Founder Ettore Bugatti was born in Italy, and the automobile company that bears his name was founded in Molsheim, a town in the Alsace region, which was then a part of the German Empire (Alsace was annexed by Germany in 1871 and restored to France in 1919). The company was known for the advanced engineering in its premium road cars and its success in early Grand Prix motor racing, winning the first ever Monaco Grand Prix. The company's success culminated with driver Jean-Pierre Wimille winning the 24 hours of Le Mans twice (in 1937 with Robert Benoist and 1939 with Pierre Veyron).
Owing to the form of his engines, he is regarded as a Cubist, and he once attended a meeting of Cubists. Many Bugatti engines were modest in size but quite powerful. Many had three valves per cylinder, and some were supercharged as well. Ettore examined the valvetrain of two American Miller race cars and used their dual overhead cam shaft design under Miller trademark on future cars.