As Told by Dan Doerer

Joe Messler (known locally as “Bugatti Joe”) was smitten with the style and beauty of the 1927 Bugatti Type 35 way back in 1972. His investigations took him to the home of a disenchanted replicar builder who apparently found out, post purchase from Antique and Classics, that he had bitten off more than he could chew. Joe jumped in and bought the basket case on the spot.

Armed with his newly acquired yet distressed kit, along with an early (1964) Volkswagen, and a lot of enthusiasm, Joe embarked on the odyssey of creating his dream replica. 

Not happy with the supplied brass and wood dashboard,

Joe launched into fabricating an all aluminum, machine-turned dashboard. The tooling he used was a Craftsman drill guide model #67173 and a six-foot wallpaper ruler/straight edge.

The finished piece of machine-turned aluminum graces the entire dashboard. 

Some of the other vintage touches include authentic wheel hubs, a vintage Motometer for the radiator, and a vintage Ettore Bugatti manufacturer’s plate.

In 2001, Joe purchased and installed a new 1600 Dual Port VW engine, using a single carb to feed the dual ports.  At the same time he treated the exhaust system to twin glass pack mufflers.

In 2007, 5.00 x 19 Excelsior Comp H tires from Coker tire were added. Most recently, Joe had vintage decals made in the period correct size.

As of today, the capable, 81-year old, longtime member and director of the Greater St. Louis Kit Car Club still hunts the swap meets for vintage touches and more importantly, still has fun doing it.

To Joe, the car is never finished.