The Big Car Database

Bugatti

Automobiles Ettore Bugatti was a French car manufacturer of high-performance automobiles, founded in 1909 in the then German city of Molsheim, Alsaceby Italian-born Ettore Bugatti.

Bugatti cars were known for their design beauty (Ettore Bugatti was from a family of artists and considered himself to be both an artist and constructor) and for their many race victories. Famous Bugattis include the Type 35 Grand Prix cars, the Type 41 "Royale", the Type 57 "Atlantic" and the Type 55 sports car.

The death of Ettore Bugatti in 1947 proved to be the end for the marque, and the death of his son Jean Bugatti in 1939 ensured there was not a successor to lead the factory. No more than about 8,000 cars were made. The company struggled financially, and released one last model in the 1950s, before eventually being purchased for its airplane parts business in the 1960s. In the 1990s, an Italian entrepreneur revived it as a builder of limited production exclusive sports cars. Today, the name is owned by German automobile manufacturing group Volkswagen.

Industry Automotive
Fate Sold to Hispano-Suiza (1963)
Sold to Volkswagen Group(July 1998)
Successor Bugatti Automobiles S.A.S.
Founded 1909
Founder Ettore Bugatti
Defunct 1963
Headquarters Molsheim, Alsace, France

Key people

  • Ettore Bugatti
  • Jean Bugatti
Products Automobiles
Website bugatti-cars.de
UK Trust: Bugatti-trust.co.uk/

Family

Ettore Bugatti (1881-1947) is perhaps most famous for his racing cars of the 20s and 30s which, as well as winning races, have been acknowledged as works of art. He was the son of Carlo, an acclaimed and successful designer of furniture, interiors, pottery and jewellery. Ettore’s brother Rembrandt became a sculptor, of international renown.

Having produced several car designs from 1899 for other companies, Ettore Bugatti set up a small factory in France in 1909. From there for more than 30 years he invented, designed and produced, with awesome variety, not only cars – which ranged from his innovative and successful tiny racing car in 1911 to the luxury limousines and grand touring cars of the 20s and 30s – but also engines, machine tools, railway rolling stock and many other examples of twentieth century industrial design.

Industrial Design and Invention

Ettore Bugatti was not formally trained in engineering but he developed a style and method of working seemingly based on his talents and self-confidence.

He suffered some spectacular failures but all his work is marked by an uncompromising design integrity allied to a simple and logical use of materials. He described his works as ‘thoroughbred’ (Pur Sang).

Carlo Bugatti

Carlo Bugatti (1856 – 1940) was born in Milan and became an artist and designer of international renown. He trained at the Brera Academy of Fine Arts and was greatly influenced by the early exponents of the ‘New Art’ in their reaction against the heavy, ornate, classical, Renaissance, Baroque and Rococo styles fashionable in the mid 19th Century.

Carlo Bugatti worked in architecture, interiors, ceramics, musical instruments, paintings, silverware and textiles as well as the furniture for which he is best known. As a stylist he was highly individualistic, although drawing on Gothic, Moorish and Oriental influences and, particularly, the work of Violet le Duc, nearly all his work demonstrates a most confident use of simple powerful form; sometimes geometric; sometimes organic.

Many of the pieces were elaborately finished in a variety of colours and textures with intricate insect like decorative motifs. In the case of furniture this surface treatment may help to disguise the structure jointing and method of construction and contribute to the sculptural unity of the piece.

Apparently, the Bugatti household was an interesting and artistically stimulating environment. Many of the family friends and visitors were musicians, painters and sculptors and freedom of individual expression and an open exchange of ideas were traits which were encouraged, expected and valued.

From the early 1880s Carlo Bugatti’s output of interior designs, furniture and silverware was prodigious and it seems that his work was highly regarded. His self-confidence and promotional talents no doubt helped him make a commercial success of his industry.

