Bugatti Type 35B – A Brief Overview

To my way of thinking, this is the car that established Ettore Bugatti’s reputation as a performance car builder. Initially produced in 1925, the 35 didn’t have an auspicious race debut. A hundred years ago tires didn’t cope well with speeds of 120mph so that first year of competition the 35 kept exploding its tires. Difficult to finish a race that way. In 1927 the tire manufacturer (Dunlop, I think but don’t quote me) solved the tire problem. Once the 35 had a set of shoes that would handle what the car dealt out, this car went on to become the most successful Grand Prix car ever fielded. Depending on which reference you read, it’s credited with between one and three thousand wins between 1925 and 1932 and dominated the Targa Florio from 1925 to 1929. That’s pretty impressive for a car that only had a production run of about 140 (hard to pin down exactly).

It was powered by a straight-eight 2.3 litre engine that put out about 138hp with a four-speed transmission. Both the shifter and parking brake handle were mounted outboard of the right-side driving position. The 35A was a decent car but only put out about 80-90hp. A slightly enlarged engine, up from the 1.5 of the Type 35, was built for the 35B (originally named 35TC) but the real game-changer was that it also came equipped with a Rootes-style supercharger used originally on the 35C on a slightly less powerful engine. Several innovations included an electric starter and that the brake drums were cast (in aluminum) as part of the wheel which meant that a tire change meant new brake drums (probably a good idea for aluminum brake drums). Extensive use of aluminum was used through the 35’s construction resulting in a car that weighed about 1650lbs (750kg).

The last recorded win of the 35B was the at the Monaco Grand Prix with Rene Dreyfus at the wheel. The last recorded with of any Type 35 was at the 1932 Australian Grand Prix with Bill Thompson at the wheel of a 35A.

A street version of the car was also offered, differing from the race car in that the only additions were a passenger’s windscreen, head and tail lights, and cycle fenders.

This car is so iconic that a Venezuelan company, Pur Sang, builds exact reproductions of them.


A Pur Sang reproduction:

Pur Sang 03

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