Friday, March 23, 2012

A Love Letter to the Bugatti EB110

The following is a partial re-write of something I posted to The Car Lounge a few years ago.

To me, the EB110 is a controversial, misunderstood, and under-appreciated car.  I don't think I'm being presumptuous when I say that most who dislike the car are basing their prejudices on looks alone, because to look at the insane mechanical spec, purity of engineering and raw talent that lies underneath the bodywork is to look at one of the greatest exotics ever built. 

The motor in particular is the stuff of petrol-scented dreams: an all-alloy, 3.5 liter, DOHC, 60 valve, quad turbo V12 with up to 650 HP and 470 lb/ft and a redline approaching 9000 RPM.

Contemporary reviews (and modern tests, see Evo magazine, March 2005) were rave, proclaiming it to be one of the best driving, most exciting, thoroughly developed, and plain brutally fast supercars ever made.
Typical impressions of both derivatives of the motor detailed, to paraphrase and summarize, supreme refinement, smoothness, and its tractable nature - being torquey from low down and possessing a mad top end kick.  It loved to rev, sounded complex and expensive from the outside, but almost too subdued inside - on the GT model anyway. Many mentioned the cool sequential 1,2,3,4 wastegate dumping.
The car’s handling and ride compromise was said to be very Lotus-like, which makes sense when you consider that then Bugatti owner Romano Artioli also owned Lotus at the time - the Elise was named for his granddaughter.
Steering was said to be full of feel, direct, accurate and uncorrupted by the considerable power transmitted through the front wheels, brakes were of the brick wall variety with good pedal feel and fade resistance.
the complex heart of the beast
Also fascinating was the incredible office/factory complex Artioli built for research, marketing, development and manufacture of the EB110 and the other envisioned brand vehicles, which now sits abandoned.  How I'd love to break in and have a peek around that place, so full of lost dreams and big ambitions - what could have been had the economy not tanked in a major way in the mid nineties?
EB110 Campogalliano assembly line, near Modena
I’ve always felt that the EB110 was more in line with Ettore's principals than the Veyron, both in fascinating, artisan-like if not entirely practical solutions to engineering problems and in its challenging but ultimately functional and interesting aesthetics - not all original Molsheim-era cars were as beautiful as the Atlantique. The Veyron is indisputably an engineering triumph and one of the greatest cars ever built, but to me, it just doesn't seem to carry the same "pur sang" ethos.


  1. Very convincing. I actually didn't pay much attention to it until you extolled its virtues when I posted the picture of that silver EB110 from Mullin.

    BTW, I'm fairly certain there is one near me. But the owner is very private so I doubt I'll ever see it.

    1. What color is it? Apparently there's one that comes to Irvine C&C pretty regularly, but I've never seen it myself.

      BTW, Mullin is on my to-do list this year, maybe an inaugural road trip in the RX-8? When you do make it down for C&C, be sure to check out the Marconi museum in Tustin.

    2. @Shamwow: No idea what color it is.

  2. there's a blue one in LA; I caught a glimpse of it a couple years ago, and then there's a silver one that was on loan to Petersen's Automotive Museum. Well written piece about such an amazing car.

    1. Yes I have seen photographed the car at Cars & Coffee a couple of years ago. Again, not knowing much about the car, I spent my morning looking at other exotic machinery....what a shame.

  3. An excellent piece on an equally magnificent piece of machinery. I have a black 1:18 made by Bburago, and that is probably the closest I'll ever be to enjoying it in the flesh. Hope you don't mind me commenting on these "ancient" articles of yours. Actually, I started reading them all, in chronological order, simply can't afford to skip any. :)

    1. I have the same model in blue.

      I don't mind at all, quite the opposite - thanks for reading!