Carlo married Therèse Lorioli and they had three children – Ettore, Deanice and Rembrandt. Some of Carlo’s talents, his individuality and his approach to his art, whether by nature or nurture, seemed to resurface in the following generations of his family.

Rembrandt Bugatti

Rembrandt Bugatti (1884 – 1916), younger son of Carlo, was a naturally gifted sculptor. As a child he was encouraged by the family friend and renowned sculptor, Paul Troubetzkoy, to work in plasticine or clay.

These media suited his expressive style allowing direct and rapid manual working and re-working. His subjects were usually animals, which he patiently and carefully observed, often in the Paris Jardin des Plantes or the Antwerp Zoo. He said that many of his animal subjects became his friends and in his work he portrayed them with great sensitivity. The pieces often brilliantly show animal characteristics such as grace, power, timidity, maternal tenderness, playfulness, sexuality and sometimes humour. Rembrandt’s animals, it seems, were never violent or aggressive.

When he was 18 (1903) Rembrandt left home and went to Paris where he associated with the art foundry and gallery owner, Adrian Hébrard. Hébrard and the master founder Palazzolo formed a powerful group developing the technique of lost wax bronze casting and patination to new heights. The Bugatti bronzes which were produced from the clay originals were exhibited and promoted by Hébrard and were very highly acclaimed.

The artistry of Rembrandt Bugatti’s animal sculptures developed, from his earlier natural style which has been described as impressionistic, where form is paramount, to a later, more studied expressionism. Throughout this process, however, the sculptor seems to imbue each piece with the essential spirit of the individual subject. Respect, even homage, is always evident.

Personal human relationships were not always easy for Rembrandt. Despite the continued success of his work, after 1911, he became gradually more isolated, anxious and anguished. He was often desperately short of money. Following the outbreak of the First World War he lost many of his ‘friends’ when the stock of the European zoos was reduced. With the horrors of war his gentle art must have seemed out of place. He died in 1916.

Under Ettore Bugatti

Founder Ettore Bugatti was born in Milan, Italy, and the automobile company that bears his name was founded in 1909 in Molsheim located in the Alsace region which was part of the German Empire from 1871 to 1919. The company was known both for the level of detail of its engineering in its automobiles, and for the artistic way in which the designs were executed, given the artistic nature of Ettore's family (his father, Carlo Bugatti (1856–1940), was an important Art Nouveau furniture and jewelry designer).

World War I and its aftermath

During the war Ettore Bugatti was sent away, initially to Milan and later to Paris, but as soon as hostilities had been concluded he returned to his factory at Molsheim. Less than four months after theVersailles Treaty formalised the transfer of Alsace from Germany to France, Bugatti was able to obtain, at the last minute, a stand at the 15th Paris motor show in October 1919. He exhibited three light cars, all of them closely based on their pre-war equivalents, and each fitted with the same overhead camshaft 4-cylinder 1,368cc engine with four valves per cylinder. Smallest of the three was a "Type 13" with a racing body (constructed by Bugatti themselves) and using a chassis with a 2,000 mm (78.7 in) wheelbase. The others were a "Type 22" and a "Type 23" with wheelbases of 2,250 and 2,400 mm (88.6 and 94.5 in) respectively.

Racing successes

The company also enjoyed great success in early Grand Prix motor racing: in 1929 a privately entered Bugatti won the first ever Monaco Grand Prix. Racing success culminated with driver Jean-Pierre Wimille winning the 24 hours of Le Mans twice (in 1937 with Robert Benoist and 1939 with Pierre Veyron).

Bugatti cars were extremely successful in racing. The little Bugatti Type 10 swept the top four positions at its first race. The 1924 Bugatti Type 35 is probably the most successful racing car of all time, with over 2,000 wins. The Type 35 was developed by Bugatti with master engineer and racing driver Jean Chassagne who also drove it in the car’s first ever Grand Prix in 1924 Lyon. Bugattis swept to victory in the Targa Florio for five years straight from 1925 through 1929. Louis Chiron held the most podiums in Bugatti cars, and the modern marque revival Bugatti Automobiles S.A.S. named the 1999 Bugatti 18/3 Chiron concept car in his honour. But it was the final racing success at Le Mans that is most remembered—Jean-Pierre Wimille and Pierre Veyron won the 1939 race with just one car and meagre resources.

