by Andy Rheault (1982)
Other gear came in from Bart Loyens, the Amsterdam stockist, including a correct steering wheel and the lovely Marchal headlamps. “New” brake drums came variously from a friend in Massachusetts and another in Colorado. The latter wouldn’t release his pair until I had arranged for another set for his car to be shipped from England. All this took a bit of doing, but it was fun, also.
The main problem now was that the Bugatti never seemed to get finished, so I finally persuaded Russ Sceli to take it on as one of his projects for 1971. In the fifties, Russ had operated one of the first foreign car dealer-ships in Hartford, and had restored several Bugattis of his own before retiring to the quiet of his hilltop retreat in Canton, Connecticut. Here, he would take on one car at a time in his meticulous garage–! was glad to have the T-40 in his care. Russ took everything apart, and did a lot of under-breath muttering about orientals sticking to rickshaws. He liked the bodywork, but not the paint job, the quality and color of which he loathed. It took a lot of persuasion, but he finally agreed to repaint it “that awful grey”; he also had the seats recovered in a natural hide I bought from the Lackawanna Leather Company in the city of the same name.
Sarah and I were still living abroad at this time, but on one or two return visits made some preliminary sorties in the Bugatti. We blew a Saigon-installed Simca piston on one of these, and six months later had a repeat experience with a New Jersey special –much.to Russ’s chagrin. By 1974, the Rheaults had settled in Maine and, having lived out of suitcases for what seemed like forever, were anxious to get all of their possessions under the same roof. This, especially, meant gathering up the T-40 from Connecticut and a Riley Imp which had been stored in England. With a final assist from Don Lefferts, I made the trip from Ridgefield to Rockport–some 350 miles–in July of that same year. The notation in my 1974 carnet reads, “departed 9:15 – arrived 7:30 – at last the T-40 is ok and at home.” The speed record isn’t particularly impressive, and it certainly doesn’t match Albert Rochon’s time for his run to Dalat. Still, we made it.
Since then, many kilometers would have been recorded on the odometer if only the darned thing worked. We have made several trips, mostly in Maine, and at least one to Boston. During that particular trip, the oil pump went when we were passing Ingraham’s store and had only a quarter of a mile to go to reach the house. That, however, is another story. In addition to general touring–the purpose for which the T-40 and its ilk were designed–we tried a little racing last year. We did better than I would have imagined at the Bald Mountain speed trials, which is now an annual VSCCA event, but were still no competition for some of the faster cars. Most important, however, is the fact that the Bugatti is still enormously good fun to drive.
So there you have it: Bien Hoa to Bald Mountain, or how a Type 40 made it–circuitously, but memorably–4/5 the way around the world!