A fast car that is simply an ultra-rare work of art; that is Bugatti! The brand has stood for expensive class, grace, and luxury vehicles for over a hundred years. The Bugatti brand offers something exceptional, but it is only by reading its history that you can understand how true this statement is.
Bugatti is one of the first top brands that come to mind when thinking of luxurious sports cars. In addition, Bugatti has also managed to make a name in the production of performance cars, supercars and sports cars.
Bugatti still represents a brand with old-world charm. An unequivocal symbol of the desire of an Italian who immigrated to France, with a desire never abandoned, to give life and tangible form to his dream of a car that defied fashion and the times, to reach the hearts of a lot of car enthusiasts. A car appreciated by all but only affordable by a few.
Throughout its countless years of history, the brand has suffered quite a few setbacks, so much so that it ended up being taken over by other companies with greater financial possibilities. Let’s see what the company has been through and how it is still among the most prestigious car brands today!
The Wizard of Bugatti
Ettore Bugatti was born in Milan on 15 September 1881. For generations, his family had been immersed in the world of art; his grandfather Giovanni Luigi was a sculptor and architect, and his father, Carlo, was an internationally renowned artist and designer specialising in furniture making.
Ettore took the same path as his predecessors. He was enrolled at the Brera Academy when he discovered an interest in mechanics, which led him to change his path and get hired in 1898 as a simple apprentice at the Milanese factory Prinetti & Stucchi, a manufacturer of bicycles, which was launching itself into the motor vehicle market.
There he made his first car, which would be christened as the Bugatti Type 1. In 1901 he made the Bugatti Type 2, which was presented at the Milan Trade Fair. Ettore’s second innovation was only possible because of the financial support of Count Gulinelli. The breathtaking design garnered him a working opportunity as a designer at the Lorraine-Dietrich car factory. However, Ettore didn’t stay for long; he was so eager to fly solo!
In 1909, he decided it was time to strike out on his own, and that’s how Automobiles Ettore Bugatti was founded. The headquarters were in Molsheim, in Alsace, then moved to Germany. Nonetheless, the brand soon became French again in 1919.
Although he is best known for cars, Hector Bugatti was, in fact, a true inventor and innovator. He designed a railway carriage, an aeroplane, bicycles and even toy cars. Later he designed doors, armchairs, surgical instruments, and even riding belts, and his genius bears the signature of all these objects.
Ettore Bugatti not only founded one of the most iconic marques in the motor world, but the innovations he introduced, both technical and aesthetic, helped shape the forms and components of four-wheeled vehicles as we know them today.
Starting the Brand
The Bugatti company was founded in 1909 when Ettore Bugatti moved to Alsace, Molsheim. Ettore was a true artist like most of his family members and immediately managed to impress, creating a new car with a unique design for the time, the Tipo 13 Brescia (Bugatti Type 13). The elegance of this vehicle appealed to the wealthier classes, and the Bugatti brand was immediately identified as something extraordinarily exclusive.
The company’s initial models didn’t only impress at the showrooms but also at the races, winning numerous Grand Prix Championships. In 1927, one of the most striking and majestic cars of all time came onto the market; the Bugatti Type 41, known as the Royale because it was only intended for the nobility of the time. Its engine delivered a maximum power of no less than 200 hp. It is seven metres long, two metres wide and just as tall, featuring a dancing elephant on top of the radiator. Only seven examples of this car were made as it was too avant-garde and too expensive for anyone’s pocket!
The 1930s: The Way to the Top!
After the Royale came, one of the most elegant cars of the decade came on the market, the Bugatti Type 57, in 1934, and later came its many spectacular variants like the Galibier, the more versatile variant of Type 57, it came out in 1934 too, and it was distinguished from the other versions by its four doors, the absence of a central pillar and rear doors that opened against the wind and is only opened from the inside.
