Gone for good.
A friend who had done a quite exceptional job of choosing his parents many decades ago, sent me an interesting snap from his childhood the other day. It showed him at the wheel of a toy Bugatti, a precise small scale replica of the great racing car of the 1930s. Few could afford the real thing and fewer the toy, both now commanding high six to low seven figure figures at auction.
The snap prompted a quick dive into the Lightroom catalog back to August 2008, when the featured marque at the Monterey Vintage Races was none other than the same Bugatti. For those who rue the days when you could stroll around the paddock of a race meet or on the lawns of Pebble Beach to enjoy the fine machines, before the days when equality raised its ugly head, should know that the experience can still be recreated by going to Laguna Seca racetrack on the Thursday before the insanely crowded race weekend. Polyster and its wearers are both noticeable for their absence and you can park free and chat with the drivers and mechanics in the true unhurried fashion which this once gentleman’s sport used to dictate. All you need know about the main event nowadays is that it’s sponsored by that defining manufacturer of kitsch, Rolex.
And while the great racing Bugattis, France’s finest, have been extensively documented, when I surveyed the 20 or so machines gathered in the paddock my eyes were drawn to the detail. And what detail it is!
Bugatti, a French masterpiece.
Leather belt tachometer drive set against a machined firewall. Gorgeous tensioner design.
Leaf springs galore, proudly framed in French racing blue.
Cable operated drum brake.
Gear pre-selector mechanism. Check the exquisite design of the steering wheel spoke.
The last time this sort of attention to detail was seen in the camera world was on the Leica M2, before plastic started growing everywhere, screws gave way to rivets, and fabulous satin chrome and black enamel finishes were obsoleted by the excrescence known as ‘black chrome’, which translates to ‘matte spray paint’ if you must know, and lasts about as long.
All snaps on the Canon 5D with the 100mm Canon EF macro lens and a ring flash, newly reprocessed in Lightroom 4′s Process 2012, which adds significant sparkle to shadows and highlights. Not all progress is bad. The thought of taking these using the gear of the time is not one worth contemplating. With a modern DSLR it’s pretty much point-and-shoot, with results a thousand times better.