1921 Bugatti Type 13 Grand Prix poster
Ettore Bugatti was born into a wealthy artistic Italian family in Milan on the 15th September 1881. From an early age he showed enthusiasm for engineering and built his first automobile, the ‘Bugatti Type 1’, in 1898, at the tender age of seventeen. He further developed his engineering craft with a number of German companies, until he joined Deutz of Cologne in 1907 and with them he moved up the ranks until becoming head of their production department.
In 1909 he established his first company under his own name in a disused tannery in Molsheim, in the then German Alsace region, enjoying considerable success due to the fine engineering of his early range of sports cars, and developing his lightweight Type 10 into the Type 13 racer.
Production was interrupted in 1914 by the Great War, and Ettore took his completed vehicles to Milan for the duration of hostilities, but when he returned to Molsheim, five Type 13s were prepared for competition. These proved to be an enormous success, sporting an innovative 4 valves per cylinder and short wheelbase chassis.
By 1920 Bugatti had established his marque as a force to be reckoned with in voiturette racing, a class for lightweight cars with engines limited to 1500cc. When four cars were entered in the voiturette class of the newly established Italian Grand Prix at the Brescia circuit, they took the first four places, and orders poured in. Capitalising on this victory, all 16 valve Bugattis were subsequently nicknamed ‘Brescia’. The power to weight ratio and impressive handling enabled the tiny speedsters to overcome much larger machines, and became the key to Bugatti’s racing success for many years to come.