TG’s guide to concepts: father of Veyron, the Bugatti EB 18.4
Ferdinand Piech’s vision of a 250mph hypercar kicked into gear here
You can probably recite the figures off by heart. One thousand metric horsepower. Fifteen-hundred metric torques. 253 miles per hour. Twelve minutes to drain a tank at full chat. Eight litres, four turbos, and sixteen cylinders. The absurd Top Trumps of the Bugatti Veyron made it, like it or hate it, a modern motoring legend. All thanks to the bloody-mindedness of VW Group boss Ferdinand Piech, and the dedication of his most defeat-adverse engineers. Here’s where the Veyron story began in earnest.
We first got a good idea of where the proposal for a 1000PS, 400kph motor car was going way back in 1999, when Bugatti gave us this. It is the EB 18.4 Veyron concept.Advertisement - Page continues below
Looks similar to the Veyron, right? In fact, there’s details aplenty upon the new Bugatti Chiron that can trace its detailing back to this elegant late Nineties design study. No coincidence there. Once Piech was happy with the overall exterior design – the horseshoe grille, the massive rear haunches, the chromed scoops and so on – he set the design (metaphorically) in stone. Which made life rather difficult for the engineers, as it’s not exactly the sleekest supercar silhouette. There’s a reason cruise missiles and land speed record cars don’t have horseshoe grilles, y’know.
The concept was powered by a 6.3-litre, naturally aspirated 18-cylinder engine. Imagine the noise. Power was reportedly 555bhp and 479lb ft – reasonably senior stuff in the late Nineties, but just over half what the production car would need to claw its way past McLaren and Koenigsegg into the magic 400kph club. Even with 18 cylinders to deploy, the Bugatti failed to steal the McLaren F1’s thunder as the world’s most powerful naturally aspirated car, at the time.Advertisement - Page continues below
Bugatti claimed the concept’s performance would’ve been pretty stratospheric, even with such a measly power output. The figures quoted at the 1999 Tokyo motor show pitched the car’s 0-62mph sprint at a respectable 4.2 seconds, and the top speed at some 211mph. And if that launch time looks a bit tardy for a 4WD supercar, there’s a clue in that gearlever.
Yes, that’s a five-speed manual. In a Veyron. You’d have to heel-and-toe. In a Veyron. To think that little innovation got left on the cutting room floor…
It’s aged well, the 18.4 concept. Okay, you could argue that because the Veyron was never the prettiest slice of unobtanium to grace a sheikh’s underground garage or Knightsbridge High Street. We’d agree. But it just goes to show, not all outlandish, insane concept cars are impossible flights of fantasy. So long as you’ve got a spare five years and bottomless pit of money to throw at the problem…