In Brooklin, Maine (September 16, 2016)
We hear them getting louder and louder: Braaaap, BRAAP, Braaaaaap. They’re hidden on the other side of the hill, climbing up its dusty lane toward us. We wait on our side of the hill, seeing just the empty part of the lane wind down to us. It peaks into a horizon of nothing but blue sky and white clouds, looking like a road from eternity.
Finally, a Bug loudly crests the hill and descends toward us. It’s big-eyed. So are we.
We’re at a Bugatti mini-rally on the beautiful WoodenBoat School campus. Ten of the cars have been driven over from the American Bugatti Club Fall Rally in nearby Northport. These are vintage classics from the jazz-age and The Great Gatsby era. They're take-off-the-fenders-and-race-around-Paris cars, as well as swooping grand sedans for touring southern France and Spain before World War II.
These vintage vehicles are cramped pieces of machinery that may need hand-cranking to start; they’re also not easy to drive. But they're easy on the eyes.
The cars embody the vision of Italian-born Ettore Bugatti, who founded, in 1909, what became a French car manufacturing firm bearing his name. Ettore was born into a family of artists and considered his cars high-performance works of art. The public generally agreed, although most couldn't afford a Bugatti.
Only about 8,000 Bugattis were made by Ettore’s company, which floundered in 1947 when Ettore died. The Bugatti brand was revived in the 1990’s and (ironically) bought by Volkswagen, which means “People’s Car.” (VW promotes the new, swooping Bugattis as the fastest street-legal cars in the world and sells them at prices ranging from about $1.7 to $2.7 million apiece. You don’t have to crank a new one to start it, we hear. We also hear that Patriots quarterback Tom Brady scrambles around Boston in a modern version.)
Nonetheless, we’d rather travel Maine’s country roads in one of Ettore’s creations. Or, at least watch them go by.
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Barbara and Dick