He stems, born in 1881, out of a rather craft-artistic world, his father designer, architect, but foremost a famous furniture builder. The whole family shares similarly creative talents, his brother Rembrand develops, e.g. to a well-known (animal) sculptor. Ettore Bugatti does not follow suit completely, having an additional interest for technology. He has grown up, by the way, in the industrial middle of Northern Italy, in the Po Valley between Milan and Turin.
His family does not only tolerate his fascination for mobile technology, they support it by allowing him to be an apprentice in the bicycle factory of Prinetti & Stucchi. Already here the bases is laid out for his own high standard in terms of craft-qualitative implementation of his later products. His talent in the technical drawing becomes also clear and is used. Already in this time he produces drawings of concept cars. With a tricycle he already takes part in the first races.
The first four-wheeler is probably Type 1. Number 2 is designed after he ceases his job, with the financial assistance of friends, being successful on an exhibition in Milan. He comes into touch and cooperates with de Dietrich, who wants to extend his assortment of heavy vehicles downwards. This decision brings Bugatti for the first time into the Alsace, before the First World War part of the German empire.
A small model range with quite modern - for the time - engines. Though the camshaft still lies below, but overhead valves already indicate that Bugatti wants to be relatively close to the technology frontier in the development of the vehicle-engine technology. Indeed, he does not start theoretically like a typical engineer would do, but rather jumps immediately into the practice, comparably to the trial-and-error method.
The De Dietrich time probably does not satisfy the company owner with big profits. Too much is ´lost´ in development and maybe also racing. In 1904 this business relationship ends and there is a cooperation with Emil Mathis, which is indeed more of a cooperation than before. Bugatti takes over a lot of his activities, design features and contacts with traders from de Dietrich. However, also this alliance fails after two years.