Bugatti’s Lightweight Type 13 Superstar Is 100 Years Old

Bugatti Brescia
Ernst Friderich victorious in the Type 13- Image: Bugatti Trust

The humble Bugatti Type 13 ‘Brescia’ is celebrating its 100th birthday in 2021 and we look back at how the open-top miniature racer made light work of it’s heavyweight challengers throughout a distinguished and long racing career.

Just 490 kilograms and a water-cooled four-cylinder engine with a sniff under 1.5 litres of grunt was enough to propell the spritely race car up to a top speed of 150 km/h – a speed that 100 years ago only heavyweights and and their aeroplane engines could achieve.

It was obvious that times were changing and visionary, Ettore Bugatti had already sussed out that being overweight and less agile in any competitive race would seriously put the brakes on future success in motorsport… the Type 10 was already in the design pipeline and it’s automotive diet reflected a much lighter machine.

Bugatti Type 13

Work had initially began on the iconic Type 13 way back in 1910 and was continually developed and improved over the next few years… eventually taking it to a new level in 1921 when the giant killing Type 13 ‘Brescia’ was unleashed.

Unfortunately for Bugatti, any further planned improvements to the nimble racer were soon scuppered due to World War 1 with the marque delivering a modified variant in 1919 boasting modern four-valve technology.

Bugatti Type 13

Luigi Galli, Specialist Heritage & Certification at Bugatti:
“What already set Bugatti cars apart 100 years ago was high material performance and quality, as well as careful workmanship. This made the legendary Type 13 not only the fastest, but also the most agile and reliable car on the Grand Prix racetracks of the last century, and caused a sensation from its very first appearances at the beginning of the 1920s“

Unbeaten and leaving all in it’s dusty wake, the fearless Type 13 celebrated its greatest triumph at the Grand Prix for Voiturettes in Brescia in September 1921, where no less than four of it’s brothers finished in top four places. A remarkable achievement never to be equalled then or now.

Even the gangsters and machine guns couldn’t stop the car winning every race it entered, especially mountain races with tight bends, potholes, sand, and piles of stones… the lightweight, Molsheim racing machine had the edge over it’s less agile cumbersome and powerful competitors.

Bugatti Type 13

Type 13 Golden Era

The iconic Bugatti Type 13 was fundamental in the marques historic success, prompting a golden era for the company. No less than 711 cars were produced brandishing the 16-valve racing engine and a further 388 featuring engines with ball bearing crankshafts.

Bugatti Type 13 'Brescia'
Bugatti Type 13 ‘Brescia’

Bugatti continued to implement the concept of the Type 13 successfully with different vehicle lengths, for example in the Type 15, Type 17, Type 22 and Type 23. The Type 13 was produced in Molsheim until 1926. The company sold around 2,000 of the model in total.

Employees were already beginning to assemble the Type 35 in 1925 which took the successful series forward, and followed in the tyre tracks of its legendary predecessor.

Over the next few years, it was to become the most successful race car of all time, clocking up over 2,000 victories.

This year’s London Classic Car Show will celebrate the historic 1-2-3-4 finish for Bugatti’s iconic Type 13 in the 1921 Brescia Grand Prix at the new outdoor location of Syon Park from 25-27 June.

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