Last revised: 26-1-2009

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Car of the Month - October 2003

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Bucciali TAV 30 - cabriolet body by Saoutchik - modelyear 1932

Probably the ultimate exotic cars: the Traction Avant (TAV; meaning front wheel drive) models manufactured by the French brothers Paul-Albert and Angelo Bucciali during the late 1920s and early 1930s. After producing some sporty cycle cars and compact road cars under the "Buc" brand name the brothers became fascinated by the low and sleek American front wheel drive cars of the mid 1920s, like the Miller Special racing car of 1924. Though an old idea, front wheel drive technology was still experimental in those days and there were a number of difficulties yet to solve (such as combining steering and propulsion and the operation of the gearbox) before front wheel drive cars could be presented for regular use.
The Bucciali brothers decided to stop producing the Buc models and to concentrate completely on developing a new chassis and drive system for front wheel driven cars. In 1926 they presented the first two prototypes, fitted with a 4 and a 6-cylinder SCAP engine. These cars featured remarkably advanced technological solutions, complemented by elegant and luxurious bodies. Only problem was that the cars couldn't drive. A year later a revised version was presented at the Paris Motor Show with a small 1,5 litre engine but showing even more advanced solutions. Apparently this model could be ordered by customers, but it seems only the one was built. In 1928 this model was again revised and now was officially named Bucciali TAV and offered with a 2.4 litre 6-cylinder engine from Continental. Because of the lack of an longitudinal drive shaft it was possible to fit the cars with very low bodies which was done exemplary by famous coachbuilders like Labourdette.
Later the slightly underpowered 2.4 litre engine was replaced by more powerful 6 and 8 cylinder engines, also produced by Continental. These models were named TAV 30 and TAV 8 and distinguished themselves by very long and impressive bonnets. A small number of them were fitted with extremely tasteful yet avant-garde styled (roadster, cabriolet and sport coupe) bodies by Saoutchik, set off by a large flying stork symbol on each side of the bonnet. In 1931 the TAV models reached their summit with the new TAV Double Huit (Double Eight) chassis shown at the Paris Motor Show. It was a huge and prestigious platform fitted with a 16-cylinder engine constructed from 2 Continental 8-cylinder blocks joined together on one crankcase in a narrow V. This giant displaced 7.8 litre and produced 155 hp in utter silence.
Unfortunately the Double Huit also marked the end for Bucciali. The brothers never cared much about making money and the constant development of new technology rapidly depleted their funds. The TAV Double Huit chassis remained a one-off, planned to be fitted with an astonishing sport coupe body, and is still extant today. In 1932 a last new Bucciali model was shown, fitted with a V12 engine from Voisin and a striking 4-door sedan body by Saoutchik, and after that the Bucciali name disappeared from the car scene.

Only a very few Bucs and Buccialis have been manufactured during the companies existence, estimated at about 151 cars of which only 38 were fitted with front wheel drive. Of the TAV 30 model there were about ten cars made. The Bucciali brothers made cars the way they wanted to, though they envisioned a large market for their front wheel drive cars as soon as a large manufacturer would present itself and buy a production license, and they never strayed from striving for perfection. And it's this unique aspect, together with the distinct and unforgettable styling of their cars, that has kept their name from obscurity. Unfortunately few Buccialis have survived to this day, which makes them white ravens in the classic car scene. Therefore the car shown here is an exact recreation, finished in 1985. It may not be the real thing, it still is a remarkable car which keeps the unique Bucciali cars with their technology which was sometimes decades ahead in remembrance in style.

More pictures of this car can be found on the "Bucciali Foto Gallery" pages of the man who built and ownes this car, Bart de Vries.

© André Ritzinger, Amsterdam, Holland

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