Patrick Burk’s greatest treasure is a sheet of writing paper without any writing on it, just an embossed Bugatti emblem and two black lines in the top left-hand corner.
“Ettore Bugatti had this writing paper made in 1939 following the death of his son, Jean, as a sign of his grief,” says Burk, who was given the sheet many years ago out of gratitude for his untiring dedication to the French luxury auto manufacturer.
Burk has been Bugatti facility manager at Molsheim since 2001 and is the company’s longest-serving employee.
“Over the course of time, Burk has delved deep into the history of the historic French company,” Bugatti said in a news release profiling Burk. “Not because he had to, but because he finds the family so fascinating.”
As caretaker, the 57-year-old Frenchman is the only employee living at the Bugatti facility. His home is behind the Château and the Remise Nord. He cares for the facility seven days a week. It is his dream job.
“It was only by accident that Burk, who trained as an industrial mechanic, technician and engineering assistant, came to his current job,” Bugatti said.
“I saw a job as a caretaker advertised in newspaper,” Burk is quoted in the company’s news release about him. “The advertisement did not state the name of the company or the precise location. I became curious and decided to apply.”
Burk was invited to an interview at the Château, which had just been restored.
“During the interview, I was asked about my qualifications in the areas of plumbing, electrical systems, gardening and security,” he recalled. “It was only at the end of the interview that the personnel department member told me that the new headquarters of Bugatti were to be built here at this historic location. I was thrilled that Bugatti was returning to its home in Alsace.
“Afterwards, I knew that I really wanted this job. Bugatti is a brand that is inspiring and creative, artistic and technically highly demanding. It is also a French brand.”
Although Ettore Bugatti was born in Italy, Molsheim became his workplace and home. It also has become Burk’s workplace and home as he was selected from among more than 300 applicants for the caretaker’s role.
“I did not know what I was letting myself in for,” he said.
When Burk arrived, only the historic Château had been renovated. There are four other buildings, plus gardens of exotic plants and an “orangerie” with palms.
He starts his rounds at 7 a.m. daily, inspecting buildings, boilers and ventilation systems while also welcoming other staffers.
“After 18 years, I am really familiar with the plant and I notice any irregularities immediately,” he said. “It is important to keep the facility with all its buildings in very good condition, near to perfection.
“The factory should be just as good as our vehicles.”
Burk’s office is in the Atelier where the Chiron and Divo are produced.
While other “facility managers” within the Volkswagen Group deal with huge production plants with robotic equipment, Burk is more of an estate manager, taking care of grounds that include 250-year-old oak trees and more than a dozen deer.
Burk also has had paramedic and firefighter training.
“I would do anything for Bugatti,” he said. “I helped to build up this plant and it is a large part of my life,” along with his own children and grandchildren.
He not only knows the other employees but many of the customers, he said, some of whom he would pick up at the airport when they were visiting the Bugatti facility.
“I made many friends in the process,” he said.
From time to time, Burk gets to use a Chiron to give rides to local authorities, including police and firefighters, so they can experience the vehicles being built in their neighborhood.
Otherwise, he noted, it might be difficult to explain “what is so special about Bugatti – the beauty, the quality and the performance. It’s just the best car in the world.”