Another memorable variant of Type 57 is, of course, the Bugatti Type 57 SC Atlantic. Produced between 1936 and 1938, the Bugatti Type 57 SC Atlantic is an icon in terms of class, quality and performance. 1936 saw the birth of another variant from the Type 57, Type 57S Atlantic, a masterpiece of style and technology produced in only 43 examples.
It was the sportiest variant of Type 57 and was distinguished by its sinuous forms, reduced external dimensions (32 cm shorter and lower) and a more powerful engine – an eight-cylinder 3,250 – (135 to 170 hp).
In the 1930s, Bugatti began to take part in races where there was no lack of success; the Bugatti Type 35 won plenty of races, including the Targa Florio six times and the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Bugatti engines were so powerful that they were fitted in railway carriages, a kind of high-speed train of the period. Think of its engine being able to touch 172 km/h, which in the 1930s is something phenomenal.
The 1940s-1980s: Bumps on The Road
In 1939, a tragedy struck the company in a major way; Jean Bugatti, Ettore’s son and designated heir, died at the age of only 30 while testing the Le Mans winning car on a closed road.
The onset of the Second World War further complicated matters, and Bugatti ceased operations permanently. After the war, the plant was handed over to Ettore Bugatti, who was left without money and accused of collaborationism and put on trial. He died on 21 August 1947, a few months before his release.
Rolando Bugatti (one of Ettore’s sons) took over the family company in 1951 and concentrated on servicing cars already on the market and the production of military engines. In 1956 Bugatti officially ended production after 47 years and just under 8,000 cars assembled.
Seven years later, it was sold to Hispano-Suiza and renamed Messier-Bugatti, a company that still produces components for the aircraft industry today.
The 1990s: The Comeback!
Many years had to pass before anyone thought of taking this glorious brand back. In 1987, Italian entrepreneur Romano Artioli, a Modenese who was in charge of importing Suzuki for Italy, set up an Italian Bugatti. He bought the rights to the Bugatti brand and created Bugatti Automobile based in Campogalliano, in the province of Modena.
The factory started with the production of a 3.5-litre V12 vehicle right from the start. The vehicle featured no less than four IHI turbines, five valves per cylinder and a power output of, you guessed it, 412 kW. The power unit was built in less than a year, and by 1989, the brand’s first cars were ready for road tests. While the bodywork still had to be fine-tuned, mechanically, everything was ready. It was not until 1991 that the final car was unveiled in Paris.
The car was named EB110 in memory of the brand’s first founder, Ettore Bugatti. The vehicle with the powerful V12 featured a carbon-fibre body and had permanent four-wheel drive with a six-speed gearbox. The dreams of a small company were soon shattered in the face of the enormous motives of power.
The team that had led the brand’s rebirth, however, did not give up and, in 1992, brought the EB110 S model to the Geneva Motor Show, an even more vigorous version with 451Kw. This car was produced in 139 units and was fitted with a stunning V12 engine made of aluminium-magnesium and aluminium-titanium. The power output of this car exceeded 600 hp. With these figures, it becomes superfluous to use any adjectives towards this vehicle, a car more unique than rare, as perhaps only Bugatti was able to do. However, sadly, there was low demand for vehicles.
It was not yet the time to give up despite everything. So it was that in 1993, Bugatti presented the EB112, the new four-door saloon, with the same mechanicals as the EB110 but with almost double the displacement. It featured 6 litres and 339 kW, with retro styling reminiscent of 1930s Bugattis, but after two examples were built, the project came to an end.
Unfortunately, after only eight years, in the year 1995 to be precise, the company had to declare bankruptcy and shut down for the second time.
The 2000s: Like the Phoenix Bugatti Rise!
The phoenix is a mythological figure famous for its astonishing ability to be reborn from the ashes; Bugatti has a lot of affinity with it! For one more time, the brand returned to the market, this time thanks to Volkswagen Group, who bought it in 1998.