Aeroplane racing

In the 1930s, Ettore Bugatti got involved in the creation of a racer airplane, hoping to beat the Germans in the Deutsch de la Meurthe prize. This would be the Bugatti 100P, which never flew. It was designed by Belgian engineer Louis de Monge who had already applied Bugatti Brescia engines in his "Type 7.5" lifting body.

Railcar

Ettore Bugatti also designed a successful motorised railcar, the Autorail (Autorail Bugatti).

Family tragedy

The death of Ettore Bugatti's son, Jean Bugatti, on 11 August 1939 marked a turning point in the company's fortunes. Jean died while testing a Type 57 tank-bodied race car near the Molsheim factory.

After World War II

World War II left the Molsheim factory in ruins and the company lost control of the property. During the war, Bugatti planned a new factory at Levallois, a northwestern suburb of Paris. After the war, Bugatti designed and planned to build a series of new cars, including the Type 73 road car and Type 73C single seat racing car, but in all Bugatti built only five Type 73 cars.

Development of a 375 cc supercharged car was stopped when Ettore Bugatti died on 21 August 1947. Following Ettore Bugatti's death, the business declined further and made its last appearance as a business in its own right at a Paris Motor Show in October 1952.

After a long decline, the original incarnation of Bugatti ceased operations in 1952.

Design

Bugattis are noticeably focused on design. Engine blocks were hand scraped to ensure that the surfaces were so flat that gaskets were not required for sealing, many of the exposed surfaces of the engine compartment featured guilloché (engine turned) finishes on them, and safety wires had been threaded through almost every fastener in intricately laced patterns. Rather than bolt the springs to the axles as most manufacturers did, Bugatti's axles were forged such that the spring passed though a carefully sized opening in the axle, a much more elegant solution requiring fewer parts. He famously described his arch competitor Bentley's cars as "the world's fastest lorries" for focusing on durability. According to Bugatti, "weight was the enemy".

Important models built

Prototypes Racing cars Road cars
  • 1900–1901 Type 2
  • 1903 Type 5
  • 1908 Type 10 "Petit Pur Sang"
  • 1925 Type 36
  • 1929–1930 Type 45/47
  • Type 56 (electric car)
  • 1939 Type 64 (coupe)
  • 1943/1947 Type 73C
  • 1910–1914 Type 13/Type 15/17/22
  • 1912 Type 16 "Bébé"
  • 1922–1926 Type 29 "Cigare"
  • 1923 Type 32 "Tank"
  • 1924–1930 Type 35/35A/35B/35T/35C/37/39 "Grand Prix"
  • 1927–1930 Type 52 (electric racer for children)
  • 1936–1939 Type 57G "Tank"
  • 1937–1939 Type 50B
  • 1931–1936 Type 53
  • 1931–1936 Type 51/51A/54GP/59
  • 1955–1956 Type 251
  • 1910 Type 13
  • 1912–1914 Type 18
  • 1913–1914 Type 23/Brescia Tourer (roadster)
  • 1922–1934 Type 30/38/40/43/44/49 (touring car)
  • 1927–1933 Type 41 "Royale"
  • 1929–1939 Type 46/50/50T (touring car)
  • 1932–1935 Type 55 (roadster)
  • 1934–1940 Type 57/57S/Type 57SC (touring car)
  • 1951–1956 Type 101 (coupe)
  • 1957–1962 Type 252 (2-seat sports convertible)

