Skip to main content

The 1924 Bugatti Type 35: The inspo for 100 years of performance and handling

The Bugatti Type 35 set a mold for record-breaking performance that continues today

Left front three-quarter photo of a Bugatti Type 35 race car,
Courtesy Bugatti Trust / Courtesy Bugatti Trust

If cars had DNA, a paint chip or drop of engine oil from the beautiful blue Bugatti Type 35 in the images above and below would prove ancestry to every Bugatti in the past 100 years. Designed and engineered as a pure race car in the early 1920s, the Type 35 set a mold for record-breaking performance that continues to guide the Molsheim, France-based automaker.

Why the 100-year-0ld Bugatti Type 35 matters today

The Type 35 was Bugatti’s first record-breaker. Bugatti recently released images of the Bugatti Type 35, some of which are included below, courtesy of the Bugatti Trust.

Today, any conversation involving the fastest cars in the world includes Bugatti. A Bugatti Chiron Super Sport 300+ was the first car to top 300 mph when race car driver Andy Wallace drove it 304.7 mph in the current record run 2019.

True to the brand’s history, Bugatti didn’t call it a day after breaking the 300 mph barrier in 2019. Most recently, Bugatti announced that its next hypercar, expected this summer, will be powered by a Bugatti V-16 hybrid engine. The timing may be right for the next Bugatti to face a worthy challenger.

Hennessey took the then-current speed record from Bugatti in 2014, only to relinquish the title to Bugatti in 2019. Hennessey, a performance upfitter and hypercar brand, plans another run at the speed record sometime this year with the Hennessey Venom F5, which Hennessey claims has already driven 301 mph. Hennessey’s goal for this year is 311 mph.

The Hennessey could test the spirit of the Bugatti Type 35, but it would be foolhardy to count Bugatti out.

The story of the Bugatti Type 35

Headlights, radiator, and proud front of a Bugatti Type 35.
Courtesy Bugatti Trust / Courtesy Bugatti Trust

The Type 35 didn’t do well in its first race 100 years ago. Founder Ettore Bugatti diverted from the standard race car design of the times with the relatively light open racecar with a V8 engine. Conventional race car builders of the time built huge, heavy race cars with the largest engines available. Built for agile handling, the Type 35 debuted in the 1924 Grand Prix at Lyon-Givors. The race consisted of 35 laps on a public road circuit covering 23.1 kilometers (14.35 miles). Bugatti entered five Type 35s in the race with mixed results.

Most of the problems in the race started with specially manufactured tires mounted on the Type 35’s cast aluminum wheels. The aluminum wheels, which Bugatti chose for their lightweight, proved strong enough for the race, including periods of driving on rims when treading on the tires separated from the tires due to fault vulcanizing. One driver head the tread separate from the tire sidewall on the first lap of the race. Another driver lost tread but kept going and had the fastest lap of the race even though he couldn’t engage second or fourth gear because a piece of loose tread wrapped around the gear lever.

Failing to win during the Type 35’s initial contest, Bugatti still had faith in the car. Securing tires from a different manufacturer, Ettore Bugatti drove a Type 35  on a 520-kilometer route from Strasbourg to Paris. Bugatti completed the journey at an average speed of almost 100 kilometers an hour (62 mph).

After the Paris run, Bugatti wrote, “Ten of these cars have been built. They are almost all sold to customers. Some have already been delivered and are a joy to their owners. One can use them as easily in town as in any race. I hope to make a better demonstration of the quality of my construction on the next occasion.”

In subsequent events, the Type 35 won more than 2,500 automobile races.

Editors' Recommendations

Bruce Brown
Digital Trends Contributing Editor Bruce Brown is a member of the Smart Homes and Cars teams. He also writes technology news…
Range Rover shows its dark side with the Range Rover Sport Stealth Pack
Would you speed by this car if it was parked on the side of the highway?
Right side profile shot of a 2025 Range Rover Sport Dynamic SE with Stealth Pack parked on desert sand between two black monoliths.

Range Rover dropped a new appearance package for the 2025 Range Rover Sport. The Stealth Pack option, available solely for the Sport Dynamic SE model, doesn't boost the SUV's performance but focuses on looks. According to a Jaguar Land Rover news release, buyers will choose the Stealth Pack for its visceral effect on the Range Rover Sport's appearance. Whether you think it looks sporty, powerful, or scary may depend on what movies you watch or where you drive.

Why the Range Rover Sport Stealth Pack matters

Read more
50 years ago, the Audi 50 launch set the mold for decades of small cars
The Volkswagen Golf continues a legacy from another car company
A yellow Audi 50 pared on the side of a roadway with a large red concrete building in the background.

Timing might not be everything, but it worked for the Volkswagen Group in the 1970s. When the first oil crisis hit in 1973, Audi, a member of the VW Group, was about to begin production of the Audi 50, a small car that emphasized fuel economy. Introduced fifty years ago, the 1974 Audi 50's small hatchback design lives on today in the 2024 Volkswagen Golf GTI and Golf R.
Why the Audi 50 mattered

As the image of youthful exuberance in the Audi 50 approaching the Brandenburg Gate shows in the advertisement above, Audi targeted the image of free-spirited independence and good times for the Audi 50's compact body style. Its relatively low fuel consumption and purchase price appealed to first-time buyers and anyone looking for a car that didn't suck down liters or gallons of gasoline. Audi never sold the Audi 50 in the U.S., but another car from the Volkswagen Group found a ready market in America.

Read more
Dodge Hornet R/T with PowerShot: It’s all about that torque
Dodge built a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle for your inner child
Red 2024 Dodge Hornet RT parked on a city street left front three-quarter view.

The transformation from cars with internal combustion engines (ICEs) to full battery-electric vehicles (BEVs) has different looks, depending on your perspective. The Stellantis Dodge division recently shared its perspective on electrification with a video that showcases its favorite feature from the 2024 Dodge Hornet R/T with Powershot, the brand's first plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV). The Inner Child Intervention video clarifies that, from Dodge's perspective, it's all about that torque.

Inner Child Intervention | Dodge Hornet R/T
Why the Dodge Hornet  R/T with PowerShot matters

Read more