On Sunday January 15, the entire Bugatti family celebrated the 114th anniversary of the birth of Jean Bugatti. Engineer and designer, but above all a free thinker, Jean Bugatti created extraordinary cars, which did not hesitate to depart from the norms and conventions in force at the time. Today, his work continues to inspire the Bugatti team in Molsheim – the historic birthplace of the brand.
First son of Ettore Bugatti, Gianoberto Carlo Maria Bugatti was born in Cologne in Germany on January 15, 1909. In Molsheim, he would find a place under the name of “Jean”, the equivalent of the Italian first name “Gian” .
Having grown up in a family of visionary artists, Jean Bugatti benefited from an education that allowed him to develop as an automotive engineer. From the very beginning, however, it freed itself from all common standards and conventions in terms of design.
“Jean Bugatti is a first-rate artist who shaped his art in the automotive field. And we are all grateful to him, because his work is particularly unusual; his designs are not only visible from the front, they are just from a whole world. »said Christophe Piochon, President of Bugatti Automobiles.
As a young man, he quickly demonstrated his ambition by bringing a new dimension to the Type 41 Royale unveiled by his father in 1926, creating the Type 41 Royale Roadster Esders, an elegant two-seater convertible. Esders marks both Jean’s entry into the field of design, but also the beginning of Jean Bugatti’s era for the company – an era that will now be guided by his beautiful designs and imaginative creations. Ettore completed the passing of the torch to his son in 1936, giving him full responsibility for the business at the (relatively young) age of 27.
An undeniable sign of great confidence and a very positive attitude, in the very year that his father entrusted him with the reins of Bugatti, Jean designed a car that, even today, is recognized as one of the best of all period: the Type 57 SC Atlantic. This car quickly became a reference at the time, an icon even beyond the automotive sector, and became part of a French artistic movement at the forefront of design: Art Deco.
This legendary creation even inspired the unique La Voiture Noire1, Bugatti’s modern tribute to the Type 57 SC Atlantic. Jean’s legacy, however, will extend beyond this single achievement. His hard work and his artistic sense have spanned the ages, and to this day embody the style and characteristic shapes of contemporary Bugattis.
The famous “C” line designed by Jean Bugatti – seen for example in the Type 50 and Type 57 – also went through almost a century of history until it became inseparable from Bugatti’s visual identity. Today, it still dresses all the brand’s models, such as the Veyron and Chiron. Jean’s work focuses on several strong elements in terms of design: a constant search for perfect proportions, the accentuation of the central edge on the roof of the cars but also the work of the horizontal line to give the impression that the car is leaning back. Aesthetic choices of the best effect, especially in Atalante and Atlantic. The use of two-tone paint for the bodywork and the use of curved shapes to cleverly reflect light on the car are also references to Jean Bugatti that are still often used in modern Bugatti design. There is no doubt that the aesthetics of Molsheim’s hyper sports cars are deeply related to the visionary ideas of Jean Bugatti.
Jascha Straub, Head of Sales and Design at Bugatti, explains: “When I work on customizing a customer’s vehicle, when I play with new colors, new textures and new designs, I always remember Jean’s legacy and the revolutionary vision with which he shaped the brand, but his way of treating the cars. like sculptures while playing with light and shapes to give a sense of movement, even if they are not. Many of our customers appreciate the history of our brand and its visionary founders . This is why we regularly try to pay tribute to them by visually highlighting the central edge of the vehicle, for example, or by creating color combinations that best emphasize Jean’s approach. »
If Jean Bugatti was promised a bright future, unfortunately he died on August 11, 1939, at the age of 30, in a road accident that occurred not far from the factory. But Jean’s light and vision will forever shine at Bugatti, guiding the brand throughout time. As proof, in the latest creation, the Chiron Profilée, a completely one-of-a-kind model auctioned in Paris on February 1, 2023, Jean’s character and work are immediately noticeable, beautifully shaping the rare this automotive gem to give it an elegant and timeless design.