Bugatti’s long history has an important chapter in London, where its owners’ club was first founded.
The scene couldn’t be more indicative of the Bugatti brand. It was on December 18, 1929, that three Bugatti owners met over a meal to discuss the foundation of an owners’ club for those who are passionate about their Bugatti cars, and the restaurant they met at was London’s famous Simpson’s in the Strand. By the time the first issue of Bugantics, the Bugatti Owners’ Club Magazine in which this meeting was described, was released, the club had organized loose-surface hill climb courses in England for Bugatti owners to show their mettle with their famously capable cars. However, the club wanted a permanent place to call home.
It was in 1937 that the Prescott Estate and country house were purchased by one of the men at the first meeting at Simpson’s with his brother. They saw the potential for racing in the worn drive of the house and got to work getting the surface ready for motorsport. The first runs on the hill were held in April 1938, led by the owner’s Type 18 Bugatti “Black Bess.” The first timed runs on the hill in May 1938 were led by Arthur Baron with a time of 50.70 seconds in a Type 51 Bugatti, beating Jack Lemon Burton’s similar car by a scant 0.04 seconds.
By 1939, Jean Bugatti and the company’s Le Mans-winning driver, Jean-Pierre Wimille attended the Bugatti Owners’ Club’s first international event. The car Bugatti brought was a Type 59 that unfortunately did not take the fastest time of the day. Ettore Bugatti also brought a Type 51 to the event, and it is said that the car he brought is possibly one that a modern Bugatti Owners’ Club member has rebuilt and restored. While the house was since sold, the Bugatti Owners’ Club still has ownership of the 69-acre estate and the course. In less than a mile, the course rises 200 feet and goes through both slow and fast corners, short straights, and a challenging hairpin. Bugatti cars of old still drive the track after more than 80 years, in the midst of the legendary Cotswolds, and the estate is also home to the Bugatti Trust, which is responsible for keeping over 27,000 historic Bugatti documents and 10,000 Bugatti images. Both of these organizations are dedicated to keeping Bugatti’s history alive and passion for Bugatti in the United Kingdom and all over the world alive, as well.