Ettore Bugatti, copyright The Bugatti Trust

11.05.21 Assistant Richard Haycocks

Coachmakers catch the Bug

Pictured above: Ettore Bugatti, copyright The Bugatti Trust

On the evening of 29th April Coachmakers enjoyed a virtual tour of the Bugatti Trust Museum led by Liveryman Hugh Conway, and Angela Hucke, the Curator. Hugh’s eponymous father Hugh Conway CBE founded the Museum in 1990.

The Museum was formally opened by HRH The Prince Philip KG KT, a keen supporter of the Trust. He also advised the founder of the existence of a collection of Bugatti coaches in Belgium with Baron Casier, who kindly lent several items of Ettore Bugatti’s horse tackle for display on the opening day. We were shown the plaque unveiled by HRH The Prince Philip at the opening ceremony.

Classic Bugatti models at the museum

Classic Bugatti models at the museum

Bugatti is one of the most renown names in automotive history. It is synonymous with engineering excellence, innovation and style – even the engines looked good. Ettore Bugatti, the founder, must have been the inspiration for Steve Jobs – even the parts the customer didn’t see had to look good. Intriguingly, he was Italian, but started the business in Molsheim, in the Alsace, then in Germany, but now in France. Apparently, Ettore always considered himself French and spoke French with his colleagues. Only some 8,000 cars were produced (Let’s ignore the brand revival under Volkswagen) mostly between 1909 and 1939.

We were shown a number of engines and vehicle components that he had designed, as well as complete cars. Hugh explained that Ettore was quite conservative as an engine designer and his brother pushed him to innovate – persuading him to develop a twin overhead camshaft engine to supersede his single cam design.

The cars were immensely successful in competition and Hugh ran us through some of the enormous number of wins which continue to this day in historic racing.

Ettore also worked in aviation. We were shown engines that he had designed for use on an American aircraft which, with the war ending, never flew or went into production. He was also interested in aircraft design.

Ettore was also an enthusiastic carriage driver and horseman and he designed and built a number of carriages with innovative designs. We were privileged to be given an illustrated talk on the subject by Sue Niederberger. Sue, together with her husband, runs Sattlerei Niederberger in Switzerland, specializing in leather conservation and restoration in cars, carriages and harness. Her husband is a Swiss Master Saddler. Sue also work as a translator, specializing in equipage. Her knowledge of the Bugatti carriages comes from her translation of Andres Furger’s book ‘Horseman Bugatti’ in 2019. Ettore was a snappy dresser, as a number of Sue’s photographs demonstrated.

The Bugatti Trust was established to preserve the works of Ettore and to make them available to scholars and it has a huge collection of original drawings, used by restorers worldwide. The Museum at Prescott is fascinating and well worth a visit and we thank Liveryman Hugh, Angela and Sue for a most interesting and illuminating 60 minutes.

The Bugatti Trust is due to reopen on 17th May 2021, with a new Brescia exhibition to celebrate the centenary of the marque’s historic and defining victory of September 8th, 1921. To find out more, please click here: