International Bugatti Meeting Germany ... brings together a great mixture of all sort of cars


Ising, 25th of September - 2nd of October, 2021 

It is 112 years ago that Ettore Bugatti founded the company under his name in Molsheim. Only 20 years later the Bugatti Owners Club was founded in the UK and this comes not as a surprise as British owners were always very competitive in racing as well as very social in club life.

Over the years clubs for the marque with the horseshoe radiator (as a reference to the pur sang Ettore loved so much) were founded all over the world and as they share the same passion for the marque and the adventure one of the national clubs holds an international meeting every year. So, in recent years we visited Italy in Sardinia, the US and Ireland in 2019. Due to the pandemic unfortunately the meeting in the trijunction of the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany had to be cancelled and the countless hours the Dutch enthusiasts put into the meeting were in vain.

So fast forward to 2021 and the second year of the global pandemic and a postponed meeting in Germany that was intended earlier this year but was delayed to the end of September when fortunately, the circumstances allowed it to happen.

What few people know (or don´t want to know) is the fact that Italian Ettore originally founded his company in Germany as Molsheim as part of the Alsace just became French after the first WW. So, although Bugatti today is seen with a French pride one could say heretically that the meeting “came home”.

The German Bugatti Club was founded in 1956 during the GP weekend at the Nürburgring and seven years after the meeting in Bamberg the organizers this year have chosen the region around the Chiemsee in Bavaria. Although the majority of the meeting would take place in the hilly region of the German-Austrian border the proximity to the Alps could not remained unused. So, the actual meeting starting Monday the 27th of September from the base in Ising has seen a prologue the weekend before.

Bugatti is known both for the sporting luxury cars like the Type 57 with its elegant body variations and the GP cars that should set the standard in international racing. Most of the years the meeting brings together a great mixture of all sort of cars although the focus is more on the racing cars as the tourers are more at home at the Concours scene whereas the later are more seen at races and rallies. The prologue in particular was recommended for the lighter sportive cars as the main destination was the alpine pass of the Großglockner. So, Friday afternoon 18 cars and their drivers met at the hotel Gut Ising that should serve as a base for the week. As expected, the majority of the cars were of the group of open wheel or cycle winged racers with a few exceptions like the wonderful Type 57 Aravis by Gangloff or the Type 44 with lovely Fiacre DHC body. Unlike the Aravis this Type 44 is a regular on the meetings and its owner was certainly not afraid of the heights it had to climb.

After a cheering welcome and the first dinner the convoy left the Chiemsee early on Saturday morning direction Austria for a short stint to East Tirol and a light lunch in the Hotel Goldried.

After a free afternoon one of the highlights of the entire week was the drive up to the dinner location. Normally nothing too spectacular but this included a section of unpaved roads that brought back the drivers to the feeling the first owners of these cars had to endure 85 years ago when a lot of roads, especially the hill climbs were driven under these conditions. From a photographer’s point of view the dust tail behind the cars with a nice evening backlight certainly made some special pictures.

Although Stephen Gentry, owner of Bugatti specialist Gentry Restorations and each year service to the meeting, pointed out that the cars of the prologue were very well prepared a few of the smaller T37 struggled on their way up after they had to stop due to a herd of cows making their way down the hill. At the end all of them arrived at the mountain inn for a rustic dinner.

Sunday morning was the time to drive towards the Großglockner, the highest mountain pass in Austria. Although a toll road this is a very popular drive on the weekend and although right at the end of the season the Bugatti had to share the road with some campers and a lot of bikes.

The coffee stop was at the Kaiser-Franz-Josefs-Höhe, a dead-end panoramic road off-site the main pass up to the Pasterze Glacier. Looking at the monstrosity of a parking structure there one could get an impression how many visitors are to expect in the high season. The Bugatti were parked in front of the restaurant on the panoramic platform and gave the tourists a welcome addition to the panorama that might be more impressive in Spring when the mountains are covered in more snow. At the end of summer before there is some new snow the glacier looks rather sorry and it is not surprising to learn that it loses 50 meters a year of its length. Having driven up the hill in pre-war cars without any catalyst we certainly spare you with any remarks about climate change....

After the break we went back to the main pass to the “Hochtor” that separates Kärnten and Salzburg. On the way back we went down the northern descend of the pass that also serves for the Großglockner GP Hill Climb last held in 2017. Unlike back then we did not go up to the cobblestone paved “Edelweißspitze” but even without that it was a great day’s drive and after the lunch stop near Zell am See the cars arrived back in Ising.

... Galleries Day by Day >>>

Monday was the day of change as some owners left having only driven the prologue, others stayed for the main event and new cars showed up during the days. As mentioned, before we have followed a few International Meetings over the year and so we know that the Bugattisti attending the meetings are a big family. Whenever an entrant arrived, he went through a lot of hugs and welcome cheers before making it to the check in, especially after the year off the welcome was even more cordial than usual. Some unfortunately arrived without the car but the fact that they showed up nevertheless showed that these meeting are not only about driving but also about social life.

