Legendary Bugatti Type 35 was virtually unbeatable

Open top Bugatti Type 35 became one of the best racing cars of all time

Published: May 6, 2019, 10:30 PM
Updated: May 12, 2019, 4:27 AM

Bugatti Type 35

Roughly 95 years ago, Bugatti embarked on a 7-year motorsports reign that saw its Type 35 virtually unbeatable between 1924 and 1930, racking up over 2,000 victories in competitions across Europe.

1924 Bugatti Type 35

“The Bugatti Type 35 is one of the icons of Bugatti’s rich history and tradition. Back in 1924, the sports car was unparalleled in its technology, design and performance and the same still goes today. It is both an inspiration and a commitment,” says Stephan Winkelmann, President of Bugatti. “This makes the Type 35 one of the forefathers of our current hyper sports cars, the Chiron1, Chiron Sport2 and Divo3. Steeped in the Type 35’s DNA, they are translating this tradition for the modern age.”

Light, strong, fast and elegant, the open top Bugatti Type 35 sports car became one of the most successful racing cars of all time, but it wasn’t just a racing car. It was the company’s technical canvas.

Ettore Bugatti at the wheel of a Bugatti Type 35 in 1924

Company founder Ettore Bugatti used a crankshaft supported by two roller bearings and three ball bearings – a setup still regarded as a feat of engineering to this day — allowing the twin carburettor 2.0-litre 8-cylinder engine to run at speeds of up to 6,000 rpm, make up to 94 hp and pull the car to a top speed of 190 km/h.

The less expensive, basic 35A used a 74-hp version of the 2.0-litre straight-8 A 35C used a supercharger to push horsepower to 128,  while the last of the 35 Series — the 35B — used a supercharger on a larger 2.3-litre engine to make 138 hp and attain a top speed of 215 km/h. It was cooled by a wider radiator than those employed at the time and the first to feature a flat bottom.

Bugatti Type 35C

Bugatti was also the first to develop cast aluminum wheels (with a wheel rim to keep the tires from popping off) to aid in keeping the total vehicle weight down and improve suspension response, and fitted them with integral brake drums.

To further reduce weight, Bugatti equipped the Type 35 (which tipped the scales at just 750 kg thanks to a specially-developed alloy bodyshell) with a hollow front axle that weighed just 10 kg and proved more reliable than competitors’ solid axles.

Bugatti Type 35 driver Albert Divo and co-driver after winning 1929 Targa Florio

The cars were driven by a veritable who’s who of decorated drivers of the time, including Alberto Divo, Tazio Nuvolari, Louis Chiron and William Grover-Williams, and also women racers Hellé Nice and Eliska Junkova.

It is believed Bugatti built a total of 340 Type 35s, though production figures are no longer certain, and though it was replaced by the Type 54 in 1931, many race cars remained in use for many years, though very few remain today.

Bugatti Type 35 driver Elisabeth Junek preparing for 1928 Targa Florio

“The Type 35 was the founding father of a family of pure-blooded racehorses from Molsheim – a true thoroughbred,” remarked company founder Ettore Bugatti.