 Racing victories

Year Race Driver Car
1921 Voiturettes Grand Prix Ernest Friderich  
1925 Targa Florio Bartolomeo Costantini Type 35
1926 French Grand Prix Jules Goux Type 39 A
1926 Italian Grand Prix Louis Charavel  
1926 Spanish Grand Prix Bartolomeo Costantini  
1926 Targa Florio Bartolomeo Costantini Type 35 T
1927 Italian Grand Prix Tazio Nuvolari Type 35 C
1927 Targa Florio Emilio Materassi Type 35 C
1928 French Grand Prix William Grover-Williams Type 35 C
  Italian Grand Prix Louis Chiron  
  Spanish Grand Prix Louis Chiron  
  Targa Florio Albert Divo Type 35 B
1929 French Grand Prix William Grover-Williams Type 35 B
  German Grand Prix Louis Chiron  
  Spanish Grand Prix Louis Chiron  
  Monaco Grand Prix William Grover-Williams Type 35 B
  Targa Florio Albert Divo Type 35 C
1930 Belgian Grand Prix Louis Chiron  
  Czechoslovakian Grand Prix Heinrich-Joachim von Morgen and Hermann zu Leiningen  
  French Grand Prix Philippe Étancelin Type 35 C
  Monaco Grand Prix René Dreyfus  
1931 Belgian Grand Prix William Grover-Williams and Caberto Conelli  
  Czechoslovakian Grand Prix Louis Chiron  
  French Grand Prix Louis Chiron and Achille Varzi Type 51
  Monaco Grand Prix Louis Chiron  
1932 Czechoslovakian Grand Prix Louis Chiron  
1933 Czechoslovakian Grand Prix Louis Chiron  
  Monaco Grand Prix Achille Varzi  
1934 Belgian Grand Prix René Dreyfus  
1936 French Grand Prix Jean-Pierre Wimille and Raymond Sommer Type 57 G
1937 24 hours of Le Mans Jean-Pierre Wimille and Robert Benoist Type 57 G
1939 24 hours of Le Mans Jean-Pierre Wimille and Pierre Veyron Type 57 C

1956 Formula One

Year Chassis Engine(s) Tires Drivers 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Points WCC
1956 Bugatti Type 251 Bugatti Straight-8 D   ARG MON 500 BEL FRA GBR GER ITA 0* -*
Maurice Trintignant         Ret      

* The World Constructors' Championship was not awarded before 1958.

Notable finds in the modern era

Relatives of Harold Carr found a rare 1937 Bugatti Type 57S Atalante when cataloguing the doctor's belongings after his death in 2009. Carr's Type 57S is notable because it was originally owned by British race car driver Earl Howe. Because much of the car's original equipment is intact, it can be restored without relying on replacement parts.

On 10 July 2009, a 1925 Bugatti Brescia Type 22 which had lain at the bottom of Lake Maggiore on the border of Switzerland and Italy for 75 years was recovered from the lake. The Mullin Museum inOxnard, California bought it at auction for $351,343 at Bonham's Rétromobile sale in Paris in 2010.

Attempts at revival

The company attempted a comeback under Roland Bugatti in the mid-1950s with the mid-engined Type 251 race car. Designed with help from Gioacchino Colombo, the car failed to perform to expectations and the company's attempts at automobile production were halted.

In the 1960s, Virgil Exner designed a Bugatti as part of his "Revival Cars" project. A show version of this car was actually built by Ghia using the last Bugatti Type 101 chassis, and was shown at the 1965Turin Motor Show. Finance was not forthcoming, and Exner then turned his attention to a revival of Stutz.

Bugatti continued manufacturing airplane parts and was sold to Hispano-Suiza, also a former auto maker turned aircraft supplier, in 1963. Snecma took over Hispano-Suiza in 1968. After acquiring Messier, Snecma merged Messier and Bugatti into Messier-Bugatti in 1977.

