It's hard to imagine that a century ago, a car that looked like a wing-shaped tank was racing on the streets of France. But that's exactly what happened in 1923 when Bugatti unveiled its Type 32 Tank for the French Grand Prix.
The Bugatti Type 32 Tank was a radical departure from the conventional race cars of its time. It had a sleek aerodynamic body that covered the engine and the wheels, giving it a futuristic appearance. The car was designed by Ettore Bugatti, the founder of the legendary brand, who had a vision for improving racing performance through aerodynamics.
The Bugatti Type 32 Tank was powered by a 2.0-liter eight-cylinder engine that delivered around 90 horsepower - not much by today's standards, but impressive for its era. The car also had some innovative features, such as a three-speed and reverse transaxle transmission and front hydraulic brakes - both firsts for a Bugatti.
The Bugatti Type 32 Tank made its debut at the French Grand Prix in Tours on July 2, 1923. The race was held on a public road circuit that was about 14 miles long and had many twists and turns. Ernest Friedrich, one of Bugatti's mechanics and drivers, drove the car.
The car performed well in the race, reaching speeds of up to 115 mph and finishing third behind two Fiat cars. However, it also faced some challenges due to its design. The car had a low center of gravity and a short wheelbase, which made it unstable at high speeds and prone to lifting off the ground. The luxury car also had poor visibility and cooling issues due to its enclosed body.
Despite these drawbacks, the Bugatti Type 32 Tank was a groundbreaking car that paved the way for future Bugatti models. The car's aerodynamic principles were applied to the more successful Type 35 that dominated Grand Prix racing in the late 1920s and early 1930s. The car's legacy was also revived in the 1930s with the Type 57G Tank that won the Le Mans in 1937.
Today, only one of the five Type 32 Tanks still exists. It is on display at the Musée National de l'Automobile in Mulhouse, France, where it attracts visitors worldwide who want to see this remarkable piece of automotive history.
The Bugatti Type 32 Tank is a testament to Bugatti's visionary engineering and design that continues to inspire and influence the hypercars that Bugatti creates today.