Cruising around Newport in a Type 57 Bugatti for the weekend? Count us in!
A few weeks ago, we had the opportunity to participate in the inaugural Newport Car Week festivities that featured celebrations within the various marques, driving tours, and many Cars & Coffees. The week’s exclamation point was Sunday’s Newport Concours D’ Elegance. It had the ebbs and flows of Monterey Car Week and numerous events that mirrored the successful Quail Motorsports Gathering and other similar events that force you to reach deep into your wallet begrudgingly. Our friends at the American Bugatti Club, who made the Famous Belcourt Mansion their gathering point and home base for the week’s activities, invited us to the week’s events.
Our time there was nothing other than memorable right from the start with a less than ideal 1:30 am departure from our Philadelphia, PA showroom to Newport, RI. For those that may not know (like our friends in California who think all the states on the East Coast are within an hour of each other!), the drive is about five hours or less if you’re in something sporty. We were, however, the antithesis of that, lugging our two-car enclosed trailer with precious cargo. What cargo might you ask? An all-original 1934 Bugatti Type 57 Stelvio and another later Type 57 Gangloff Stelvio that was sold new to famous Bentley Factory driver and famous Bugatti lover, Lord Howe.
Tensions were high, and pit stops for snacks, coffee, and driver changes all while maintaining a safe cruising speed, brought us into Newport at 7:30 am. Just an hour before our first scheduled event, which was…more driving! Try explaining to a non-car person that you drove six hours through the night only to drive another six hours in a car from the 1930s! A perplexed looked will surely follow. At any rate, we made it and proceeded to unload the Ex-Howe 1938 Bugatti Type 57 Stelvio from the trailer in preparation for the day. With a press of the key (Yes, you slightly press the key further into the ignition to start a Type 57) and two turns of the engine, the Bug immediately came to life. This car was completely dialed-in, which gave us hope that we would not see the topside of a flatbed car hauler anytime soon. When we arrived through the front entrance of Belcourt Mansion, we were immediately greeted by 20 other Bugatti’s ranging from a very early Type 14 to a few type 35 Grand Prix cars along with a handful of Type 57s. It was stunning to see all of these cars concentrated in one courtyard with a historic early 1900s mansion serving as a backdrop.
As we proceeded to gather our nametags and Bugatti branded caps, fellow members of the ABC and its organizers greeted us. We also happened to notice one nametag, in particular, one with a certain “Jay Leno” printed on the front. Could it be? Jay Leno will be joining us on the tour?! We will get to that later, but for now, it was time to set off for lunch near the ocean. As we set out on the first leg of the tour, we stopped for fuel at a local 7-Eleven in which a few people on their way into work also stopped to take pictures of the odd scene. After filling up, we were well on our way, taking up the rear of the pack behind a younger family in their Type 41. Starving for replenishments and running on a reserve tank, LBI Limited’s own Adolfo M. and Keith K. needed fuel as well, and the stoppage for lunch was nothing short of breathtaking. All of the Bugatti’s lined the Restaurant’s parking lot in a display fit for a magazine shoot. Lunch was about what one would expect for coastal New England- steaks, hamburgers, and veggies…. Kidding, of course!
Lobster rolls, lightly fried calamari perfectly seasoned with the right amount of lemon, along with a fresh salad was on the menu. It was perfection capped by a shot of espresso, and we were off once again. The rest of the day turned out to be better than what the weatherman initially reported. Sunny skies and 65-degree temperatures made for perfect open-top driving, which allowed us to get 360-degree views of the dramatic New England coastline with its jagged rocks and white-capped waves crashing against a small stretch of beach. There were a few instances of self-reflection that reminded us of how lucky we were to be enjoying such a special moment. In the hierarchy of milestones of a car guy or gals journey as an enthusiast, this was undoubtedly high in the rankings.
The Bug only got better as we continued to clock the mileage. The DOHC straight 8-cylinder ran like a Swiss Watch, and the non-synchromesh gearbox became smoother as time carried on. If you have not experienced what it feels like to successfully navigate the gears of a non-synchro box and doing it with utter fluidity, you are missing out! We would have to compare it to hitting a perfect drive. The golf ball that travels straight down the middle, splitting the fairway with just a little draw leaving you feeling like Tiger Woods as you walk off the tee box. Certainly, one of those addicting sensations that makes you come back for more, especially after a slight hint of a missed cue in shifts. One of the other beautiful feelings of a 1930s Bugatti is the notion that you are in a smaller, agile sports car despite its rather large complexion. That is the beauty of Ettore Bugatti’s sophisticated and dynamic creations.
The next day we reported to our home base at Belcourt Mansion and received orders from ABC organizers to report back at 3 pm sharp! “We are going to Jay’s place!” Are my ears deceiving me? Pinch me please because I must be dreaming but no! This was happening! Once 3 pm rolled around, everyone hopped in their cars and made a short trip down ocean drive to the water’s edge where Jay’s stunning 1930s era mansion stood. As we pulled up, the large gates opened to a long, winding driveway that leads to the dramatic French Chateau styled, 14 bedroom home. Once we reached the cobblestoned rotunda style driveway centered by a beautiful fountain, Keith helped in directing traffic, all of the cars ending up fanned out and lining the driveway. A flurry of picture taking ensued after Jay pleasantly welcomed all of us to his home. It is not every day that you get to see twenty Bugatti’s in succession at Jay Leno’s home. We spent 30 minutes just staring at the scene in total fascination, and then it was on to the house tour, which was equally as impressive with views of the ocean from the entire rear portion of the home. If you are unfamiliar with Jay’s home, we encourage a quick Google search, but these pictures do an excellent job of capturing the fantastic spectacle. After the property tour, we thanked Jay for his generous hospitality then we were on our way; jaws still dropped to the floor.
On Sunday, the first-ever Audrain Newport Concours took place with a wide variety of fabulous cars. After the show, we thanked everyone who made our first Bugatti Club event a memorable week and one we will talk about for years to come. By the way, the 1938 Bugatti Type 57 we toured; that is currently available for sale at LBILimited.com. Not only is the car a fabulous tourer with an interesting history, but it also allows one to gain access to incredible events like this one. For more photos of the week, check out our Facebook and Instagram pages @lbilimited. That is all for now from the #nextgenerationcarguys. Stay tuned for more content and a new YouTube series we just launched called “Ride Along.” It takes you behind-the-scenes and into the rallies, barn finds, and events as we experience them.