Multiple Choice: Original or contemporary ‘Black Bess’ Bugatti?

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Aviator Garros' 1913 Type 18 'Black Bess'
You can buy this Veyron 'Black Bess' for a mere $3 million | Bugatti photo
You can buy this Veyron ‘Black Bess’ for a mere $3 million | Bugatti photos
Aviator Garros' 1913 Type 18 'Black Bess'
Aviator Garros’ 1913 Type 18 ‘Black Bess’

Bugatti is doing a series of six Legends Edition  Veyrons, and the latest pays homage to the original Bugatti Type 18, known as “Black Bess,” that was delivered to a French aviator more than a century ago.

Unveiled at the recent Beijing auto show next to its namesake, the “Black Bess” Veyron 16.4 Grand Sport Vitesse Legend model is one of three to be built and offered for sale for a mere $3 million. The car is the fifth in the Legends series to be offered so far by Bugatti.

Bugatti claims the original Black Bess was “the first-ever street-legal super sports car.”

“Over the course of its history, Bugatti has not only been responsible for crafting enormously successful race cars, but has also created some outstanding road vehicles,” Wolfgang Schreiber, president of Bugatti Automobiles S.A.S., said in a news release. “As the fastest road vehicle of its time, the Type 18 was in a class of its own. It truly is the legitimate forerunner for the Veyron, and is therefore a Bugatti Legend.”

Powered by a 5.0-liter, 4-cylinder, overhead-cam inline engine that pumped out more than 100 horsepower, even with its chain-drive system, the original “Black Bess” could reach a top speed of 100 miles per hour.

Ettore Bugatti drove the Type 18 prototype to victory in the 1912 Mont Ventoux hill climb and then produced seven copies for customers, including aviator Roland Garros, who took delivery of his car on September 18, 1913. Garros would name his car “Black Bess” after a legendary British horse.

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Garros’ car is one of three from the series extant and was loaned to Bugatti for its Beijing display by the Louwman Museum in the Netherlands.
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A former daily newspaper sports editor, Larry Edsall spent a dozen years as an editor at AutoWeek magazine before making the transition to writing for the web and becoming the author of more than 15 automotive books. In addition to being founding editor at ClassicCars.com, Larry has written for The New York Times and The Detroit News and was an adjunct honors professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.