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More than 50 years ago the first International Bugatti Meeting was held at the Scottish border in Great Britain and since that first meeting every year another national club has the privilege to organize a meeting for the Bugattisti. One year after the jubilee in Scottland  the torch was passed to the German Bugatti Club were the preparation were already well under way when the entrants were said good bye in the highlands after a memorable week in 2013. Although it was a great challenge to succeed these organizers of the 2014 meeting prepared a superb program that does not need to be afraid of any comparison with previous editions.

Base of this year’s meeting was the lovely city of Bamberg in Upper Franconia, one of the best preserved and largest historic town centres in Germany. Based on the fortification and the Archdiocese, Bamberg can look back on a history of more than 1000 years and unlike many other historic town centres it survived the second world war without major damage and today features several landmarks including the Old Town Hall at the Regnitz, the Dome with the New Residence as see of the Prince-Bishop and the monastery Sankt Michael overlooking the town from the Michelsberg. With millions of international visitors per year the World Cultural Heritage is well worth a trip even without such an important classic car meeting but the presence of several dozen Bugatti certainly did add to the presence of the town during this sunny early summer week. On the other side Bamberg and its surrounding scenery was the prefect ambience for the meeting.

On Tuesday 3rd of June the first cars arrived early in the morning at the nearby trailer parking to be unloaded from their journey from France, Italy, Netherland, Swiss and many other countries, after the check in at the hotel and collection of the paperwork for the next day’s most of the participants took their time to visit the town, others enjoyed the sunny afternoon on the terrace in front of the hotel to welcome old friends. But not all were able to enjoy the afternoon as the service crew of accompanying Bugatti restorer Malcolm Gentry already had to work on several cars and not few had the impression that some of the owners prefer having the car serviced on the arriving day for free than spending some money upfront...

The Hotel Residenzschloß was the ideal choice for this week as it featured the ambience of a representative late 18th century building with a spacious underground parking and all that within walking distance of the historic sites. The entry list featured about 66 Bugatti and their crews, unfortunately a separate meeting of Grand Prix Bugatti just the week before prevented a significant number of owners to come by as this entry list was about 1/3 short of the major meetings in previous years. On the other side this line-up featured more touring cars, cabriolets and saloons compared to the small racers than previous years showing that Bugatti built a larger quantity of road cars than some might expect when looking at other classic car events. Several 4-cylinder Type 40 and 8-cylinder Type 44 were joined by the big Type 46, the first 8-cylinder Type 30, the sports car cousin of the grand prix cars Type 43, a rare Type 55 and several Type 57, the last and most popular model before the war giving a nice retrospective of the work of Ettore Bugatti.

Wednesday was the first driving day of the meeting with a 200 km tour westwards into the hilly region of Bamberg. After the drive through several small towns into the national park Steigerwald passing typical lush grassland and flowery meadows the Bugatti arrived at the Cistercian abbey of Ebrach where the interested could visit the monastery complex or take a coffee at the surrounding taverns. The first conspicuousness of this week was the amount of spectators at the first stop compared to the privacy of the Scottish edition. Due to the German bureaucracy every stop and many city passings had to be approved by the authorities and certainly these information were made available in local newspapers by the responsible persons to generate some public interest. When the cars arrived at Ebrach they were expected by a lot of people taking the opportunity to look at some old cars. Some might think that the owners were worried about leaving their car on a parking lot surrounded by people but in reality most of them were happy to answer the numerous questions of the bystanders, most of them on their first approach with vintage sports cars.

After the coffee stop another 60 km led through the hills on lovely country roads to the lunch stop at Sulzfeld am Main, a medievally fortification dating back to 915 ad. The cars entered through the town gate into the narrow streets normally restricted to cars. Again the cars were surrounded by many spectators making it a challenge to get some nice pictures of the cars in the historic atmosphere. After a rustic lunch buffet the cars were heading back to Bamberg when passing Prichsenstadt with a marvellous main street and a lot of half-timbered houses. After entering through the western gate the cars were welcomed by the local authorities and the community and the drivers took the chance for an unscheduled coffee stop. In the evening the entrants were transferred by bus to the nearby Castle Seehof that should be passed several times in the following days to end the first day in the Orangery.

The second day again started with great sunshine and the first part of the tour led through the Franconian Switzerland to the coffee stop at the historic town hall square of Hollfeld. Again the cars were welcomed by a lot of people and when several school classes of small children took the scene not few had to smile and compare the ambience with the Mille Miglia and Italian fanatic about cars. A small tour then led to Bayreuth, the city famous for the Richard-Wagner-Spiele where the cars were lined up at the gardens of the Eremitage of the old castle for the lunch stop. This was the most interesting arrangement of the cars during the week as the line-up in the alley and at the grotto allowed superb pictures of the cars in a most suitable setting. Although this was the only place that was almost private beside a few regular visitors of the gardens again the local volunteer fire brigade was on hand to look after the cars when the participants enjoyed their lunch. It was very obvious that many local volunteers helped the organizers at every stop giving the owners a very secure feeling about their parked cars, on the other side the organizers were keen in leaving a positive image of the old cars wherever they stopped with boards under the cars taking every drop of oil to leave the place as clean as it was found when arriving. A nice surprise was the visit of the recently reconstructed Bugatti T41 Royale Prototype with its Packard body as seen new on that chassis. The prototype was rebodied several times before a completely new chassis was built in 1931 with the Coupé Napoleon Body that today could be seen today in the National Motor Museum in Mulhouse, the famous Schlumpf Collection. With just six chassis built the Royale is one of the most famous cars in the world and just like the Esders Roadster the Packard bodied car was reconstructed to show how these cars looked during their early life when they had several rebodies.