Modern revivals

Bugatti Automobili S.p.A. (1987–1995) 

Italian entrepreneur Romano Artioli acquired the Bugatti brand in 1987, and established Bugatti Automobili S.p.A.. Artioli commissioned architect Giampaolo Benedini to design the factory which was built in Campogalliano, Modena, Italy. Construction of the plant began in 1988, alongside the development of the first model, and it was inaugurated two years later—in 1990.

By 1989 the plans for the new Bugatti revival were presented by Paolo Stanzani and Marcello Gandini, designers of the Lamborghini Miura and Lamborghini Countach. The first production vehicle was the Bugatti EB110 GT. It used a carbon-fibre-reinforced polymer chassis, a 3.5-litre, 5-valve per cylinder, quad-turbocharged 60° V12 engine, a six-speed gearbox, and four-wheel drive.

Famed racing car designer Mauro Forghieri served as Bugatti's technical director from 1992 through 1994.

On 27 August 1993, through his holding company, ACBN Holdings S.A. of Luxembourg, Romano Artioli purchased Lotus Cars from General Motors. Plans were made to list Bugatti shares on international stock exchanges.

Bugatti presented a prototype large saloon called the EB112 in 1993.

Perhaps the most famous Bugatti EB110 owner was seven-time Formula One World Champion racing driver Michael Schumacher who purchased an EB110 in 1994. Schumacher sold his EB110, which had been repaired after a severe 1994 crash, to Modena Motorsport, a Ferrari service and race preparation garage in Germany.

By the time the EB110 came to market, the North American and European economies were in recession. Poor economic conditions forced the company to fail and operations ceased in September 1995. A model specific to the US market called the "Bugatti America" was in the preparatory stages when the company ceased operations.

Bugatti's liquidators sold Lotus Cars to Proton of Malaysia. German firm Dauer Racing purchased the EB110 licence and remaining parts stock in 1997 in order to produce five more EB110 SS vehicles. These five SS versions of the EB110 were greatly refined by Dauer. The Campogalliano factory was sold to a furniture-making company, which subsequently collapsed before moving in, leaving the building unoccupied. After Dauer stopped producing cars in 2011, Toscana-Motors GmbH of Germany purchased the remaining parts stock from Dauer.

Bugatti Automobiles S.A.S. (1998–present)

Pre-Veyron 

Volkswagen AG acquired the Bugatti brand in 1998. Bugatti Automobiles S.A.S. commissioned Giorgetto Giugiaro of ItalDesign to produce Bugatti Automobiles's first concept vehicle, the EB118, a coupé that debuted at the 1998 Paris Auto Show. The EB118 concept featured a 408-kilowatt (555 PS; 547 bhp), W-18 engine. After its Paris debut, the EB118 concept was shown again in 1999 at the Geneva Auto Show and the Tokyo Motor Show. Bugatti introduced its next concepts, the EB 218 at the 1999 Geneva Motor Show and the 18/3 Chiron at the 1999 Frankfurt Motor Show (IAA).

Veyron era (2005-2015)

Bugatti Automobiles S.A.S. began assembling its first regular-production vehicle, the Bugatti Veyron 16.4 (the 1001 BHP super car with an 8-litre W-16 engine with four turbochargers) in September 2005 at the Bugatti Molsheim, France assembly "studio". On 23 February 2015, Bugatti sold its last Veyron Grand Sport Vitesse, which was named La Finale.

Chiron era (2016-present)

Early concept cars

Italdesign Giugiaro designs

Volkswagen commissioned Ital design's Giorgetto Giugiaro to design a series of concept cars to return the marque to prominence. The first example, the EB 118, was a two-door coupé and was introduced at the Paris Motor Show in 1998. It was followed by the four-door EB 218 touring sedan, introduced at the Geneva Motor Show in 1999. Later that year, the 18/3 Chiron was shown at the IAA in Frankfurt.

Volkswagen designs

Volkswagen designed the final Bugatti concept, the EB 18/4 GT in house. Bugatti introduced the EB 18/4 at the 1999 Tokyo Motor Show.

