The Bugatti Type 35 I can almost afford


Several years ago I was working away on an extended work contract and needed a personal project to add some challenge to evenings and weekends. After looking at a number of inspiring opportunities I zeroed in on several kit car options and more specifically an Ironsmith Bugatti.
Bob Koch produced his Ironsmith kits or/ and optional completed cars in the early to mid 1980’s. Unlike the VW based versions, Bob’s Type 35 Bugatti called for a Ford donor car, Pinto, Bobcat and Fox body Mustangs to supply the running gear, suspension and steering column.
On a Kit Car discussion board I came across an unbuilt/ untouched Ironsmith Bugatti kit offered for sale by the original buyer/ owner in Groveland, Ca. Long story short this Kit was shipped via a furniture moving company/ LTL transporter from California to Newfoundland, Canada. This involved some challenges around importing a kit car kit to Canada and took several months. In that interval and rather then go looking for antique Ford parts I opted to modernize a couple of generations and purchased the drive train from a first generation Honda S2000 including the complete rear sub-frame/ differential/ suspension/ brakes. I sorted out front suspension (Mustang II) and had ordered a complete front end from Speedway Motors. Based on the Honda rear hub size I was able to match (GM Metric) the bolt circle for the front hubs and ordered a set of 5 each 18" wire wheels and Jaguar type hub adaptors (splined with knock-ons|) to match. Richards Brothers in Cardiff, Wales built the wheels for me after some consultation on needed offset, etc. to suit my application.
The vehicle concept was evolving during this interval and rather then an open wheel racer I was intending on creating more of a touring car with a few basic amenities like a heater, a windshield with wipers, fenders and as many period correct parts and accessories as I could reasonably find.
Once the Kit finally arrived I set the engine/ tranny temporarily between the frame rails as far forward as would keep it within the bodywork, I was hoping to use the stock drive shaft (un-modified) and used it as the spacer to set the rear end relative to the frame. After surveying the assembly comparing against a nice side view of a genuine Bugatti Type 35 I was happy with the rear axle position.
What I also found during that survey was that to fit the windshield I had obtained I would need more acreage on which to accommodate the windscreen. That windshield by the way is a Duval V-windshield in the form of a casting kit for a '32 Ford and turned out to be good quality weldable aluminum. It was chopped and narrowed to suit the Bugatti cowl.
As noted above the cowl needed to be extended in length and from the survey proportions I had come up with I also would be changing the shape of the doorless side cutouts and lowering the tail section by about 3 inches.
Front suspension was altered to accommodate adjustable coil-overs, tower mounts were fabricated on to the rear subframe to handle similar coil-overs. This last bit of suspension strategy was to accommodate ordering replacement custom coil springs once the car has been finished and weighed at the 4 corners. I can readily adjust ride height but spring rate will I think dramatically improve comfort and handling.
The dash panel detail as included with the kit came with a Masonite template, foam and a piece of black vinyl. Based on the instrument kit I had acquired I built a mahogany veneer dash from scratch with some neat detail including what looks like the back end of the magneto that lived in the dash of the genuine article. The Scintilla (Swiss) ignition switch assembly is period as well, comes from across the Pond and of course the key turns the wrong way!
Exterior trim includes period correct Marchal (French) headlamps and genuine Bugatti fenders found in England and Scintilla replica tail lamps… Seats as well came from the UK from a disappointed AC Cobra builder who was forced to replace his seats with a version that included a headrest - to meet new motor vehicle registration requirements. The frame horns fitted to the front end came off a damaged frame of a '29 Ford Model A, so far the only Ford donor parts I’ve resorted to.
The V-Tec Honda will generate around 220 HP and the 6-Spd. will make for a very sporty drive. I seriously doubt there will ever be an opportunity to take that engine to it’s redline of 9600 rpm or peak HP on the very narrow patch of tire tread.
The exhaust system has been fabricated from an aftermarket stainless exhaust set for a Honda S2000. I only needed about half the pipe but the bonus was price (eBay) and matching flanges. One cut and reweld was all that was required.
Electrical is the next challenge on my plate and I have on hand the two factory wiring harness sets for engine bay and interior from again, a Honda S2000. With matching harness connectors/ ECM, etc. I’m hoping for pretty much a plug-n-play process to get the engine running. Lots of unneeded circuits which will be lopped off and dead ended.
Hagerty I gather do not typically accept kit cars for coverage. I made my application to them based on the level of content and creativity going into this effort and that was accepted.
I expect 2018 will be the coming out for this effort, I’m planning to drive the car in suede/ primer initially and once any bugs are worked out she’ll come back to the workshop for finish paint and trim. I’ve been a DIY Guy all my life and this build has been one of the most enjoyable and creative projects I’ve ever taken on.
I’ve joined as an associate member of the local British Motoring Association with my claim to fame that, based on the “J Lemon Burton” Dealer Dash Plaque you can sight on my Dash, the car has an illegitimate British connection!
Unfortunately Hagerty limits me as a new subscriber to only a single image - just a bit disappointing when telling a story. Perhaps I can edit/ add needed reference images in the future?


@gmrossjr - What a unique project! I like the look and love the engine choice. That is going to really be something else to drive!