Ettore Bugatti, l’artisan de Molsheim
Norbert Steinhauser, historian and early “Bugattist” himself, is the author of this remarkably illustrated and documented book. He describes the professional beginnings of Ettore Bugatti from 1901 to 1921, a period that was always wrongly considered as uninteresting and with no direct connection with the glorious years of 1925 to 1935.
Norbert’s work demonstrates the contrary. The technical heritage and evolution are absolutely obvious. Professionally, Bugatti builds his base of knowledge before 1920. He acquires his engineering skills and establishes a useful network of connections at first in Italy and Germany then in France. They are engineers, bankers, aristocrats, journalists as well as influential personalities of the upper classes. Some of them will contribute to his success and support him until his last days in 1947. The existing literature devoted only a small attention to these early days and never spent much time on such details, sometimes by lack of interest but also because the documents were not yet unearthed. It should nevertheless not be forgotten that Bugatti was then at the peak of its creativity. He created nearly half of his models during those twenty years.
The present work, recount step by step the life, the adventures and the professional evolution of our young hero. The story is mainly founded on authentic period documents, coming out of family or official archives. It was possible to establish a very precise chronological framework. Although the story never deviates much away from the known broad lines, thanks to the discoveries made during the research work many enigmas are solved. This study shows how Ettore Bugatti could be determined and strong as well as having a surprising faculty to be back on his feet after a setback. After reading the book, the reader will have met a rather exceptional human being that nobody could suspect from the previous accounts.
Subdivided into three volumes for easy handling, Steinhauser’s work numbers nearly 800 pages richly illustrated with many previously unpublished photographs and period documents. Emphasis is on the early years up until 1921. A separate paper-back English translation of the text is included.
The first chapter recounts Ettore Bugatti’s life and that of his family and their activities during last decades of the 19th century.
The main part of the first two volumes is devoted to the history of:
• The “artisan” period spanning from 1901 to 1921, his start in Milan, the move to Alsace and the beginning of the Molsheim workshop, the World War I and his return to Molsheim when Bugatti becomes the owner of the workshops.
• The remaining pages then presents some original or lesser known documents pertaining to the industrial period (1921 - 1947).Of particular interest is the correspondence between Ettore and his son Jean relating to the Type 57.
The final volume deals with the technical aspects.
• It traces the evolution of Bugatti’s ideas and concepts leading to the introduction in 1921 of an 8-cylinder automobile engine, the type 28. Several appendices summarise the production and sales records for the period from1902 through 1923. A final appendix compiles the racing records of Bugatti and his cars during the 1898-1921 period.