Editor: Jaap Horst
The ‘Howe Motor Works 1927 Bugatti 35B 'Têcla'' is a rather special one-of-a-kind motor car. Classified as homemade, it is an example of a category which includes two genres. The first of these are kit cars, made to fit either an existing chassis or platform, or in some cases, a custom made chassis. These are built In factories to be assembled by end users. The second, and one of which this is an outstanding example, are handcrafted scratch-built ‘back yard’ specials. This car was conceived, designed, engineered and constructed from the ground up to emulate the almost mythical 1927 Bugatti Type 35B. Of all the great cars that could have inspired such a special, why this one? The answer of course is subjective and very personal. Perhaps it has something to do with the record and romance of Ettore Bugatti’s creations.
Most people are surprised to learn that Bugatti cars were built in France and are considered the most exotic of all the great French marques. The name implies that they should be Italian, and they might have been if Ettore Bugatti, who was born in Milan, had not left Italy as a young man. Before starting to build cars for sale under his own name, he worked for a number of automobile manufacturing firms as a consultant; designing for the German car makers De Dietrich, Mathis and Deutz, and in France, Peugeot. In 1910, he set up shop in Molsheim in Alsace. part of Germany before WW I, and began to build Bugattis: cars that would become legendary. To many, they are the most beautiful ever conceived.
From about 1924, the Bugatti Type 35 dominated motor racing for a period of six or seven years as has no other car either before or since. It still Is quite simply the most successful racing car of all time. Although there were many versions of the Type 35, there never vas a Type 35B ‘Técla’. According to noted Bugatti authority Hugh Conway, a ‘Course Imitation’ was produced from May 1925 to some time in 1930. This was the Type 35A, marketed to take advantage of the success of the Type 35B GP racer. Unofficially the Type 35A was known as the ‘Boy Racer’ and was nicknamed ‘Técla’ by the Bugatti factory after the popular make of cultured pearls.
Although the Type 35A had the same body and chassis as the 35B, the less powerful Type 38 touring car engine was installed. The 35A was usually sold with Rudge wire spoke wheels rather than the cast alloy flat spoke wheels with integral brake drums seen on other versions of the Type 35. Capable of a top speed of only 90 MPH (at 4,500 RPM), it did not have the performance potential of the Type 35B, which could exceed 125 MPH. Nevertheless, a substantially lower price made it very popular in sporting circles. A total of 135 of these in-line eight cylinder Type 35As were produced.
In a sense, the 1.6 litre ‘Howe Motor Works 1927 Bugattl 358 Técla' is more like Bugatti’s Type 37 in that it too has a four cylinder engine. The Type 37, a 1.5 litre racing model with the same chassis and body as the Type 35, was also sold in a sportsman GP 'replica’ version. It is a simpler car that is much easier to maintain, and it was considerably cheaper than even the type 35A. Total production reached 270 by 1930.
When they first encounter this special many assume that it Is a restored example of a real Bugatti. This is prompted no doubt by the fact that this car has in aluminium body; great attention has been paid to detail and, the design is faithful to the period in many respects. The misconception is reinforced because most Bugatti replicars seen in North America have fiberglass bodies with major design and detail compromises that makes their genesis far more obvious. This car isn’t a real Bugatti of course, but it is as much a ‘real’ Bugatti as is the 1991 EB11O or the 2004 EB 16-4 Veyron. The name was purchased for these cars. This 35B Técla’s ‘Bugatti’ radiator badge was bought for a personal hand-crafted car that was never intended for sale. It is art; an automotive sculpture. The Bugatti trade name was purchased by Romano Artioli who bought the dormant marque in 1987 to build cars in Italy. Some of these 12 cylinder 552 Bhp Bugatti EB1l0s were sold before bankruptcy. Subsequently, Volkswagen Group acquired the rights to Bugatti and are developing their EB 16-4 Veyron for production in Molsheim. In these cases, the name Is the only connection to real Bugattis.
