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1912 Bugatti Type 16

Bugatti Type 16

1912 Bugatti Type 16

During Bugatti’s transition from designer working at Deutz in Cologne to manufacturer in his own right, the 5-liter Type 16 was under construction. As such the Type 16 lends much of characteristics from Deutz, especially in the design of the chassis. For the most part Bugatti concentrated on small-displacement cars in his immediate post-Deutz period at Molsheim, so the very few 5-liter cars produced are something extraordinary.

The engine design was revolutionary for the period and was basically a prototype for principles that would be used in Bugattis over a decade later. It had a displacement of 5,027 cc with a bore and stroke of 100 by 160 mm. The valvetrain was driven by shaft, actuating two exhaust and a single intake valve via a single overhead camshaft. Unlike other period valvetrains which were typically exposed, the Type 16’s was completed enclosed.

Drive to the rear wheels was handled by a bespoke Bugatti transmission and sent through twin chains. This was very similar to the Deutz design except the rear suspension used reversed quarter-elliptic springs which became a typical Bugatti trait. Also, the Type 16 was the only Molsheim-produced Bugatti to use twin-chain drive.

Work on the first Type 16 began as early as 1908. The engine was completed and probably used in a Deutz chassis at the 1910 Prince Henry Trial. By 1912, Bugatti launched the model as a proper car and as many as eight five liter engines were made. One of them was used in the famous Black Bess car owned by aviator Roland Garros.

Chassis & Sales

471-The first Type 16, it was driven by Ettore Bugatti at Le Mans and the Mont Ventoux hillclimb where he placed first in class in fourth overall. In 1914, Bugatti sold it to HRH The Duke of Bavaria who replaced its pointy body with one in a touring style. In this body style it passed through several owners including Swiss motorcycle racer Bruno Martinelli and British Bugatti collector Colonel Giles. When owned by Nigel Arnold-Forster, a replica of the original body was created, but the radiator and hood were retained.

In its proper guise 471 was campaigned at the 1981 Vintage Sports-Car Club Speed Trial and reached 108 mph. It also appeared at the 2009 Goodwood Festival of Speed in preparation for its upcoming sale by Bonhams at their Fine Vintage and Collectors’ Motorcars Auction in Reims, France. They described the car as “the oldest known racing Bugatti and indeed a magnificent example of an Edwardian racing car, having exceptional performance, and is significant in that it was the personal competition car of the great man himself.”

Story by Richard Owen

Pictures & Gallery

See full 1912 Bugatti Type 16 Gallery here

Specs & Performance

type Racing Car
built at Molsheim, France
engine Inline-4
valvetrain SOHC
displacement 5027 cc / 306.8 in³
bore 100 mm / 3.94 in
stroke 160 mm / 6.3 in
power 74.6 kw / 100 bhp @ 2800 rpm
specific output 19.89 bhp per litre
driven wheels RWD
front tires 820x120mm
rear tires 820x120mm
wheelbase 2550 mm / 100.4 in
tran clutch Multi-Plate
top speed ~159.3 kph / 99.0 mph