On the home page of my website (www.simonlewis.com) is a photo of a bloke in a black hat looking somewhat shocked to be sitting behind the wheel of a Bugatti T35 Grand Prix car. The bloke is me. The place is the campsite at Prescott Hillclimb and the date is August 2nd 2019….ooo look! Here it is again…the uncropped version.
That’s me.. in the picture…in a Bugatti !
This was on the Friday evening of the event , our bookstall had been all set up , it was getting late and my daughter Charlotte and I went for a wander in the camping field which, as I phrased it in a previous blog, is “Like Glastonbury for vintage cars” . It’s all tents and camper vans, caravans and barbeques, smoke, burger, bottles of beer, wine and spirits with great cars at every turn and ocassional musical entertainment thrown in.
So there we were just taking in the scene: there’s an Alvis, here’s a pair of Lancia Lambdas, don’t trip over the Maserati (above) and squeeze past the Amilcar avoiding the ropes of that tent… and we came across a nice trio of cars .
An Ulster Austin 7 , a Frazer Nash and a Bugatti T35, sat minding their own business. Charlotte’s like me, takes a lot of photos, in fact my Facebook page is full of them as she can get away from the book stand easier than me and has more opportunity at events. She started snapping away at these three, patinated, hard working vintage racers when a voice said “Have a sit in one if you like. Any of them – take your pick.”
Charlotte, being a little shy, declined…me being an overgrown schoolboy at heart, didn’t.
Given the choice which would you have gone for? Yes. Naturally. A Bugatti is… a Bugatti after all. So I climbed aboard it and instantly realized with a sinking feeling that even a Lottery win was not going to allow me to drive one of these very easily as my right foot covered both the tiny throttle and brake pedals. Completely.With my left foot on the clutch I couldn’t really move either foot. They were jammed in so tight. And to the right of the throttle is a small S-shaped chain , the purpose of which I forget, but according to my host, Kristoffer Aarhus-Hudson , it did tend to “chew at your right shoe a bit” while driving. I guess some tight racing boots would largely solve the problem but it makes you wonder how small the average Bugatti driver was in 1926.
But then the entire car was really small. I have no doubt that back in the day I would have cracked the ribs of a riding mechanic with my elbow before the end of the first lap. It was very snug and apart from the oversized feet/small pedal situation, everything else fell nicely to hand: the large wood-rim wheel, the brake and gear levers on the outside on the cockpit to the right, the gauges on the dash. Lovely. Perfect!
Thanks to Kristoffer for allowing me a dreamy moment at the wheel of a Bugatti.
When I climbed back out we had a chat and it turned out he knew who I was having watched a lot of my Youtube videos on VSCC Trialling. Charlotte then helped peel the backing off the race numbers he was applying to the Austin, by dint of her having sharper finger nails than the rest of us, who were all failing in the task miserably.
We strolled on, inhaling more BBQ smoke and drooling over the cars rather than the food: Talbots, Rileys, a GN, Bentleys, a Lea Francis, MGs of various vintages from J2 to A and B and even a Bedford RL Army truck that had been sympathetically turned into a motor home.
And on the Saturday night we had another stroll, finding more glorious cars from a sinister black Citroen DS19 to an ugly new, prototype Bentley (which being an idiot I didn’t actually photograph…) ending up socialising with our friends , fellow Suzuki X90 trialists, Jon and Nimi Mellor who we competed against on the Lands End Trial at Easter. Their X90 will be up for sale after the forthcoming Edinburgh Trial in October. If anyone fancies a well prepared, rugged, low-cost trials car thats on the button and ready to go, just let me know and I’ll put you in touch.
Another thoroughly enjoyable Precott evening it was. Pity about the big feet…