This Técla is a pearl: an outstanding example of a special inspired by a car of the past. It was built as an engineering exercise by Derrick and Peter Howe over a period of five years and was first licensed in 1990. Since building their faux Bugatti. the father and son team founded Howe Motor Works in Burlington Ontario, a firm that provides restoration and maintenance services for both road and racing vintage motor cars. The Howes chose to name their car the ‘1927 Bugatti 358 ‘Técla”, a combination of Bugatti Type 35 model names that avoids calling the car an irritation of an imitation, or even naming it after a car that ever existed. Their choice reflects their knowledge of the history of the marque. In addition to knowing Bugatti history, some of Derrick’s knowledge of Bugattis is first hand; he worked on a number of these cars in England, including a Brescia (Type 23), an Atalante (Type 57S) and of course, a Type 35. I added the 'Howe Motor Works' prefix to the name in recognition of the Howe’s artistic and engineering achievements.
How does this car compare to the original? For one thing, it Is much simpler and much less expensive. The Bugatti 35B engine is a SOHC head-in-block in-line-eight with three valves per cylinder and a Rootes type blower, an exotic and beautiful piece of machinery that Is most difficult to work on. Parts are not easily obtained and are expensive. In comparison, the engine in the Howe is an in-line, cross-flow hemi-head OHV four with two valves per cylinder and a single dual-throat down draft carburettor. It is tractable and reliable, parts are available, and are inexpensive.
This car Is a bit larger than the Bugatti Type 35 because of chassis design and building considerations. More importantly, the more generous dimensions provide a more spacious and comfortable cockpit. Originally, both had 19" wheels, with 4.50 X 19 tires on the Molshern built cars, and slightly larger 1930 Ford model "A" welded spoke wheels with 4.75-5.00 X 19 tires on the Burlington built special. These have since been replaced with 1933 Aston Martin Le Mans wire spoke wheels mounting 4.50 X 18 Dunlop tires. The difference in size between the two cars, is quite apparent when comparing pictures; the wheels on Bugatti’s 35B appear to be larger in diameter relative to those on the Howe’s 35B.
As far as performance is concerned, the Técla goes. stops and handles very well. It is a very nice car to drive with relatively neutral steering. Although the bias ply tires are made to fit old wheels, the rubber is modern and provides better overall performance and longer life than tires built in the late twenties and early thirties. The relatively modern hydraulic brakes are more effective and efficient than its inspiration’s mechanical brakes.
The Técla’s acceleration may be Inhibited somewhat by the size of the wheels with relation to its final drive ratio. The rear axle was originally installed on a car with much smaller wheels and the final gear ratio reflects this. As a result, all of the gears are a bit tall. However, the engine develops 102 Bhp (as opposed to the 35A’s 75 Bhp or the Type 37’s 60 Bhp) and 100 ft/lbs of torque, which is sufficient for the relatively light weight car to overcome its tall gearing. It exhibits surprisingly brisk and sporting acceleration. One advantage of this tall over-all gearing is the almost overdrive like low RPM at cruising speeds.
Performance is also effected by the power to weight ratio. The Type 35A and 37 Bugattis are much lighter, the heaviest being at least 500 pounds lighter than the 1840 pound Howe Técla. This gives the 35A an only slightly better power to weight ratio than the Howe Técla and puts the Type 37 at a slight disadvantage. Power to weight Is not the final arbiter; final gear ratios for the Types 35A and 37 more closely meet the needs of the Bugattis. It is estimated that the top speed of the Howe 353 Técla is about 100 MPH. This is theoretical, since this speed has not been attempted nor is it likely to be. At comfortable highway cruising speeds, and up to at least 85 Mph, the car performs admirably Nothing could touch the Bugatti's handling in its heyday. The very light pressed steel C section chassis is stiffened by the engine which is used as a cross member and an integral part of the chassis design. The locking wire also contributes to the stiffness of the car and is said by some to be an early experiment in monocoque design. The result is good control of wheel movement over a wide range of road surfaces. The Howe chassis is much stiffer since the engine cannot be used as a structural part of the chassis, and on this car the wire only keeps the body fastening bolts from loosening, and does not contribute to the cars structural integrity. Nevertheless the chassis provides good wheel location control, resulting in handling that is consistent and predictable. The suspension design Is similar to that used by Bugatti (and other cars of the era) and the handling matches the performance potential of the car. Although perhaps not as good as a real Bugatti under the best of conditions, the car handles remarkably well and feels like a 1927 sports car.