W18 Engine

All of these early concepts featured a 555 PS (408 kW; 547 hp) 18-cylinder engine. This was the first-ever W-configuration engine on a passenger vehicle, with three blocks of 6 cylinders each. It shared many components with Volkswagen's modular engine family.

Production cars

In the 1980s the Bugatti brand was brought back as Bugatti Automobili S.p.A. in Italy. The company produced the EB110 in the 1990s, which put Bugatti back on the modern super-car scene. The company was then bought by VW at the end of the 20th century.

Veyron 16.4

Development of this vehicle began with the 1999 EB 18/4 "Veyron" concept car, which itself had a chassis based on that of the Bugatti 18/3 Chiron concept car. It was similar in design and appearance to the final Veyron production car. One major difference was the EB 18/4's use of a W18 engine with three banks of six cylinders. The Veyron's chief designer was Hartmut Warkuss, and the exterior was designed by Jozef Kabaň of Volkswagen, rather than Giorgetto Giugiaro of Italdesign, who had handled the three prior Bugatti concepts.

The then – Volkswagen Group chairman Ferdinand Piëch announced the Veyron at the 2000 Geneva Motor Show. It was promised to be the fastest, most powerful and most expensive car in history. Instead of the W18, it would use a VR6/WR8-style W16 engine. First seen in the 1999 Bentley Hunaudières concept car, the W16 would have four turbochargers and produce a quoted (metric) 1001 horsepower (see engine section for details on the power output). Top speed was promised at 407 km/h (253 mph), and the price was announced at €1 million.

Development continued throughout 2001 and the EB 16/4 Veyron was promoted to "advanced concept" status. In late 2001, Bugatti announced that the car, officially called the "Bugatti Veyron 16.4", would go into production in 2003.

Piëch retired that year as chairman of the Volkswagen Group and was replaced by Bernd Pischetsrieder. The new chairman promptly sent the Veyron back to the drawing board for major revisions. Neumann was replaced as Bugatti president by Thomas Bscher in December 2003, and substantial modifications were made to the Veyron under the guidance of a former VW engineer, Bugatti Engineering chief Wolfgang Schreiber.

The Veyron costs €1,100,000 (net price without taxes); prices vary by exchange rates and local taxes (like value added taxes). Prices for the UK or the US are over £880,000, or around $1,400,000. It was noted in an April issue of Live magazine (weekly men's magazine with The Sunday Times) that customers are free to order additional extras which can push the price up by the cost of a Rolls Royce Phantom. During an episode of Top Gear, the car was compared to the Concorde as a feat of technology.

16C Galibier

Main article: Bugatti 16C Galibier

The 16C Galibier was first unveiled during Celebration of the Centenary of the Marque in Molsheim. The presentation was only for Bugatti customers. The car show in Molsheim showed the car in blue carbon fibre and aluminum parts. One year later Bugatti showed the world the 16C Galibier Concept at "VW Group Night" at the Geneva Auto Show in a new black and aluminum color combination.

The Galibier, a 1000 HP sedan, was first shown as a concept in 2010 and when they planned to put it into production in 2015, It would have cost about $1.4 million. It would use the same 16-cylinder 8.0-litre engine as the Veyron but instead of four turbos, the 16C Galibier would instead use two superchargers to deliver better torque. Production would require new facilities in Molsheim, France, to be refitted, which pushed back potential deliveries until 2015.

In 2013 it was announced that the car will never be produced as they wish to focus on a Veyron replacement.

Chiron

At the 2016 Geneva Auto Show, Bugatti premiered the Bugatti Chiron as a successor to the Veyron. The pricing is set at 2.4 million euros. The car is expected to have 1500 horsepower and will be capped at 420 km/h (260 mph) for road use. It can accelerate from 0-100 kp/h in 2.5 seconds. Production is limited to 500 units. Unlike the Veyron, the Chiron is expected to make a profit.

 

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