The ‘prince of the automobile’ who only touched his sculptured engines with gloves
MILAAN, 15 SEPTEMBER 1881
PARIS, 21 AUGUST 1947
On the many extant photos of Ettore Bugatti, he is usually seen in the attire of a dignified gentleman, in a close-fitting tailored suit with a necktie and an expensive hat. Bugatti without a hat is inconceivable. Or it would have to be a picture of Ettore in his early years, with a big grin behind the wheel of a Deutz in Cologne, with an air more like that of a racing driver than of an automobile manufacturer. The appearance of his father, Carlo, and his brother, Rembrandt, was much less conventional, although, of the three, Ettore was the most radical, also the most arrogant. Ettore wanted to astound the world, he wanted to be the greatest and the most handsome, which eventually led to a light case of megalomania. But he did make the most beautiful cars in the history of the automobile, slightly less than eight thousand cars, automobiles on which even what you could not see, was a work of art. Everything was hand-crafted and polished, the engines looked like sculptures. “Technology,” he once said, “is actually the least important part of an automobile; the matchless form, the aura and the harmonious colours make the automobile into a work of art.” It is amazing that he won two thousand races with those cars, six times the Grand Prix of France, five times the extremely difficult and much coveted Targa Florio on Sicily. He did this with sculptures that had power in them. It was a caprice of nature that caused this artistic personality to end up in the rough and dirty oil sector of the early automobile world. None of the other early automobiles have so many enthusiastic admirers worldwide today. No automobile is more expensive than an old Bugatti.