A Brief History of Bugatti Motors

the Bugatti logo

A few weeks back, I wrote a brief history of Bentley, and one of their main revivals in the 24 Hours of LeMans was Bugatti. I figured now was a good time to conduct a brief history of Bugatti, a rather brief car company in the grand scheme of things. Bugatti is by far the most popular low-volume brand in the world. The world of Bugatti is a whole other level of luxurious. You can’t listen to Rick Ross without him mentioning his Bugatti. Despite their pop culture popularity, Bugatti has only created a handful of cars over their hundred-year life. It just so happens that every time they release a model, it is one of the fastest and most beautiful cars on the planet.

Ettore Bugatti and the Founding

a black and white photo of Ettore Bugatti and his son
Ettore Bugatti (right) and his son – photo from Arnaud 25

Bugatti, widely considered a French supercar company, was founded by an Italian albeit in France. Ettore Bugatti was born to a rather famous and successful furniture designer. His artistic upbringing allowed Ettore to design some beautiful prototypes that won the Milan Trade Fair. From the beginning, Bugatti’s developed a reputation for their speed, luxury, and technical prowess. They also built a reputation for racing success. A Bugatti won the first-ever Monaco Grand Prix and two 24 Hour of LeMans. Pierre Veyron drove one of those LeMans winning Bugatti’s, and his name would appear on future Bugatti’s.

a blue Bugatti Type 35 race car
Bugatti Type 35 in French racing blue – photo from Lothar Spurzem

One of their most successful racing cars was the Type 35B. If you’ve seen an old racing poster featuring a Bugatti, chances are it was this one. Clad in the familiar French Racing Blue and horseshoe grill, a Type 35B won the Targa Florio five years in a row. No one had more podiums in a Bugatti than Louis Chiron, whose name would appear on the Bugatti Chiron. A native of Monaco, Chiron would be the first native to win the Monaco Grand Prix. He’s also renowned for being the oldest driver to compete in Formula 1 at 56 years old. Despite their success, Bugatti would slowly peter out and die in the 1950s but not before leaving us the gorgeous Type 50 in the 1930s. If you look at the swooping tear-drop style of the white paint, you can see how it inspired the current crop of Bugattis.

the Bugatti Type 50 in white and black
The gorgeous Bugatti Type 50 – photo by i_am_jim

The Fall and Attempted Revival

There were several attempts to revive the company since the 1950s, but nothing stood out in this era.

1990’s and the EB110

a yellow Bugatti EB110 Super Sport
1995 Bugatti EB 110 SS at the Goodwood Festival of Speed 2015 – photo by Edvvc from London, UK

Bugatti’s revival came on the heels on the world-beating Bugatti EB110. Romano Artiolio purchased Bugatti and introduced the 110 on Ettore Bugatti’s 110th birthday in 1991. The car immediately set the automotive world on fire. Featuring a 3.5 liter, quad-turbo V12, and AWD, the EB110 made 553 hp, hit 60 mph in just 3.4 seconds, and had a top speed of 212 miles per hour. All with the use of a proper six-speed manual. They later introduced the EB110 Super Sport with more power (603 hp) and an even higher top speed (221 mph). The EB110 was an absolute masterpiece. Michael Schumacher bought one. If I ever have the money, this and the Ferrari F40 are at the top of my list.

VW Revival

a black Veyron
Bugatti Veyron 16.4 – photo by M 93

Bugatti regained their swagger and made national media attention when Volkswagen purchased them in 1998. It was a grand deal constructed by the grand maestro Ferdinand Piech. I need to write a profile on that guy! The EB110 gained international attention, but VW had something even better planned. They would build an absolute tour de force, something that would knock the McLaren F1 down a notch or two. At the time, the McLaren F1 was the fastest car in the world, hitting 240 mph, besting the EB110 by 20 mph. It featured what still is the most powerful naturally aspirated engine in the world, making 618 hp. It would be a tall order for VW, considering they’re not exactly known for their performance chops.

Bugatti unleashed the Veyron, named after famed racing driver Pierre Veyron, with a mammoth 8-liter W16 engine with four turbochargers making a massive 1,000 horsepower. The car put power to the pavement through an automatic transmission, AWD, and specially made tires. Despite its mass, the Veyron hit 60 miles per hour in the low 2-second range, covered the quarter-mile in just 10 seconds, and hit a top speed of an unimaginable 267 miles per hour. They didn’t just throw the gauntlet; they launched it into another galaxy. There were a couple of variations including the Grand Sport, SuperSport, and Grand Sport Vitesse, but in all, they only made 450. The Veyron is so easy to drive even Captain Slow took it to its top speed.

They’re Not Done

a blue Chiron
Bugatti Chiron – photo by Decio “desmodex”

Bugatti continues to produce ridiculous cars. In 2016 they introduced the Chiron again named after racing driver Louis Chiron. The maniacs extracted even more power from the W16, this time up to 1,479 hp. Acceleration to 60 is mostly unchanged, but it hits 124 mph in just 6.5 seconds. That has to hurt your chest! If you’ve seen the news recently, you know what they did next. Bugatti set a world record for top speed, hitting an insane 304 miles per hour. What can you say about that? They’re in a whole other universe. If you think you’re rich in your leased Mercedes, owning a Bugatti is on a different level. I want a hero to create a race car out of one of these. 

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