Bugatti

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Bugatti in 2018 is precisely where corporate parent Volkswagen wants it to be. The Alsatian automaker is once again known the world over for making what some consider to be the ultimate road car: a 16-cylinder engine with four-digit horsepower, a top speed so fast no tire can handle it, and a build so over-engineered it has a seven-digit price tag. We're living in the second heyday for a marque that first rose to prominence almost a century ago.

That first golden age was built at the race track. The company's most famous machine was the Type 35, a car you could drive to a Grand Prix, win, and then drive home—assuming you had the talent and could afford one, obviously. In its latest incarnation, Bugatti has largely avoided competition. But in the mid-1990s, just before VW assumed control of the storied name, it had another go at finding a motorsports halo.

The death of Ettore Bugatti in 1947 was the end of the company's first era, but the name was revived during the supercar boom of the 1990s. Italian businessman Romano Artoli secured the moniker from the French government, then found backing to build an impressive new factory in Modena, Italy. The car was a technological marvel. It had a carbon fiber chassis, made by Aérospatiale. The early prototypes were styled by Gandini. Under the skin was a 3.5L, quad-turbo V12 engine and all-wheel drive with a top speed of 213mph.

The resurrected Bugatti was briefly the ultimate expression of the supercar, until the McLaren F1 came along with even bigger stats. Much of that car's legend was made racing at Le Mans and elsewhere. Like McLaren, Bugatti was persuaded by a wealthy owner to take the car racing. Unlike McLaren, it never had much success. In the end, two cars were built; one raced at Le Mans and another raced here in the US IMSA series. But by then Bugatti was dead again, victim to a global recession—and maybe even sabotage from other car companies.

All of this is a long way of saying there's a fascinating new documentary on YouTube about the ill-fated racing program. Made by Drive Experience, it interviews key players, including Artoli himself, and is listed on YouTube as "Bugatti Special—The story of the two unique EB110 built to race (Le Mans & IMSA)"; (writer-director Davide Cironi doesn't include a title in the video.) The video is in Italian, but the English subtitles are very good. If, like me, you also imprinted on the Bugatti EB110 during your formative automotive period, set aside a half-hour to check it out; you won't be disappointed.

Bugatti wasn't dead for long. In 1998, Volkswagen bought the name—but nothing else. These days Bugatti is once more in its traditional home of Molsheim in France, and that gleaming white factory in Campogalliano in Italy is now moss-covered and abandoned.

But the EB110 survived, after a fashion. After acquiring some unbuilt chassis and spares, the German company Dauer built five improved EB110 Supersports with new, all-carbon bodywork. (Fun fact: Dauer also converted Porsche 962 race cars for road use, in 1994—the same year the EB110 raced there—the overall winner at Le Mans was one of those road cars, converted back to race use again.)

Around the same time Dauer was selling the last EB110 Supersports, another EB110-based supercar broke cover. It was called the Edonis and was designed by a company called B Engineering, which was formed by former Bugatti engineers who pooled their resources to buy up a number of other unused chassis. The Edonis ditched the all-wheel-drive system and bumped power output up to 720hp while discarding the original styling for something a lot fussier. You might imagine that the Edonis story ended there, but you'd be wrong. Earlier this year, a Las Vegas company called Casil Motors revealed the car is still alive and available to order. Prices start at $786,593 (€690,000).

Listing image by Raphael GAILLARDE/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

Source : https://arstechnica.com/cars/2018/08/this-bugatti-eb110-video-is-a-great-reminder-of-the-1990s-supercar-boom/

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