Catharsis in Cars – Living Out Shared Passions in a Bugatti
We all are drawn to motoring for different reasons and enjoy it in different ways, but at a base level, it all boils down to the same components, a car, and the open road. A road trip then, is perhaps the purest form of driving, a simple A to B, the only goal the end destination and leaving what manifests itself between under the governance of happenstance. The road stretches out before you, seemingly forever but also gone in an instant, a little bit like time, and time, is never time enough.
We’ve all been on road trips, the reasons for going are varied but often the trip is undertaken with a treasured friend, or perhaps a partner, a brother, or a father and son, that most special of relationships.
Some time ago a father and son did plan a road trip, in a Bugatti T35C, but time and circumstance conspired against the duo and sadly they never had the opportunity. For some that would be the end of the story, but in this instance, our prodigal protagonist decided that he would return home from his father’s final farewell by completing the trip that they had always dreamed about, in the car that they had always planned to drive.
The main player in our story is someone you may be familiar with, Federico Göttsche Bebert the Chief Operating Officer of HERO-ERA, the man running the company, but who is also a rally competitor from time to time. Like many of us, he was exposed to the sensations of classic motoring from an early age, but of all his experiences in motoring, this one is perhaps the most poignant. “It was a trip we always wanted to do together, but we didn’t get to do it” he tells me, “so the day after his funeral, with mixed emotions, my girlfriend and I jumped into the car to make the journey from Italy to England.” For some, the thought of even leaving the house whilst in the grip of grief is too much, but then tragedy can also be a great catalyst and the catharsis of pure motoring, with nothing but the sensation of driving as company wasn’t lost on Fede. “My father was the reason I got into cars, I used to sit as a small boy in the cockpit with a little white helmet on, barely able to see, dreaming of driving. I’m not hugely spiritual but doing something like this you can feel the presence of the person you have lost with you.”
“We had no plan, just to see what happened on the road between Piedmont and London; the only goal was to park up at the Royal Automobile Club for breakfast!” A romantic idea indeed, but this trip is but another part of a chapter in a multi-generational romance story with cars, and it was a story that’s origins can be traced further back than Federico’s father, but actually to his grandfather, on his mother’s side! “Dad got into cars through my mother, until he met her he didn’t have an interest, but she was actually quite a successful rally competitor and her interest began with my grandfather who used to race from the ‘20’s to the 50’s and then became a collector, so there were always cars around.” Fede describes his Grandfather as a “relatively well-known gentleman racer” but that is somewhat bashful, as his grandfather was Giovanni Lurani, and amongst other successes took three class wins in the Mille Miglia throughout his 20 or so years competing as well as racing at historic circuits such as Brooklands, Crystal Palace and the original Monza (a circuit he would become president of). He was instrumental in the initiation of GT racing and Formula Junior with the FIA, oh and set a few land-speed records along the way, and took a class victory at the 1951 24 hours of Le Mans, just your reasonably well-known gentleman racer…
It comes as no surprise then that the bug was inherited by Fede’s mother, whose rallying career took her into the cockpits of Alpine A110s and Stratos, and so it was only natural for that enthusiasm to pass onto her husband, Federico’s father, and then onto Fede himself. That shared passion has now manifested itself in this latest motoring adventure, where the passion was shared again, this time with Federico’s girlfriend Virginia who fired her first question upon completing the journey which was, “when can we do it again?” Time moves and passions are shared, the constant in all of these chapters is of course the automobile and a love of driving. WWII British cavalry pigskin chaps
That love extended to Virginia and Federico protecting their respective transmission tunnel legs from the severe heat from the gearbox with leg protectors (actually WW11 British Cavalry pigskin chaps) for the entire trip. As the Bugatti is right-hand drive, Virginia’s right calf and Federico’s left one, as he said; “There is a lot of uncomfortable heat generated via the tunnel, so much so that my father had to have a skin graft because it got so warm!”
During their journey the two young companions enjoyed seeing how far they would get in a day, made unscheduled stops to link up with friends and fellow enthusiasts, and also suffered mechanical problems, resulting in back street repairs in the depths of France, doing whatever was necessary to stay on the road. By Federico’s own admission, the T35 is a bit of a bitsa, but this matters little as the feelings the machine generates for both passengers and spectators when it is on the road are what counts, and the fact that it is being used. Both occupants did need a big slice of luck though to make it to the trip’s finish, and when the car was placed into the workshop back in the UK there were a few shocks. “When we had the car mechanically inspected back in England it transpired there were a few issues, such as brake cables fraying and the wheels falling off, but then part of the reason for the trip was always to deliver the car to a specialist in the UK for some restorative work!” Perhaps then, even with Fede’s lack of spirituality, there was someone watching over them on this adventure, their very own St. Christopher keeping them safe.
It seems to me then that this journey was about far more than just living out a shared dream between father and son, it goes much deeper than that. The journey is but one cog in a greater machine, and is a microcosm in a story of shared passions, passed and shared between generations, across borders, and between families. It is a story that has not ended at the culmination of this trip, nor has it ended with the passing of Federico’s father, and indeed may be more alive than ever as such. Now it is down to Federico to write the next chapter and see where the story takes him over the coming decades.
*The Shires host Round Two as the Challenge Increases