The Prototype and Bugatti Works, ex-Sir Robert Bird, Col. G. Niles and Henry Haga
1924 Bugatti Type 35 Grand Prix
Chassis no. 4323
1,991cc SOHC Straight 8-Cylinder Engine
2 Solex Carburetors
4-Speed Manual Transmission
Solid Axles with Leaf Springs Front and Rear
4-Wheel Cable Operated Drum Brakes
*The first example of the legendary Type 35
*Driven by Ettore Bugatti himself
*Well understood history of careful ownership
*1983 Pebble Beach Concours Best in Class
*Engine rebuild by High Mountain Classics
The Bugatti Type 35
Ettore Bugatti's ambition to have his automobiles become major racing competitors culminated in the entry of a team of five cars designated the Type 35 in the 1924 Grand Prix of the Automobile Club de France.
The success of Bugatti's earlier 4-cylinder models including the Type 13 and Brescia in competition and the resulting market for high performance sports cars and sedans provided the means for the considerable investment in effort and finance that led to the Type 35. 1922 and 1923 had seen Bugatti stage a major assault on the Grand Prix championship, but by 1924 it was time for something quite different.
Drawing on years of experience and the disappointments suffered with the innovative but ultimately unsuccessful Type 32 "Tank", Bugatti drew up a refined, lightweight, streamlined two-seater with a five-bearing eight cylinder crankcase split horizontally along the crankshaft center, roller bearing connecting rod big ends. The chassis was derived from the Brescia with C-section rails, live axles, friction shock dampers and quarter-elliptical leaf springs at the extreme ends of the frame. Bugatti completely redesigned and refined the Type 35's four-wheel cable-operated drum brakes including the model's trademark aluminum spoke wheels with integral brake drums. Made in Bugatti's foundry, they were light, effective and acted as heat sinks for brake heat, vastly enhancing the effectiveness and durability of the brakes. Another Type 35 innovation is its lightweight front axle. Meticulously forged and hollow-drilled, with integral spring sockets, after drilling the Molsheim craftsmen bent it into a slightly dropped form in the process of re-forging the ends closed and shaping them.
Extremely finely engineered, the Type 35 was crowned by a body of Bugatti's own design that is the epitome of form, function and beauty in its period. It looks like what it is, a racing car conceived by an instinctive, intuitive talent and executed to the highest standards of fit and finish under his demanding personal attention.
A six-car team was entered at the 1924 Grand Prix of the ACF held on an open road circuit of 23km length near Lyon over a distance of 800km (500 miles). Five cars were entered, to be driven by Jean Chassagne, Pierre de Viscaya, Leonico Garnier, Ernest Friderich and Bartolomeo Costantini, with the sixth in reserve as well as being put to good use by Ettore Bugatti for personal transportation, his use documented in several period photos.
The new Type 35s were extremely well-received with glowing descriptions by the press and onlookers. The race, however, came to an unfortunate and early end for Bugatti, due to tire failure of nearly every Type 35 entered.
The Type 35's performance improved at the Spanish Grand Prix at San Sebastian where Meo Costantini, despite a cracked radiator overflow fitting that necessitated frequent stops for more coolant late in the race, finished second after leading eventual winner Segrave's Sunbeam.
By December 1924 Bugatti had built a total of 16 Type 35s. Bugatti's discriminating customers quickly caught on, and the Type 35 proved to be a great commercial success with a cumulative total of some 211 built over the next nine years. Other Bugattis based on the Type 35 followed, sharing many of its features, including the supercharged Type 35C and the four-cylinder Type 37.
The Motorcar Offered
Only one Bugatti is at the root of the Type 35 tree. It is chassis 4323, the original prototype which accompanied Bugatti's five entrants to the 1924 Grand Prix of the ACF at Lyon.
4323 is unique not only in some of its construction details but also in its survival and history, a car that has enthralled a series of owners over the years and now has a nearly complete ownership history from new, gathered over many years by its most recent owners, the late Henry 'Hank' Haga and his wife Ellie Haga.
Its chassis side rails appear to be taken directly from the 90mm depth Type 23 but with a section and lower reinforcement gusset added in the center. The pedal crosstubes and other fittings were mostly handmade and adapted to the frame, a feature verified in a copy of an early Type 35 drawing from Molsheim clearly showing erased 90mm jaws along with the later 140mm jaws for production Type 35 frames. Similarly the front brake cable hole locations are characteristic of the Lyon Type 35s. The rear axle housings are built up from tubes, not one piece, and the original dash had its planetary gear-driven magneto positioned lower than later, production Type 35s. Externally, the front bonnet strap is farther back than on the other Lyon Type 35s and the Bugatti radiator is narrower.
After the 1924 Grand Prix of the ACF at Lyon, 4323 was consigned to London Bugatti agents Jarrott & Letts and was displayed on their stand at the 1925 Olympia auto show. Ettore had already agreed to sell it to Sir Robert Bland Bird, proprietor of Bird's Custard Company in Birmingham, and it passed ever so briefly through the London agents. The next owner was Colonel Godfrey Giles who purchased it from Sir Bird on March 11, 1928. After accumulating over 7,000 miles Col. Giles sold it on, the next known owner being John Houldsworth. He entered his newly-acquired Type 35 in the BRDC British Empire Trophy race at Brooklands in 1934 but crashed on the 31st lap, succumbing to his injuries.