The Royale was again seen in the evening in front of the hotel when the interested participants were shown a film on the history of this reconstruction before the evening ended with a barbecue, a nice souvenir of this evening was a black apron with the meetings logo.

Friday led through the Main valley past a few remaining rape fields, nice half-timbered houses and through forest roads to finally arrive for the first stop at the most famous Franconian churches, Vierzehnheiligen. The Basilica built after the plans of baroque architect Balthasar Neumann attracts about ½ million visitors a year and is one of the most important baroque churches of its era. The participants had the chance to visit the Basilika and attending a mass, unfortunately the towers of the church are currently covered with scaffolding due to renovation work, something the Basilika had in common with the lunch stop location of this day, the Ehrenburg in Coburg. After passing Kloster Banz on its way to Coburg the cars were lined up around the circus in front of the castle and in the yard between the wings. The Ehrenburg was originally built in the 16. century and rebuilt several times in different styles since then, the name (Castle of Honour) goes back to the fact that it was constructed entirely by paid craftsmen, very uncommon in a time when socage was normal. Today the Ehrenburg serves as museum and archive of the regional library, again those interested got a guided tour before the lunch was served in a nearby restaurant. Due to the high temperatures of the day the first arrivals did look for a place in the shadow of the main building to keep the interior of the car at reasonable temperatures. As the circus was just opened for the Bugatti and normally closed by bollards some of the impatient drivers were driving around looking for an exit well before the timetable intended their departure, for some reason it were the same drivers running well in front of the field every day. After all the cars returned to Bamberg as intended the evening was spent visiting the old town of Bamberg in a guided tour providing all interesting information on the various landmarks.

Saturday was the last day of the meeting with another 180 km tour. First in the morning the Castle Seehof was passed, place of the first dinner of the week, then some road works had to be passed. Why is the passing of road works interesting some might say but the story behind this passing illustrates the support of the authorities of the region for the meeting. When the drive through the small village was planned well in advance nobody did know that all the streets will be open for channel digging in this week and when the major became aware of the clash of the tour and the construction work a plan was made which streets had to be ready to get the cars through the town including the usage of some country lanes and several volunteers spent their Saturday morning to guide the cars on their intended way. Although the major worried about stone chips on the expensive cars this was actually their natural surrounding back in the 1930s rather than the perfect surface of some of the new roads. After this intermezzo the journey led past some typical Bavarian churches and rocks including the Castle Wiesentfels built on one of them before arriving at Castle Thurnau. Thurnau was built between the 13th and the 19th century in different phases and when the last count died ending the long family history the castle was not in best shape, since the 1970s the castle is undergoing a slow but loving restoration. The cars were parked in the inner yard and the drivers could get an idea of the progress both in the church and the attached buildings. Unfortunately the extensive weapon collection was sold off by one of the last owners, just a few old black and white images showed the guns and muzzleloaders once stored in the main hall.

The last stop of the week was in Neuenmarkt at the open air steam locomotive museum were the cars were parked opposite the huge trains which were common sight on the rails in the glory days of the Bugatti marque. In the afternoon the last episode of the week led back to Bamberg but not all of the cars were seen on the intended route as some might have taken the direct way back to prepare themselves for the conclusive gala evening before the participants left in all directions the next day after a very entertaining week.

The International Bugatti Meeting is always a great event and one of the attractions is the diversity between the different editions. When comparing this edition with the last one they had not much in common besides the cars and the cordiality of the Bugatti family. Whenever one had a problem with his car (what happens from time to time with vintage sports cars) most of the cars coming by stopped immediately to offer a helping hand so most of the smaller problems could be solved with pooled forces long before the service arrived (that was naturally driving at the back of the field).

The landscape from Franconia with its charming hilly country roads was a great contrast to the harsh moor and the lochs of the Scottish Highlands of last year giving the entrants new experiences every year. The IBM 2014 was a very well organized and very pleasant tour in a very relaxed atmosphere upon like-minded, what one can expect more, the sunny weather certainly did his part for the success. Without doubt most of the entrants will be back next year when the IBM will be back in the country of the marques origin when the French Bugatti Club takes over, the Provence will be more than suitable for sure.

Report & Images ...Peter Singhof

Chassis numbers compiled with the help of the Bugatti Register www.BugattiRegister.com