So here we have a car that looks like a Bugatti. It does not have the forged front axle with the springs passing through the axle, one of the things that gives it away as not a ‘real’ Bugatti. The bodywork fit and finish is equal to an original factory issue Type 35, but the polished steel and alloy under the hood is not in evidence which is another thing that gives it away. It has left hand drive; all Bugatti cars, with the exception of the modern resurrections are right hand drive. Those not familiar with Bugattis can easily be fooled, and some are disappointed when they learn this car’s heritage.
The main components of the Howe start with the chassis, which is fabricated from two inch square steel tubing. The design is a modified parallel rail ladder type. Upper and lower tubing is formed into channels boxed in from the fire wail forward as well as behind the cockpit. The chassis rails taper to relatively shallow dumb irons at the front spring mounts to a fairly deep section just behind the engine mounts, through the cockpit to the kick up at the rear springs’ front hangers. The suspension is live axle. with semi-eliptic leaf springs providing for axle location as well as the springing medium. The front axle is custom made by Linken Manufacturing. Friction ‘T, 8. Andre ‘Hartford” type dampers built by Derrick Howe, are employed at the front The rear springs, shocks and axle are 1972 Toyota Corolla 1600.
The brakes are vacuum power assisted hydraulic. The large finned drums at the front are circa 1969 Chevrolet with the brake shoes narrowed to reduce braking power. The rear brakes are stock 1972 Toyota Corolla. Hydraulic cylinders and reservoirs for the brakes (and clutch) as well as the vacuum booster are mounted under the cockpit floor to keep the engine compartment uncluttered. These components can be inspected and serviced through floor and under seat access flaps. The mechanical parking brake lever mounted outside the cockpit. is a fly-off type.
The engine, rebuilt by Peter Howe, is from a 1972 Toyota Corolla 1600 hatchback (as is the four speed transmission and final drive). The automatic choke, fan, vacuum retard, and mechanical fuel pump have all been removed from the original 2TC engine. A manually operated fast idle system replaces the choke, and an electric fuel pump fitted under the fuel tank (located in the boat-tail) delivers gasoline to the carburetor.
The Toyota radiator is modified and shaped to fit snugly in the inverted horse shoe (some say egg- shaped) radiator shell. A thermostatically controlled electric fan (which very rarely turns on) is mounted behind the radiator.
Parts from cars other than the 1972 Toyota Corolla include the steering gearbox, which is a ZF cam and roller type from a Volvo; the head lamps, and tail lamps which are 1930 Ford Model ‘A’; the front turning signals. which are Lucas (as fitted to the 1949 MG TC); and the wings, which are 1933 MG PA with the mounting brackets located on the inside rather than on the outside of the fender. The body shell is made of aluminum over wood framing with felt between the frame and the body. Classic Car Craft of Mississauga Ontario, specialists in Mercedes Benz 300 SL series cars, constructed the shell for Peter and Derrick. Aluminum is also used for the cowl bulkhead / instrument panel which is a solid 0.25" thick and is engine turned. The front bulkhead (fire-wall) is made of laminated 0.0625" aluminum and wood, and also has an engine turned finish. The cowl section between the bulkheads is reinforced with an extra layer of aluminum.
Custom designed components include the Brooklands screens; steering wheel; fly-off hand brake; wire-lock body bolts; front friction type dampers; front springs; and, the leather straps that hold down the hood and spare tyre; all handcrafted by Derrick Howe. I designed and built the leather and brass windscreen deflectors, and adapted a Schlage door latch-set knob to replace the original wooden gear shift knob. The instrument/control panel includes a brake proportioning control valve; the illuminated main lights and fog lamp pull type switches; turn signal, hazard, headlamp 'passing' flasher/fog lamp dip, fuel pump, and ignition switches, and push button momentary switches for the starter and the horn. The hazard, headlamp flasher and fog lamp switches and functions are recent modifications that I made. The original complement of VDO 'Cockpit Royale' instruments include a Speedometer (calibrated in Mph with an odometer and trip meter), Tachometer, Fuel, Water Temperature, Oil Pressure, and Voltmeter 'Magneto' gauges. I augmented the instrumentation by adding VDO Oil Temperature and Ampere 'Magneto' gauges, and a SMITHS Vacuum gauge rebuilt and modified with a new face created on a desktop publisher to match the appearance of the VDO instruments. A Gallet rally stop-watch/chronograph pair and a typical '20s type instrument panel/map light were the first additions that I made to the car.
