Money alone isn’t enough to revive a legendary marque, especially when that marque is Bugatti. To give such compelling heritage justice, one needs to equal Ettore’s passion, dedication, and genius, three decisive factors that made Bugatti the most cutting-edge automobile manufacturer in the first half of the 20th century. When Romano Artioli revealed the Bugatti EB110, it seemed like the third attempt to breathe new life into the company was the one.
Thanks to a multitude of experts involved in the project, the EB110 possessed a spark of Bugatti’s ingenuity and was unequivocally the most revolutionary supercar of its era, but even that wasn’t enough.
The EB110 was a glorious comeback and a swan’s song. So, how come that such an exceptional car didn’t survive long enough to front a lineage of modern-day Bugattis from Campogalliano?
Background of Bugatti
Upon Ettore’s passing in 1947, the struggling company was once again shaken to its core.
Just days before the Second World War ravaged France, Ettore’s son Jean Bugatti tragically lost his life and the aftermath of the grueling bloodshed saw the Molsheim factory in ruins. As an Italian in liberated France, Ettore faced harassment from the government, his property confiscated and his contributions to France in WW1 completely forgotten.
The planned comeback in form of the Type 73 and the Type 73C Grand Prix racer was cut short by Ettore’s death, leaving Roland Bugatti as an heir with a nearly impossible task of keeping the company afloat.
In 1947, the family reclaimed control over Molsheim estate and the factory, alas post-WW2 France wasn’t favorable towards luxurious automotive marques, so Bugatti shared the same misfortune as Delahaye, closing its doors in 1953.
However, the EB110 wasn’t the first shot at resurrecting Bugatti. In 1955, Ettore’s cousin Roland Bugatti entered the Type 251 Grand Prix race car. The transversely mid-mounted construction was avant-garde, yet the straight-eight unit alone was archaic and the 251 performed with mediocre success. With its Grand Prix outing being just a fragment of Bugatti’s former glory, the 251 was just a flicker that failed to ignite any further attempts at reviving.
The next one to try to no avail was former Chrysler designer Virgil Exner. As a part of his Exner Revival Cars, Bugatti joined the likes of Packard, Duesenberg, and Stutz. Exner’s efforts involved mating the last surviving Type 101 chassis with the final Type 57 straight-eight Bugatti engine and commissioning Ghia to build the body.
However, none of this was enough since the dramatic convertible wasn’t greeted with enthusiasm at the 1965 Turin Auto Show. Once more, Bugatti was dormant, this time for the next three decades.
Founding of Bugatti Automobili S.p.A.
The most fortunate revival attempt came when an Italian industrialist Romano Artioli bought the rights to Bugatti name, establishing Bugatti Automobili S.p.A. in 1987.
The idea of Bugatti’s revival was proposed to Artioli by none other than Ferruccio Lamborghini. Together with ex-Lamborghini engineer and designer Paolo Stanzani, Ferruccio wanted to embark on another project after selling his eponymous company in 1981. While looking for another financial partner, the duo came across Artioli, an accomplished car dealer and importer in one of Europe’s wealthiest regions. The initial idea to found a new brand soon grew into a wildly ambitious plan to reestablish one of the all-time greats.
An acclaimed Bugatti collector, Artioli had personal aspirations to establish a company worthy of Ettore’s legacy, Bugatti macaron, and the horseshoe grille. All he needed was a push and he got it from Mr. Lamborghini himself.
Disagreeing with Artioli’s ambition to go huge from the very start, Ferruccio soon retreated, at least officially, leaving him to resume the journey his own way. Following the dispute, Artioli and Stanzani soon started working on a draft to deliver to Snecma, a company holding the rights to Bugatti based on its 1968 acquisition of Hispano-Suiza, Bugatti’s parent company and car company turned aerospace manufacturer.
With the rights bought, the duo teamed up with the like-minded enthusiast, automotive historian Jean-Marc Borel and in 1987 the Bugatti International holding was established in Luxembourg.
Borel was managing the holding, while Ettore’s youngest son Michel Bugatti was among the board of directors. Artioli led the Bugatti Automobili S.p.A. while 35% of the Bugatti International holding was held by Tecnostile, a highly regarded independent engineering company employing former Lamborghini personnel.