Now the field was also more diversified as on one side the early T13 and T23 Brescia showed up and on the other end even more T57 or the heavy tourers like the T44 Coach or the T49 Berline by Pritchard&Demollin. The T57 always amazes with the different bodywork and although the Aravis left that day it was replaced by several elegant cars. First the Atalante has to be mentioned but also the Stelvio by Gangloff or the Graber Cabriolet. A little bit older fashioned was the Gurney Nutting example adding some British design to the French chassis. Interesting was also the comparison of the two Type 54, one early example and the later one. The early one was referred to as “Widow maker” as its chassis with the very high center of gravity was less than ideal in combination with the very powerful supercharged straight-eight and so the setup was changed with the engine lower and further back in the chassis to ease drivability.

About 40 cars took the road on Tuesday morning, unfortunately the weather changed overnight and the next two days should be dominated by rain. Unsurprisingly a few cars lacked a passenger as they preferred to stay in the warm and dry hotel instead or driving in the open cars.

The first stop was at acclaimed Classic Car Restorer Tom Fischer in his shop that featured several interesting cars that are in full restoration or race/rally preparation. Right at the entrance the drivers were greeted by a pair of modern Bugatti, a Chiron and the 20-year-old 4-door EB 112. On the inside there was the Type 50 Le Mans racer that was intended to take part in the meeting but the owner opted out last minute. Further cars of interest were more of Italian heritage with a Cricklewood Bentley undergoing assembly for an upcoming rally.

After leaving Brannenburg we drove a small toll road that was built by the local sawmill as a private road to bring in the wood lorries. It featured a nice single lane tunnel cut in the rock, fortunately the organizers arranged with the police that the passage was closed off for as the pre-war cars went through this bottleneck.

Lunch stop was at the museum of German sky ace Markus Wassmeier, unfortunately a construction nearby made this a rather poor setting for the cars outside the outdoor museum.

Wednesday the weather was even poorer than the day before and so a few cars were never seen that day as the owners took their trailer cars to go towards the lunch destination, the Königssee. Very self-confident the locals call this the “Nicest Lake in the World” as the second deepest lake in Germany behind the Bodensee is surrounded by the mountains. With no lake front there is actually no way around the lake and so the boats are the only way to explore it. The entrant entered on of the electric ship for the 30-minute ride to St. Bartholomä at the foot of the famous East-wall of the Watzmann with the picturesque chapel reflecting in the lake. Unfortunately, the weather made this a little bit less picturesque that day although the guides on the boats really did their best to entertain the crowd with their trumpets echoing from the steep cliffs. On the way back only, a few cars followed the road book, most of them took the direct way back to the hotel to get into dry clothes for the evening.

Fortunately, the weather changes fast in the mountains and on Thursday morning the sun was out again, a great sunset the day before over the lake already was a signifier of the great sunny day to come. After the morning leg the cars were parked at the saline in Bad Reichenhall and finally a nice set-up made a few static shots possible. Soon after we crossed the border to Austria in direction of Salzburg where the lunch was taken at Schloss Hellbrunn. Hellbrunn is famous for its water garden as well as the zoo and the 40 pur sang (not to confuse with the Argentinian Pur Sang!) made a welcome attraction to the visitors. This was also the opportunity to take a group shot of all the cars and their drivers as there was enough space as well as a great background.

Friday morning started with a few miles in the fog before the sun was out again making the Alps a nice background while heading towards the first stop of a day at a small inn. After the coffee in the sun, we headed towards the Museum dedicated to another charismatic automobile company founder beside Ettore Bugatti, Ferdinand Porsche. His grandson Ernst Piech founded the Fahr(t)raum world of experience dedicated to the work of his grandfather before Porsche became his own manufacturer. His early achievement was the Lohner-Porsche, a 4-wheel electric hybrid about 100 years before this theme became relevant again. He then joined Austro Daimler and developed the successful sport and racing cars like “Sascha” that is displayed in the Stuttgart Porsche Museum. But the collection of Piech might be the most significant Austro Daimler collection including Prinz-Heinrich race cars, ADM Torpedos but also a supercharged Mercedes as Ferdinand moved to Stuttgart to develop the straight-six cylinder for Mercedes. In the underground one does find all the tractors that paved the way for Porsche to build the street and race cars the company is famous for.

Unfortunately, this was our last day as we had to leave the meeting on Saturday morning to make our way down to the Villa d´Este, but not before waving goodbye to the cars and owners passing our hotel on their last tour towards Burghausen.

So, what is the conclusion of this meeting? Certainly, it is very difficult to judge a meeting in your own country as the meetings live off the experience of new countries and landscapes, so as a German travelling to the Ring of Kerry in Ireland or to Sardinia might be more exciting. But looking back at the landscape including an epic drive over the Großglockner or the very picturesque Königssee certainly showcased the best of the region and so not only foreign visitors got their money´s worth. The organization looked flawless what we could see from the observer’s point of view and the team spirit within the Bugatti family is out of question. Whenever a car stops others stop as well to help out, road books in the past even had an “OK” sign to be shown if you just had a pee or a cigarette, something rarely seen on tour of more modern cars.

We certainly enjoyed the week with the Bugatti although they were less in the number as normal meetings attract more than double the number of cars. But this was also the opportunity to go to places with lesser capacity as less people have to be housed and fed. 

In the opening we joked that the Bugatti came home but on a more serious note next year really the home of Bugatti will host the IBM as the French Bugatti Club will invite the owners to Najac north of Albi for a week of driving in the valleys of the surrounding departments.

We hope that we are welcome back to another week with friends and all that is left to say is

Vive la Marque


Report & images ... Peter Singhof


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