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Supercars

Let's take a moment to remember the Bugatti EB110

Thought Bugatti was French? For a little while, it actually went Italian...

  • You’ll know Bugatti well. It has rewritten both the rule and record books of supercars over the last 15 years with the mighty Veyron and even mightier Chiron. But readers of a certain age will know there is more to Bugatti’s modern history than those two. There is also the EB110.

    Its name is significant: EB represents company founder Ettore Bugatti’s initials, while 110 marks the birthday he would have been celebrating on 15 September 1991, the date on which the first three examples rolled down the Champs-Élysées in Paris. Bugatti is French, so that makes sense. But the EB110 arguably isn’t…

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  • The factory it’s whipping past here resides in Italy. Specifically, Italy’s Emilia-Romagna region, which supercar aficionados will know well as the home of Ferrari, Lamborghini, Maserati and now Pagani. Keen to attract the world’s finest supercar crafters, Bugatti shifted its home across the border from France in order to make the EB110 the best it could be.

    The factory is the work of a man called Romano Artioli. “He made a compromise with the plant in Campogalliano,” says current Bugatti boss Stephan Winkelmann. “He was well aware of the French importance of Bugatti, but needed the proximity of experienced sports car engineers. Through his commitment Artioli revived the Bugatti brand and contributed to the proud history of the EB110. He deserves our respect today.”

  • Keen not to completely turn his back on Bugatti’s heritage, the factory was stuffed full of references so no one could forget who it belonged to. Blue and white were prevalent throughout, all the building’s edges were smoothed into curves to reflect the company’s logo and French flags were hung everywhere.

    There were original sketches by Ettore on the walls, a Bugatti Type 35 was parked in the lobby and a handful of the building’s floors were decked in antique wood, marble or even mosaics. The whole thing took three years to build and was opened on 15 September 1990 – the founder’s 109th birthday, and exactly one year before the EB110 it would produce first broke cover back over the border in France.

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  • As the pictures betray, it’s a bit out of sorts now. This isn’t the building where gleaming new Chirons roll out of.

    See, the EB110, while adored among the enthusiast community, was denied a place in the supercar hall of fame proper by one of those pesky recessions. In Bugatti’s own words, “the market for supercars was collapsing and demand was falling dramatically.”

    All told, fewer than 130 EB110s made it into the hands of buyers. The factory closed when production ended.

  • But former caretaker Ezio Pavesi continues to care for it, and occasionally there are guided tours. To prove it’s not forgotten its past, Bugatti itself has shot these rather excellent pictures of not only some EB110 racecars visiting their birthplace, but a current-day Chiron Sport just for a little demonstration of progress (and growth).

  • Perhaps not as much progress as you might anticipate, though. Sure, the Chiron Sport has an 8.0-litre quad-turbo W16 engine producing just shy of 1,500bhp and good for 0-62mph in 2.4secs and 261mph.

    The EB110 belies its near 30-year age gap, however, with a 3.5-litre quad-turbo V12 good for over 600bhp and a 0-62mph in 3.3secs. Its 218mph was world-beating at the time, and the car had four speed records to its name.

  • It used four-wheel drive back when it wasn’t especially fashionable, too, as well as a carbon chassis. Though between the seats you’ll find the knob for a good old fashioned manual gearbox. Admit it, you want a go.

    Wondering about the racing livery? The EB110 also had a short-lived endurance career, qualifying well but failing to finish the 1994 Le Mans 24 Hours. Just imagine if Bugatti really got carried away with its heritage and put some slicks, stickers and wings on the Chiron for entry into Le Mans’ new hypercar class...

    But for now, all hail the wondrous EB110, and the equally wondrous factory that birthed it.

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