Inside the Wild World of Pur Sang, Where Classic Bugattis Are Made
Argentinian coachbuilder Pur Sang derives their name from phrase used by Ettore Bugatti which means ‘thoroughbred,’ or ‘pure of blood.’
Ettore Bugatti, best known for his namesake automobiles, was not one to mince words. Like many innovators and businessmen, the elder Bugatti believed in what he said, and said what he believed. This somewhat uncompromising personality led to the development of some stunning automobiles, and some sharp-tongued quotes. He once derided the Walter Owen Bentley, of Bentley fame, by saying “Mr. Bentley — he builds fast trucks.”
Indeed, Bugatti truly believed his creations to be the finest racing machines available. He eventually came to adapt the french phrase “pur sang” when describing his automobiles. Pur sang quite literally translates as “pure blood,” which is fitting for his purpose-built racing cars. These automotive thoroughbreds were designed to do one thing, and for one type of buyer. Bugattis were expensive cars, built to go fast.
And now, nearly a century later, Bugatti is alive and well, continuing to offer the most technologically-advanced high-performance automobiles available, still sold for eye-watering prices, to match. However, these modern Bugatti models are very different than their predecessors. They have such amenities as roofs, push button start, power steering, power brakes, and, gasp, air-conditioning. That’s where Pur Sang comes in, based in Argentina, this company produces painstakingly accurate reproduction versions of vintage pre-war race cars. Oh, and that’s World War I, in case you were wondering.
What Makes Pur Sang So Desirable?
The company really came into prominence by honing in on Bugatti, and, specifically, models like the 1927 Bugatti Type 35. Being race cars, many of the original Type 35 models were thrashed and crashed out of existence. Those that survived are treated like royalty, tucked away in collector’s garages, occasionally trading hands for $3,000,000. A Pur Sang reproduction uses only original parts, or those reproduced to exactly the same specifications as the original parts, but costs just 1/10th of what an original does. This of course makes it an interesting proposition for people who want to experience a pre-war vehicle but can’t afford it, or for those who, perhaps, own a real Type 35, but are afraid to drive it and risk damaging it.
Pur Sang’s North American operations are based out of Costa Mesa, California, and it there that we met John Bothwell, the man behind Pur Sang. Bothwell has a certain cult of personality that makes him the perfect curator to this pre-war revival brand. Much like Ettore Bugatti himself, Bothwell can be sharp with his words. He loves the products his company produces, and claims that vehicles made after the war just don’t have the same personality as his pre-war fascinations parked in his garage. Modern cars are both too complex to understand, and too disconnected from the end user, for Bothwell.
As he coos over the vintage metal parked in his garage, it’s hard not to agree with him. These cars weren’t built in an assembly line, with robotic precision, but, instead, feature bodywork beaten by hand, with hammers. The craftsmanship of these vintage racers is apparent as soon as you begin to pour over the details.
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