To strategically position Bugatti in the center of the supercar industry, Artioli established a new modern facility in Campogalliano, a picturesque village on the outskirts of Modena. Besides Ferrari, all relevant automotive businesses claimed the Emilia Romagna region its home, so being in close vicinity to both the contractors and competitors was paramount for the newly resurrected brand.
Famous for huge EB initials etched into brute concrete walls, the monumental factory was constructed by Artioli’s cousin, famed architect Giampaolo Benedini. Even the production facility aimed to differ from anything seen before. Artioli wanted the workers to feel comfortable working in a pleasant, airy open-space environment, far from a typical factory of the era.
Development of the Bugatti EB110
Romano Artioli’s personal passion for Bugatti didn’t allow him to slap a horseshoe grille on just any mishmash of performance parts and sheet metal.
On the contrary, he wanted a car superior to any contender coming from Modena, Italy, or the whole world for that matter. The year was 1987 and Ferrari had just uncovered the F40, but that wasn’t it as Porsche already had the 959, and Jaguar presented the stunning XJ220 concept in 1988, so the upcoming Bugatti had big shoes to fill to come out on top.
Part One: The Stanzani Era
Paolo Stanzani fronted the development project together with Tecnostile, envisioning the underpinnings of the car. Both Artioli, Stanzani, and the principal Tecnostile team of Achille Bevini, Tiziano Benedetti, and Oliviero Pedrazzi agreed that the car should push the boundaries of an already established concept, the mid-engined V12 supercar. Still, the team spoke from experience, as they developed the chassis and the engine of the Miura.
During the early development stages, Stanzani advocated for a V12 of a rather modest displacement, not bigger than 3.5 liters, yet aided by turbochargers. The somewhat compact engine would have ensured moderate weight loss, while the turbochargers were there to make it up for the engine’s size. At this stage, the team also considered carbon brakes and active suspension, but these ideas were dropped due as there wasn’t enough time.
At the same stage, the engineering team proposed an all-aluminum honeycomb chassis, and with the blueprints complete, the most regarded designers were commissioned to come up with the looks of the upcoming car. A quartet of accomplished designers returned their vision for the future Bugatti and each was special in its own right.
The most radical proposal came from ex-Pininfarina designer Paolo Martin. Known for his otherworldly shapes, Martin created the 110 PM1 prototype with a panoramic windshield and a floating rear wing integrated within the diagonal character line starting behind the front wheels. The design revolved around aerodynamic efficiency, but it proved to be too far-out and definitely not elegant enough to be considered for production.
Next were Giorgetto Giugiaro and the ID 90, a silver teardrop of a car on retro wheels with a glass dome cabin partly covering the engine bay. The streamlined shape didn’t sit well with Artioli as well, but some styling cues found its way to the original car, albeit in a very different way. The ID 90 was eventually presented at the 1990 Turin Motor Show alongside the Aztec Barchetta and it subsequently served as a design direction for the BMW Nazca cars.
Marc Deschamps of Bertone started with a concept car that didn’t get to its final form, either because Artioli didn’t find it innovative enough while in the early proposals or because Studio Bertone was certain that Bugatti Automobili S.p.A. won’t really endure past the prototype stage. Whatever was the reason, Bertone was also out of the game.
Ultimately, it was Marcello Gandini’s body finding its way to the pre-production cars. An established supercar creator, Gandini produced some of the most influential designs of the 20th century, setting not one, but two blueprints for modern-day supercars: the Miura and the Countach. With the EB110 prototype, he employed his distinct flair to create a sharp and angular silhouette featuring scissor doors, a trademark granting him the place among the all-greats.
The development testing of the functional prototypes was carried out by another person famous for knowing a thing or two about speed. It was Loris Bicocchi, a longtime Lamborghini test driver brought by ex-colleague Stanzani as the perfect man for the job. Thrilled with the prospect of being a part of Bugatti’s resurrection, Biocchi extensively tested the pre-production cars, sharing his valuable observations on a daily basis in the following months.
Part Two: Nicola Materazzi
It was September 15, 1990, what would have been Ettore Bugatti’s 109th birthday and the Campogalliano factory had its grand opening. At the pompous event, Gandini’s DMD80 prototype was still under covers.
