"A laugh-a-minute motorised soapbox racer." Octane. October 2014.
You can’t say we don’t bring you a variety of machines here at Berlinetta and this is one of the more ‘off the wall’ offerings. Constructed by a well-respected aluminium craftsman to compete in his local charity Soapbox derby it was originally powered, as the regulations stipulate, by gravity alone; a powerful, totally green source of energy, it is capable of generating forces of up to err, one g.
With more than half an eye on future uses, the ‘Bug’ was constructed to ‘CycleKart’ regulations, such as they are; a loosely framed set of parameters governing wheelbase, track, weight and power. Hugely popular in the USA and oddly enough France, aesthetics override outright performance and the emphasis is very much on enjoying both the ownership and driving experience. Taking a pre-first war Bugatti Type 13 ‘Brescia’ as his inspiration as it has the right ratio of bonnet-to-cockpit-to-tail for his purposes (i.e. he needed to be able to get in it), he set about building the approximately 1:1.5 scale racer from a very basic kit of parts supplied by CycleKart UK. Taking the basic box section ladder frame chassis, a space-frame in square section tubing was added to support the body, beautifully hand formed in aluminium – our man’s particular area of expertise obviously. The ‘dropped’ front axle was suspended on leaf springs a la original Brescia though engineering sense dictated that rose joints were employed to keep it and the steering under control. Again just as with the full sized version (at least up until 1926), no front brakes were fitted though there is no doubt that one hundred years later, the hydraulically operated single disc brake (complete with Aeroquip lines) acting on the solidly mounted rear axle does a far better job of slowing the baby-Bug than the originals’ system did.
The downhill racer duly made its competition debut at the Scarcliffe Soapbox Derby on 20th June 2015 where judging by the photographs (apologies for the camera-phone quality) it performed scarily well. There is a wealth of other camera phone snaps and video footage show the Bugatti getting an impressive amount of ‘air’ over the course’s jump on the Scarcliffe Soapbox Derby website and Facebook page; small wonder a certain energy drink which claims to give you wings chose to sponsor the televised soapbox series. Unfortunately, the solidly mounted rear axle did not take too kindly to this and a certain degree (or two) of negative camber can subsequently be seen on the rear wheels which necessitated some post run repair work.
Gravity, brilliant though it is, is a bit of a one way street and what goes down must come up, under some other form of propulsion. The decision was hence taken to develop the mini-Brescia into something a good deal more useable by fitting an engine as per the original CycleKart concept. With the conventional engine bay occupied by ankles, knees and such like, the dummy fuel tank was the obvious home for a neat little 6.5 hp engine from Launtop,driving the rear axle via a TKR motorbike chain.
With handmade machines, the devil is so often in the detail and the Bug sports myriad lovely ones. Displaying the very highest standards of bespoke craftsmanship, it really is a work of art from hand-made bracketry to the rolled dummy fuel tank complete with strengthening ribs and ‘filler cap’ machined from solid. A lovely four-spoke aluminium steering wheel complete with wood rim pays homage to the full sized Bug as does the nickel plated signature horseshoe radiator, complete with cut out for the starting handle and mini Bugatti badge. A fully trimmed cockpit in what we would like to call ‘oxblood’ also features a machine turned dashboard and this sort of attention to detail even extends to a pair of scale sized leather bonnet straps.
With an electric starter fired from a key on the dashboard and pedals for just stop and go, the Bugatti couldn’t be easier to drive. With barely an hour’s use on the engine and probably less than a mile under its wheels it is virtually brand new and its condition very much reflects this as the photo gallery shows.
Complete with its own waterproof car cover, the mini Type 13 is ready to go and at approximately 84” by 42”, while it may not fit in a Christmas stocking or even under the tree, it would go in the back of a medium sized van or on a small trailer if not sleigh. We have a feeling it could prove to be yet another of those festive gifts that is bought for the children but they have the devil of a job to get the adults out of it.
Registration number: Not road registered (unfortunately)
Chassis Number: N/A