Five classic Bugatti automobiles made history with record sales at auctions in 2020. Despite less-than-ideal economic conditions courtesy of the COVID-19 pandemic, historic Bugatti cars continue to command high resale values. Frank Wilke of Classic Analytics attributes it to Ettore and Jean Bugatti’s unique designs of the 1920s and 30s which “set standards in performance and design” in the world of race cars. Suffice to say, Bugatti has always been a brand associated with innovation and quality, built for those who appreciate ingenuity and look to push boundaries.
A visionary’s first designs
At just nineteen years of age, Ettore Bugatti built his first car. An automobile with forward-thinking designs such as a four-speed gearbox and four-cylinder overheard-valve engine. Upon opening his factory in 1909, Ettore set out to refine the design which eventually became the Type 13. This tiny vehicle sparkled with Bugatti’s creativity and took the second place at the 1911 French Grand Prix in Le Mans, beating out larger competitors designed by the likes of Fiat and others. Ettore Bugatti released several more iconic automobiles such as the Type 29/30 — “the Cigar”, and the Type 35 both of which featured the brand’s eight-cylinder engine. The design and performance of Bugatti’s eight-cylinder engine secured the Bugatti name in the world of racing forever, synonymous with speed and power.
It’s all in the blood
In 1927, Ettore’s son, Jean Bugatti, took a more active role in running the factory. He soon got involved in the design process, adding his own touches and flair to subsequent models. One of his most iconic designs was the 1935 “Aérolithe” which would eventually be reinterpreted and reborn as the Type 57S Atlante in 1936. The Type 57S chassis was famous for its association with Jean-Pierre Wimille and Robert Benoist, who used it to clinch victory in the 1937 24 Hours of Le Mans. Sadly, Jean’s time with Bugatti was short-lived as he became involved in a fatal accident while test-driving the Type 57C Tank as he swerved to avoid a cyclist while going at over 124mph. The year was 1939, and both Bugatti and the world, mourned the loss of one of the greatest designers in the history of automobiles.
A boundary-pushing mix of speed, comfort and style
Fast forward to present day and Bugatti continues with its legacy of fast cars loaded with technical innovations. The Bugatti Veyron 16.4 is a testament to the brand’s goal of producing stylish and comfortable automobiles for those with the need for speed. The Veyron was developed to meet three exacting performance specifications. Firstly, it had to produce over 1000 horsepower. Secondly, achieve a top speed of over 250mph. Lastly, it had to be able to accelerate from 0 to 62mph in less than three seconds. And it had to do all this while doubling as a luxury car for consumers to drive daily.
In order to meet these unbelievable specifications, all of its components had to be custom-designed and fabricated from scratch to strict standards and tolerances. The road to creating this supercar was far from smooth and technical problems arose at all stages of development. However, these obstacles only served to fuel Bugatti’s innovation, leading to the improvement of older technologies as well as the creation of new ones. Bugatti’s efforts soon bore fruit as the first Veyron EB16.4 rolled off the line in the Molsheim facility in 2005. The “EB” in the name was a tribute to the original founder Ettore Bugatti while Veyron was the name of one of Bugatti’s historic engineers and drivers. The marriage of elegant aesthetics and incredible performance in the Veyron is a testament to the stylish race cars of Ettore and Jean Bugatti’s era.
The need for speed
When talking about Bugatti and super speeds, one would be remiss to not mention the Chiron, named for Monégasque racing driver Louis Chiron, which broke the 300mph barrier last year, setting a new production car speed record of 304.773mph. The Chiron is the successor to the abovementioned Veyron, integrating super speed and comfort in a stylish package. The powerhouse of the Chiron is an updated version of the 8-litre W16 quad-turbocharged engine used in the Veyron. Bugatti aimed to push boundaries even further with the Chiron being able to produce 1479 horsepower and accelerate from 0 to 62mph in 2.5 seconds. Additionally, the Chiron oozes luxury and style with features such as customisable leather interior and the inclusion of the Sky View option to allow more natural light into the car’s cockpit. Yet another reason why Bugatti continues to inspire automobile enthusiasts the world over.
Bugatti Chiron; Image Courtesy of Bugatti
From unassuming designs in the mind of nineteen-year-old Ettore Bugatti, to a brand with a list of accolades under its belt, Bugatti continues on its pursuit of excellence, driven by its rich racing history, and its ever-greater need for speed. Bugatti remains an icon in the world of luxury motors. For more details, please visit the brand’s official website here.