This Is the Quad-Turbo Bugatti We’d Prefer
Long after the birth and glory years of the marque, when Bugatti was considered perhaps the epitome of car manufacturers but before the Bugatti Veyron lay claim to the title of fastest production car on Earth, there was an interim revival stint during the early 1990s. And it is out of this period that one of the most under-appreciated super cars was produced. That car was the Bugatti EB110, which is nearly forgotten today. Indeed, most people associate the Bugatti name with the 1,000+ hp Veyron produced under its current ownership by Volkswagen.
After the death of Bugatti’s founder and namesake, Mr. Ettore Bugatti, in 1947, the company went into decline and eventually ceased building cars. While there were a few attempts to revive the marque, none took hold. Ettore had no heirs, his son Jean famously losing his life testing a Bugatti racing car, and so Bugatti eventually became an airplane parts manufacturer. It seemed for a while that the fabled company would fade into the history books, until in 1987, Mr. Romano Artiolli entered the picture. An Italian entrepreneur and collector of the marque, Romano was encouraged (or perhaps egged on?) by Mr. Ferruccio Lamborghini, and ultimately acquired the Bugatti name and trademark. A long-time Ferrari dealer, Romano wanted to produce a car that was more advanced than any other. Two years later, the revitalized company, now also with a factory designed by architect Mr. Giampaolo Benedini in Campogalliano, just north of Modena, unveiled plans for a new car, the EB110. Named after founder Ettore Bugatti, who would have turned 110 years-old that year, and designed by the famed Mr. Marcello Gandini known for his designs of the Lamborghini Miura, Countach and Diablo, the car was to be as equally state of the art as the new factory.
The new car’s specifications were impressive, both then and now. Romano maintained a “best of everything” approach–the engine, developed by Mr. Paolo Stanzani (who helped design the famed Lamborghini V12) was a 3.5-liter quad-turbo (!) V12, with five valves per cylinder, generating a still impressive (but now increasingly quaint) 553 horsepower that drove all four wheels through a six-speed gearbox (giving it one more gear than the Lamborghini Diablo and Ferrari F512M). Yes, supercars once had three pedals, and a knob you could shift yourself. The EB110 had a top speed of 213 mph, and would reach the magic 60 mph number in just 3.4 seconds, handily overpowering and outpacing its contemporaries. Amongst its other records, it was also the first production car to use a carbon fiber chassis which French aviation company Aerospatiale built for Bugatti. And the car looked Nineties supercar cool. So, the EB110 had all the right stuff, but it just never really caught the buying public’s attention despite its amazing specifications and performance. Correction–the very rich buying public. Only 139 cars were built when the Bugatti factory again closed its doors in 1995. So what happened?
First off, we must consider that a global recession took place just as the EB110 entered production, and along with all the industries it affected, it took an especially heavy toll on the automobile industry. Second, Romano, the principal, made a series of ill-fated business decisions, including overspending on the architectural masterpiece of a factory, purchasing Lotus, and plowing much of the company’s remaining resources into developing the EB112 sedan. Another reason might be that a few months after the EB 110 debuted, another car appeared on the scene–the McLaren F1. Time stands still for no supercar, and the F1 instantly made the EB110 obsolete. Regardless, the company went bankrupt and closed its doors. Dauer Sportwagen, a German race car manufacturer, bought some of the unfinished EB110s and sold them under their name. They would end up further developing the design and selling a lighter, more powerful version called the Dauer EB110 until 2007 when they sold the last one.
Bugatti remained closed until 1998 when the mighty Volkswagen Group dusted off the Bugatti badge once again, and launched the Veyron in 2005. The EB110 became almost a footnote in the marque’s long history, but it shouldn’t be forgotten, because the EB110, while perhaps a bit dated by today’s standards, is still incredibly fast, capable, and rare. It can still hold its own against modern day super cars too. I think I’d rather have an EB110 over the Veyron any day!
Photography courtesy of RM Auctions ©2014