1932 Bucciali TAV 8-32 Saoutchik 'Fleche d'Or' Berline
The 1930 Paris Motorshow proved to be very successful as the brothers sign a deal with a new financial backer and sold their first front-wheel drive Bucciali to a private customer; Georges Roure. Impressed with a mock-up of the sixteen cylinder engine, he originally ordered his car with a similar engine, but after the brothers inform him that they can not produce it within a year, he changes his order to a Continental eight cylinder. The new backer was needed after Albert's wife refused to further spend any of her personal fortunes. The new partner is Emile Guillet, who already had a coachbuilding firm. The radiator on the TAV 2 chassis with the mock-up sixteen cylinder engine was fitted with an ornament that sported a stork similar to that of Albert's old squadron. This would become Bucciali's trademark logo. The following winter, the brothers again toured the United States and received a large amount of ink in all major magazines, but again no orders. Back in Courbevoie work was started on Roure's new car, which featured yet another development of the patented drivetrain. It was officially referred to as the TAV 8-32; the eight variant for 1932. To complicate things Roure changed his mind and requested a Voisin V12 engine to be fitted instead of the American eight cylinder.
After a successful 1930, the looming economic crisis and internal frictions brought nothing but trouble in 1931. The first major disappointment was the announcement of Peerless to abandon car production and instead focus on brewing beer through their newly acquired Carling brand, which was quite a gamble as at the time the probation was still enforced in the United States. To give the impression of actual production by the Bucciali brothers both the TAV 2 and the TAV 3 were fitted with new coachworks for the upcoming motorshow. The former was sent to Saoutchik and received a strikingly beautiful Cabriolet and the latter was entrusted to Guillet's workshop for a new limousine body. Albert was bitterly disappointed in Guillet's work and he had the car removed from the stand to have the body replaced by an earlier design. Needless to say this brought additional stress to the relationship between the brothers and their financier. Another worry is the fact that the completed TAV 8-32 chassis is also at Guillet's to be fitted with a cabriolet coachwork following a full size design drawn by Albert. Roure and Albert collect the completed car in November and set out for a 1000 km trip to Nice for the last concours d'elegance of the season. To prove the versatility of the engine, Albert uses only the fourth gear for the duration of the trip. The eighth incarnation of the front-wheel drive designs proves to be the best yet and both men are very impressed with the performance of the new Bucciali. Although the car is awarded the Grand Prix d'Honneur in the concours, neither Albert nor the owner is very impressed with the coachwork fitted by Guillet's workshop. The only nicely executed work were the embossed storks fitted on both sides of the bonnet.
To the further dismay of Emile Guillet, Roure offers to a substantial amount extra to have the first bodywork replaced by a Saoutchik creation. The French-Russian coachbuilder's work fitted on the TAV 2 had greatly impressed Roure. The design eventually picked was named 'Fleche d'Or' or Golden Arrow. In April of 1932 the work is completed and Roure was officially the first customer to take delivery of a Bucciali TAV. Not much it would become apparent that he also would be the only one to ever do so. The depression was close to its peak, and Guillet was running of money quickly and the brothers were not able to find any other manufacturer interested in adopting their technology. It was quite understandable that in a time of crisis no company would invest this much to completely turn their production around when the old-fashioned rear-wheel drive system was still working fine. It must have been little consolation that their one customer was indeed a very happy one and a quick glance at the stunning rolling sculpture he received quickly explained his delight. With no driveshaft running to the rear wheels, the coachwork could be fitted much closer onto the chassis, resulting in a dramatically lower overall height compared to contemporary machines. This was further enhanced by using 24 inch wheels. The storks of the original bodywork were carried over and served as the finishing touch on this grand design. With no further customers, Bucciali Brothers was forced to close down at the end of 1932.
Albert Bucciali continued to work on new innovations and once again attempted to serve his country by designing a series of military vehicles. Once again there was initial interest, but eventually nothing comes of it. To his dismay he later found out that his plans were passed on to Panhard & Levassor, who used them to build an eight wheeled military vehicle. His designs had also been adopted by many others including Willys in their Jeep. For many years he tries to fight these breaches of his patents in court, but despite several experts' reports confirming Albert's beliefs, each of his attempts is dismissed. In the 1950s he is employed by Cotal and designs a series of automatic gearboxes and torque converters. Having never received the recognition he deserved, Albert Bucciali passed away in 1981. Sadly not a single (complete) Buc or Bucciali has survived, although many parts of the TAV projects are still around. There are of course the millions upon millions of passenger cars out on the road today that use the front-wheel drive configuration pioneered by Albert Bucciali in 1926. Another fitting tribute is the excellent book written by Christian Huet on the subject, containing a detailed history of Albert Bucciali's life and many creations, illustrated by a plethora of period pictures and drawings. Huet was fortunate to meet with Albert many times and the book is as close to a personal account as it gets. Hopefully one day the French government in particular and the automotive industry in general will recognize the brilliance of this self-taught inventor and engineer.
Shortly after taking delivery of his new Bucciali, Roure sold it on to Count de Rivaud. This Paris banker was so impressed with the Saoutchik design that when he bought a new Bugatti Type 46, he had the old body fitted; it did not work quite as well on the Bugatti chassis as it had done on the front-wheel drive Bucciali. In the 1970s many of the parts of the TAV 8-32 were gathered once more in the United States, including the very rare Voisin engine, the bodywork and the drivetrain. From the original drawings the chassis, front bulkhead and rear axle are recreated and the 'Fleche d'Or' was reconstructed to its former glory. One of the biggest difficulties was getting the engine to run again; there was no timing info available. The elaborate project was finally completed in 1997 and the car is immediately offered by Christie's in their Pebble Beach auction. It was hard to put a value on a car that is both so very important, but also contains many non-original parts and the auctioneer was unable to find a new owner. In 1998 the car was bought by a Swiss collector who saw the car on display at the Christie's stand at the Retromobile show. The car returned stateside recently and was displayed in the 2006 Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance, but it was not entered for judging. It is seen above on the finely manicured 18th fairway where it was right at home between the art-deco Voisins and the eventual 'best of show' winning Daimler Double Six. It was quite a momentous occasion as one of only two other cars known to be fitted with the Voisin V12 engine, the striking Voisin C20 was also present.
Descriptions & pictures by ultimatecarpage & montesquieuvolvestre & coachbuild & planetcarsz & other