon Rouge” was famous for the numerous victories he obtained in competitions in the United Kingdom.
Upset but surrendered to the need for evolution, Ettore had the last “Brescia” fitted with 4-wheel brakes. Production of the Type 13 ended in 1926, with around 2,000 units being built, between 8 and 16 valve models. This would be the best-selling model in the history of Bugatti and would consolidate Ettore's image as a builder.