Skip to main content

Bugatti T251

Bugatti T251 1950s classic GP car

The Bugatti T251 was designed by Gioacchino Colombo. He had formerly worked for Ferrari. F1 cars of the era were typically front-engined - but Columbo's T251 broke with that tradition. Its straight-eight engine was placed behind the driver. The 5-speed Porsche gearbox - and final drive - were unitary with the motor. That gave weight distribution way ahead of its time. All this sat in a tubular space-frame chassis. It was hitched up to deDion axles. The fuel tanks flanked the driver. Again, that presaged later developments in F1.

The catalyst for the T251 was Jacques Bolore. He had recently married into the Bugatti family. It was not long before he was influencing the way the company was run. Since founder Ettore Bugatti's death - in 1947 - racing had been put on hold by the firm. But Bolore had a vision of Bugatti back in F1. Enter the T251! It was unveiled in late '55 - at an airfield, close to Bugatti's Molsheim base. It was there, too, that the car was first put through its paces - though not until March of the following year. Tester was Maurice Trintignant. The T251 was subsequently entered for Reims' French GP. But not without concerns - for testing had revealed serious flaws! Both designer Columbo - and driver Trintignant - were adamant that further development was required. But Bolore's mind was made up. He wanted to go racing - and it was he who now held the reins of power!

Two 251s subsequently went to Reims. In the event, it was all a bit of an anti-climax. The T251's avant-garde weight distribution provided top-notch traction - especially out of slower corners. High-speed handling, though, was hairy! The 251 qualified 18th out of 20 starters. Ironically, it was to retire after 18 laps! The pretext given was that the throttle was sticking ... but it was clear that the T251 was way off the pace. And with Bugatti coffers depleted, there was no money for more development, anyway. All in all, then, a sad end to Bugatti's return to top-flight racing. The T251 project rather fizzled out in a damp squib of under-achievement.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

FN Four

In terms of breakthroughs in the history of motorcycling, there cannot be many to rival the first in-line four engine. Belgium was the birthplace of this landmark layout. FN was the much-to-be-thanked manufacturer.The FN Four first hit the highway in 1911. It produced 4bhp. That, from a 491 cc capacity. At the time, such figures described state-of-the-art technology. Top speed for the FN Four was 40mph. Not bad - for an 8-valve inlet-over-exhaust set-up. Oh, it was air-cooled.The FN Four was light - tipping the scales at 165lb dry. Not only the motor, but the chassis, too, was avant-garde. It featured an early form of telescopic forks. A new-fangled clutch - and 2-speed 'box - only added to the FN Four's slick box of tricks. Solid shaft-drive output the power. Who, then, designed this visionary vintage? You will not hear the name Paul Kelekom shouted from motorcycling's rooftops. But, you should - for it was he who fashioned the FN Four. In so doing, he ki…

Gilera Saturno

Gilera was a big player in the realm of 1950s motorbike manufacturing. After that, the firm met with mixed fortunes. Gilera's Fifties flagship - the Saturno - was launched in '46. Rolled out in 'Sport', 'Touring', and 'Competition' modes, the Saturno would sell well for years.The Saturno 'production racer' was a hit both on road and track. Competitive for many seasons, it remained so for some time after its production run finished - at the fag-end of the '50s.In road-going form, the Saturno stayed tethered to the tarmac - thanks to its telescopic forks, and vertical rear shocks. Indeed, it would gain a reputation as a 'performance bike' of its day. Towards the end, Gilera was linked with Piaggio, Vespa - and the scooter scene, generally. Illustrious though those names still were, Gilera's glory days were behind it. Bikes like the Saturno, though, still shone a light for past success.

NSU Ro80

The styling of the NSU Ro80 was ahead of its time. At first glance, masses of glass were straight out of science-fiction. Closer inspection revealed the gently rising line of its profile - giving it a low front, high back stance - which would influence automotive design for years to come. The 5-seater body was supremely aerodynamic for a saloon car - making cruising at speed a breeze. So flawless was it outwardly that it was hardly touched in ten years of production. Just the tail-lights were modified, on later versions.The Ro80's handling was equally impressive. FWD - and precision power-steering - kept it perfectly pointed. The long-travel strut suspension soaked up bumps. High-efficiency disc brakes were fitted all round. The 3-speed semi-automatic transmission swept through the gears with aplomb. Top speed was a sound 112mph.But, of course, nothing is perfect. The Ro80 was powered by a twin-rotor Wankel engine. Unfortunately - in a rush to get the car into showroom…