Shortly after the deal, the stupendous Bugatti Veyron was born! The Veyron was a car capable of easily exceeding 400 km/h. This vehicle is fitted with an incredible 16-cylinder 8-litre engine with a 7-speed DSG gearbox and over 1000 hp; the four turbines already used on the EB110 and all-wheel drive complete what you could call a real ‘plane on the road’. The car is one of the priciest cars currently in mass production.
After numerous prototypes, Bugatti got serious in 2005, and it brought production back to Molsheim and unveiled the Veyron, one of the craziest cars ever. The car had an 8.0 W16 four-cylinder engine with 1,001 hp, a top speed of over 400 km/h and less than three seconds to accelerate from 0 to 100 km/h.
In 2008 the grand sports variant of the car made its debut, while 2010 saw the launch of the super sports variant.
The 2010s: Creating a League of its Own!
The heir to the Veyron—the Bugatti Chiron—was unveiled in 2016. It was an even more aggressive design and an 8.0 four-cylinder W16 engine capable of generating an impressive 1,500 hp.
In 2018 it was Divo’s turn (a Chiron aimed at those seeking driving pleasure). The Bugatti Divo is more than just an extreme evolution of the Chiron. In fact, the French hypercar took the Molsheim-based manufacturer, where it has never been in recent decades, in the pursuit of cornering performance. The car’s name, in fact, is a tribute to Albert Eugène Divo, a driver who won two consecutive editions of the Targa Florio in the 1920s aboard a Bugatti Type 35 B. As often happens in these cases, however, very few people were able to enjoy it, and its production was limited to 40 examples.
In 2019, the newest Bugatti’s pride and joy saw the light of day; the La ultra-hypercar and one-off Bugatti Voiture Noire! The development of the Voiture Noire lasted two years and resulted in the creation of a unique example in the history of the brand. In fact, no other Voiture Noire will ever be produced.
The name refers to the Type 57 SC Atlantic of the 1930s. The car, driven by Jean Bugatti, Ettore’s son, was renamed ‘the Black Car’ at the time. The Voiture Noire ideally continued the legend of Type 57 with minimalist lines characterised by extensive use of carbon fibre.
What is most impressive is the rear end with an uninterrupted LED line and the naughty six exhaust tailpipes. The car was tested for two years to fine-tune the driving experience and safety. The engine is the 8-litre 16-cylinder with 1,500 hp and 1,600 Nm of torque, a true monster derived from the already extreme Chiron!
The Bugatti’s innovations in recent years have been mind-blowing! With each creation, the brand raises the bar too high! In 2020, the brand showed that it had so much more to offer with Bolide. This hypercar is powered by the gigantic 8.0 four-cylinder petrol engine capable of developing 1,850 horsepower and 1,850 newton metres of torque for just 1,240 kilogrammes of weight. The direct effect is on performance: 0-100 in 2.1 seconds, 0-200 in 4.3 and 0-500 in 20.1. For a top speed of 500 kilometres per hour.
This car is the most extreme Bugatti ever designed, and the designers have taken maniacal care not to make it one gram heavier than necessary. The bodywork is, in fact, made of carbon fibre but not completely painted; headlights and lights are formed by two small strips of LEDs and the airscoop, the element on the roof to bring extra air into the engine compartment, can change shape according to need and speed!
The Rimac Era
In July 2021, Bugatti Rimac was born; it is a joint venture based in Croatia specialising in high-performance electric cars. A choice that will guarantee the glorious French marque a bright electrified future where it keeps on making more one-of-a-kind luxurious cars.
Throughout its history, the Bugatti brand has proven that it is like no other! Its impressive and eventful journey and its stylish and superb designs are unmatched! Thanks to its uniqueness and innovation, Bugatti has succeeded in building a remarkable reputation in the automobile industry. Bugatti is the symbol of an all-Italian dream, which, in spite of the many setbacks it had to face, never gave up. This is the key to the Bugatti’s timeless appeal!