This is a work still in progress. One of the earliest changes was to replace the original mirrors. The left mirror, mounted on the Brooklands screen, is a 1927-28 Ford open car windshield post mirror. The central mirror is a Lucas wing-mount type (1949 MG TC) modified to fit the central ball-mount bracket. Later changes include the addition of arm rests, a picnic hamper mounted on the spare tyre; a Lucas SFT700S (1950 Jaguar Mk V) fog lamp; authentic Wefco leather gaiters for the front springs; replacement of the original hydraulic hoses with stainless steel braided line; and, the refinishing of the front suspension components. During the winter of '97/'98, the Ford Model 'A' welded spoke wheels wheels were replaced with vintage Aston Martin (Rudge-Whitworth type) wire spoke wheels. These are mounted on modified Jaguar front hubs; XK120 for the rear wheels, and Mk II for the front.
The 1998/'99 projects included installing a 1928 Oldsmobile rad shutter set; replacing the original fuel and rad caps with '30s Riley racing car locking quick release lever-type polished aluminium fuel and chrome plated bronze radiator caps; and, completing the rally navigation and timing equipment with a Halda Speedpilot and a Durant electromechanical trip meter. The new rally instruments required that the odometer be calibrated. It is now accurate to 1 part in 333.333.
The results of the Howe's efforts, (and my modifications) is a sports car in the tradition of the finest examples built in the mid to late '20s. The handling, with light responsive steering, and the characteristic feel and road holding of many of the outstanding sports carts of the period, reflects Derrick's engineering skill and experience. His background includes working on real Bugattis and employment with Colin Chapman of Lotus. However, unlike Chapman's cars, this car is rugged and has a solid feel with no evidence of the cowl shake that some much more modern open cars exhibit. The engine and drive train is durable, reliable, easy to service and repair, yet provides spirited sporting performance because of the car's light weight. The large diameter wheels almost provide overdrive in fourth gear, yet there is enough torque and power to accelerate in top gear from less than 20 Mph. The body design is classic; not exactly the same as the Bugattis (Types 35, 37 and 51) that were its inspiration but somehow better; an elegant, well proportioned motor car that is beautifully finished and detailed. The car is great fun to drive; wind in the teeth driving on curving back-country roads at its finest. It really doesn't get any better.
Engine Toyota (1972 Corolla 1600)
Type: Four cylinder in line OHV cross-flow hemi-head
Displacement: 1,588cc (96.9 cu in.)
Horsepower: 102 at 6,000 RPM
Torque: 100 at 3,800 RPM
Transmission Toyota (1972 Corolla 1600)
Type: Helical constant mesh synchro
Ratios: 1 3.587:1 (14.00) Reverse 3.484:1
2 1.022:1 (7.99)
3 1.384:1 (5.38)
4 1.000:1 (3.90)
Final Drive Toyota (1972 Corolla 1600)
Type: Hypoid crown wheel and pinion
Type: Ladder; channel rails fabricated from 2" X 2" square steel tubing
Suspension: Laterally located dampened sprung live axles
Springs: Semi elliptic leaf
Front: Howe, with Wefco leather spring gaiters
Rear: Modified Toyota Corolla
Dampers: Double acting
Front: Howe 'T.B.Andre 'Hartford'' style friction
Rear: Toyota hydraulic telescopic
Front: Tubular; built by Linken to Howe specifications
Rear: Toyota semi-floating
Steering: Pitman arm and draglink
gearbox Volvo (circa 1967) ZF cam and roller
Wheels: Central locking 'knock-on' Rudge-Whitworth wire Aston Martin (1933) 18 inch
Body Classic Car Craft; built to Howe specifications
Type: Boat-tailed speedster; hand formed aluminium over wood framing
Wings MG (circa 1933) fixed cycle type
Instrumentation VDO Cockpit Royale and modified SMITHS engine monitoring, Gallet, Halda and Durant rally time/distance navigating .
Paul Whittaker (905)677-9259, E-mail: email@example.com