A Brief History of the Pur Sang Type 35
The Pur Sang Type 35 has the unique distinction of being the first replica car ever to appear on the pages of Silodrome. Although if the Pur Sang faithful ever hear you refer to the car as a replica, they’ll be out for your blood.
Automotive historians consider the Bugatti Type 35 to be one of the most successful racing cars of all time. It won over 1000 races in period, including the Grand Prix World Championship in 1926, the Targa Florio for 5 years straight between 1925 and 1929, and at its height it was said to be winning an average of 14 races a week.
Argentina’s relative remoteness from Europe and North America have meant that spare parts are few and far between, and the country’s strict automotive import laws have historically almost mirrored the effects of the Cuban embargo – resulting in many more vintage cars on the road than you might expect, and an entire industry that works tirelessly producing parts and keeping antiquated vehicles on the road.
A number of original Bugatti Type 35s made their way to Argentina both before and after WWII. The country is home to many automotive legends including Juan Manuel Fangio – arguably the greatest Grand Prix driver of all time. The Type 35s in Argentina suffered from a dire lack of spare parts availability, which resulted in a small ecosystem developing to create parts by hand.
By the time the 1980s rolled around there was a need for comprehensive restorations of pre-WWII vehicles, and Pur Sang was founded to offer these services to the well-heeled members of Argentina’s automotive cognoscenti.
“Pur Sang” is a French horse racing term that means something akin to “pureblood” or “thoroughbred”, and it was chosen as a name to indicate the intentions of the new company – the goal was to supply parts that were perfect, and indistinguishable from the parts built by Bugatti in France in the 1920s and ’30s.
While the company was performing a nut-and-bolt rebuild of an original Bugatti Type 35 it was decided to make drawings of all parts, and subsequently create the tooling for production. As it happens, the blueprints for the engine and many other parts were able to be sourced – which resulted in Pur Sang having the ability too build cars identical to the Type 35, right down to the square bolts and hand-shaped body panels.
Once the first Pur Sang was complete, the orders began to roll in. It was borderline impossible for Argentinians to buy an original Bugatti in Europe and import it, but they could order a new Pur Sang, and the build time for each car was only about 90 days.
As time moved on some more modern manufacturing techniques have been implemented in order to ensure that each part is identical to the original. CNC milling is used for some components, and some very subtle modernization is offered to both Pur Sang and original Bugatti Type 35 owners to improve reliability.
Bugatti experts often struggle to tell a Pur Sang from a Bugatti, which is perhaps the greatest accolade the company could ask for. Members of the Bugatti family have placed orders for their own Type 35s, as have members of royal families, and perhaps the greatest owner-ambassador is Jay Leno – who is said to be inseparable from his Pur Sang Type 35.
The Pur Sang Type 35B
The Pur Sang you see here is the Type 35B, this was the final version of the original Type 35, and many consider it to be the best. It’s fitted with a large supercharger on the righthand side of the 2.3 liter straight-8 engine, and it boasts 138 hp.
The most famous Type 35B was the one that had been painted British Racing Green in place of the original Bleu de France that is more commonly associated Bugatti. The green Type 35B was piloted by French-British driver William Grover-Williams to a win at the 1929 French Grand Prix at Le Mans.
Interestingly, Grover-Williams became an operative for the Special Operations Executive (SOE) during WWII with racing driver Robert Benoist. The two men were major figures in the French Resistance before Grover-Williams was captured in 1943.
Ordering a Pur Sang Type 35B
Pur Sang takes orders for “new” Type 35Bs from all over the world, the company’s Commercial Director John Bothwell personally handles each of the approximately 20 orders per year. John works out the exact specification of each vehicle with each client, and then test drives each car during its shakedown period.
Pur Sang has delivered dozens of cars to over 20 countries worldwide, and is now taking orders for late 2017. Each new order takes roughly 3 months to complete (depending on specification), and John ships his own personal Type 35B around the world to various races and events as a show piece – the car now has over 4200 miles on the clock and counting.