WORLD’S OLDEST RUNNING BUGATTI

Most people can take the hint that they don’t belong somewhere. Not me as it would seem. While visiting Arizona last year, I mistakenly walked into a ritzy event next to Lamborghini Scottsdale. I was blissfully oblivious to the cocktail waitresses, the men in velvet suits, and the exotic looking snack trays. No, I didn’t pick up on any of this, and instead gravitated towards the array of interesting cars out front. That’s where I met a man named Allan Travis. I use the term “met” loosely, because he stopped talking to me after realizing that I wasn’t exactly on the guest list. My tattered shorts and flip-flops may have given it away. Instead of conversing with plebeian filth like myself, he suddenly grew an interest in the two attractive women who’d just walked up -Not saying I don’t blame him. As he walked away chatting up the two girls, I distantly overheard him say , “Well, I was talking to Jay Leno earlier…”

That’s when it finally hit me… I really wasn’t supposed to be there. -Yes it took me that long, and yes I’m an idiot. Regardless, it left me standing alone next to his car. And what a car.

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The oval grille and the patinated badge were unmistakably Bugatti. And not just any Bugatti. A 1913 Bugatti Type 22. Also this one happens to be the oldest running Bugatti, period. No joke, the guy drove it to the event, and I’m told he races it. Pretty impressive, considering this Type 22 is over 100 years old and uses leather rod bearings. It was even hand-built by Old Man Bugatti himself, complete with an immeasurably rare valve cover bearing his signature. Bugatti. Hell, that alone is probably worth more than anything I’ve owned -or ever will.

Following a number of dirty looks from the actual guests, and camera in hand, I managed to snag a couple of shots just for you. And not too soon, because moments afterward a well dressed man asked me which group I was with. After failing to produce a convincing answer he promptly asked that I leave lest he call security.

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Leaving presented it’s own challenges. Subtle isn’t what comes to mind when one hears my car’s exhaust, and it didn’t help that my parked car was now impeding the flow of traffic into the event. I carefully threaded it through the mass of stopped Porsches and Bentleys, waving sheepishly at their disgruntled drivers who’d now be late for their afternoon hors d’oeuvres.

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Turns out Mr. “I’m to rich for you” Travis wasn’t joking about the Jay Leno thing. Following the event, both he and the Bugatti popped up on an episode of “Jay Leno’s Garage”. Definitely worth a watch, if anything to marvel at the sort of upper crust who can afford to own timeless beauty... A car that’s maybe a little out of place. And no, I still can’t take a hint.

Little plaque above the licence plate is from a dealership in 1913. Yes, dealers did that 100 years ago too.
Photo: Matt West (throttlewarrior.com)

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