The damaged 4323 proved irresistible to the son of a garage owner, Arthur Baron, who had owned other Bugattis. Acquired without its original engine, Baron then installed the engine from a Brescia and later added a supercharger to keep it competitive. Its next owner was Bobbie Pattenden in whose hands it competed in the 1939 Prescott hillclimb, recording a time of 52.29 seconds. In 1947 it was acquired by Bob Foster.
In a July 2005 letter to Ellie Haga, Foster recounted his experience a half century earlier, "Arthur [Baron] altered the car from original, wire wheels, etc. and a 4 cylinder supercharged engine and also twin rear wheels for speed hill climbing. I enjoyed the car very much, ran well, no problems. Raced it at Shelsley, Prescott, Brighton, Poole and Goodwood." Foster provided a photo of him on the course at Poole, England dated "1947-48" and later sent more photos of him and the Type 35 from the late 1940's. Foster sold it in April 1953 to Del Lee in the U.S., proprietor of the World Sport Car Center in Detroit, powered by yet another Brescia engine. Lee continued to compete in the now 30-year old Type 35, now running it on an MG TF engine. Lee later sold the car to Jack Manting. After Mr. Manting's passing, the Bugatti was stored in his widow's garage in Michigan where it languished until purchased by Mr. Haga in 1966.
Henry 'Hank' Haga, a car guy through and through, spent his entire, but sadly short, career at General Motors. A student at the Art Center School in Pasadena, he was picked out of a talented crowd in 1953 by Harley Earl, brought to Detroit and assigned to the Cadillac studio where he worked on the '55 Cadillac. Later he progressed through other production studios: Chevrolet, Pontiac, Buick and Oldsmobile. In 1963, Bill Mitchell appointed Haga design chief for a new studio, Chevy 2, which led the designs of legendary Chevrolet products; Corvette, Camaro and Vega among others. The 1968 Corvette and 1970 Camaro, two of GM's most successful and long-lived designs, were realized under Hank Haga's leadership. Shortly after arriving in Detroit, Henry Haga had met Eleanor 'Ellie' Pietruszka, a 1955 graduate of Brooklyn's Pratt Institute. Henry and Ellie married in 1957 and formed a bond that continued through Henry Haga's death in 1988 and beyond.
Within General Motors Design, there were true enthusiasts like Bill Mitchell and Henry Haga, engineers like Zora Arkus-Duntov and WWII-era chief engineer Charles Chayne who owned, preserved, restored, and cherished the greatest cars of the preceding half century. Haga was at their forefront, owning, restoring and driving a Ferrari 166MM Barchetta (s/n 0054M), 250LM (s/n 5905), 250 Europa (s/n 0341EU), a 246 Dino, 365 GTB/4 Daytona, and 512BB.
During Haga's years as head of the Chevy 2 design studio he developed a relationship with Duntov, one cemented in Haga's discovery of a neglected, MG TF 1500-powered Bugatti in a Michigan barn in 1965. Zora had met Bugatti, "the ultimate inspiration of his professional life" in 1937 "[and] the lessons of Ettore would influence his ... achievements from then on. Bugatti's cars looked right, handled right and won races not by sheer power but by superior handling." Another enthusiast designer, Dick Teague, a neighbor in Bloomfield Hills, led him to the Bugatti. "[I]t took six months of phone calls to his [Jack Manting's] widow... we bought the car for $3,600 ... with many boxes of parts which were eventually used in its restoration," Ellie Haga recollected. It was "shipped to Germany as parts in 1977, where the restoration was resumed and continued until completion in 1979 under the careful and constant scrutiny of Hugh Conway, who rebuilt the engine. Hugh's involvement began in 1967 and after many years of ongoing research, he was convinced that this 'barn' Bugatti was the prototype T35 that made its debut in 1924 as the backup car for the Lyon Grand Prix."
After completion of the restoration the Hagas brought their T35 to London for the Bugatti Club's English Rally, then featured in The Royal College of Art's "Amazing Bugattis" exhibition. In 1983 Hank Haga raced it at the Monterey Historics, then it won its class at the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance. In 1994 Ellie Haga brought it to Lyon, France for the celebration of the 70th anniversary of the 1924 Lyon Grand Prix. 1997 saw it complete the Copperstate 1000, an adventure recounted by Ellie Haga in "Pur Sang", the journal of the American Bugatti Club. In 2005 it participated in the Bugatti Rally and Race at Elkhart Lake followed by the 2010 International Bugatti Rally and race at Laguna Seca, an event that put 1,100 miles on its chassis. The engine has been rebuilt by the respected experts at High Mountain Classics.
Much credit for the survival of the Hagas' Type 35 is due its prior owners, all of whom seem on the surviving evidence to have thoroughly enjoyed it and driven it enthusiastically through its 89 year history.
Over the years it has been in Hank and Ellie Haga's care it has been lovingly and accurately restored with the advice and assistance of Hugh Conway. In engineers' fashion, Hank Haga kept thorough notes, and all the correspondence with Conway, including sketches and specifications. Correspondence with prior owners, many photographs from its past and several "Pur Sang" articles about the car and its escapades accompany it - a wonderful record of its fascinating history.
Its condition is exceptional, with the engine freshly rebuilt, but more importantly it brings its new owner a link with a long line of caretakers, culminating in the 48 year ownership of the Hagas, and documented with frequent first-person memories of the car, originating at Lyon, France in 1924 where it was used by Le Patron Ettore Bugatti at the competition introduction of the first Bugatti Type 35.
One of the most successful of all competition cars, there is only one "first" Bugatti Type 35 and it is this car.
- Please note that the title for this vehicle is in transit.