From the very first day of its inception, the Bugatti legend was founded primarily by motorsports. In this respect, 1928 was a special year for Bugatti. The rules had changed and as such, the highly successful era of the Bugatti Type 35 had begun.
The open Bugatti Type 35B with eight-cylinder engine, Roots supercharger was capable of speeds faster than 125 mph….90 years ago. With more than 2,000 victories in Bugatti’s “golden decade”, the Type 35 can arguably be considered one of the most successful racing cars ever.
For 1928, the governing body of motorsports had planned seven international races, of which only two had actually taken place by the end of the season. For this reason, there was no official world champion in 1928. However, even without a championship to fight for, Bugatti racing cars won race after race. Of 26 races held in 1928, Bugatti drivers took first place in 23, including 11 Grands Prix and the world’s toughest road race, the Targa Florio.
Bugatti’s success in 1928 started with Tazio Nuvolari. The Italian, known as the “flying Mantuan”, had begun his career as a motorcycle racer, before switching to cars in 1924. He won the Tripoli Grand Prix in March 1928, driving a Type 35C. On the same day, March 11, Louis Chiron of Monaco, whose nickname was “old fox”, took first place on the Circuit d’Esterel Plage, in France, driving the same model. Chrion had been a private entrant with Bugatti since 1925, but had joined the works team in 1927.
Two weeks later, Nuvolari outclassed the competition in Verona. In the following weeks, Chiron took several first places, for example at the Circuit de la Riviera and the Antibes Grand Prix with a Type 35C. Its 2.0-liter, eight-cylinder equipped with a Roots supercharger developed about 125 PS and accelerated the racing car, which only weighed 750 kilograms, to a top speed of over 125 mph.
Especially on winding circuits, the Type 35 left its competitors standing thanks to its lightweight design. At a very early stage, Ettore Bugatti already knew that power is important but light weight is all-important. 90 years ago, he had major components of his racing cars including engine and transmission housings, bodywork and wheels, made from lightweight aluminum. The rules of the sport at that time only stated that racing cars must weigh between 550 and 750 kilograms; there were no rules on power output. Bugatti opted for a sturdy, powerful and reliable straight-eight and saved weight on other parts of the vehicle.