Despite having a state-of-the-art engine for his dream Bugatti revival, Romano Artioli wasn’t content with the design. Artioli found the prototype too aggressive, also not innovative enough as he thought the car belonged to the wedge era, resembling a Lamborghini too much. In Artioli’s mind, the car was too angular and outdated, hence far from finished even though the facility was ready for final adjustments and the start of production. After Artioli refused Gandini’s redesign proposal, the prototype, the famed designer departed from the project.
Just like with Ferruccio in the earliest stages, the creative and business-related differences between Artioli and Stanzani caught up too, leaving the latter to quit in August 1990, a month before the opening of the factory. With just a year left until the planned release date, the 100th anniversary of Ettore Bugatti’s birth, all progress abruptly stalled.
Artioli was efficient in finding the evenly matched replacement, signing chief Ferrari engineer Nicola Materazzi to take over where Stanzani and Tecnostile left. An immensely experienced engineer and constructor, Materazzi already had a plethora of projects under his belt – Lancia Fulvia HF, Stratos and the LC2, Ferrari 288 GTO and F40, just to name a few.
By coming over to finish the project, Materazzi brought Michelin test driver Jean-Philippe Vittecoq to join Biocchi in testing the prototypes in efforts to make the car production-worthy by September 1991. The first tests sorted out some imperfections, at a cost of the increased weight of the car. It was back to the drawing board for the team in order to perfect the redesigned car.
Artioli wanted something more high tech, yet inherently connected to the Bugatti heritage. The answer was in aerospace engineering. In the past, Bugatti kept close ties to the aeronautical industry and modern aviation businesses had the know-how in adding lightness. So, Artioli chose the state-owned companies Aérospaciale and Composite Aquitaine to join the process by constructing a carbon fiber monocoque chassis, the first of its kind ever built for a production automobile.
The clock was ticking and Artioli still didn’t have the design, so he turned to Pavel Rajmis and Campogalliano’s own architect Giampaolo Benedini to better the original Gandini’s design. After several proposals finessed the details like ditching pop up headlights and incorporating the horseshoe grille, the design was complete and the EB110 was ready to be presented.
EB110: The Presentation
A car as special as the EB110 GT asked for a special place for the event and a special person to unveil it. The date was already set – September 15, 1991.
The glamorous reveal took place at two of the most prominent Parisian locations, the ultra-modern La Défense and the more traditional, yet equally monumental Versailles palace.
The master of the ceremony was a fellow Bugatti aficionado who also happened to be France’s biggest movie star, Alain Delon. Artioli’s wife Renata Kettmeir and Delon unveiled the car in front of hundreds of journalists, Campogalliano employees, and ecstatic fans.
The unveiling continued with a two-car parade through the Concorde and the Champs-Elysees, while an 1800-guest event took place in the orange gardens of Louis XIV’s vast estate. The following day, the EB110 GT prototypes were presented in Molsheim, in a spiritual homecoming event.
Needless to say, Artioli had the same approach to sales as Bugatti: he wanted the cars sold to the right people, not the richest ones while also retaining total control over sales. Each prospective buyer was interviewed and subsequently approved or ruled out and the delivery process came with adequate training and demonstration from a traveling team of mechanics.
The initial model was officially named the EB110 GT and cost over $350,000 US. In 1994, the EB110 Super Sport joined the range, offering a more focused driver’s car.
Here ends a fragment of the story leading to the birth of the EB110. Now it’s time to go through this fascinating car itself.
Since honeycomb aluminum monocoque was ruled out, the EB110 became the first production automobile to have a carbon fiber monocoque chassis. Artioli rejected the aluminum construction because it was too flexible, which he thought was not the optimal solution for the avant-garde supercar.
And he was right because the Aérospaciale-designed carbon-fiber monocoque possessed more structural rigidity, all while weighing just 275.5 lb. Saving weight was crucial in the late development stages as the car became heavier due to numerous alterations regarding the mechanics and the interior finish.
As a result of these last-minute changes, the EB110 weighed 3,571 lb, an impressive weight considering the complexity of the car, its aluminum body, and the fact that it was four-wheel drive. The weight balance was noticeably rear-biased, with 61 percent of the weight going to the rear and 39 to the front.
Engine and transmission
The in-house designed powerhouse was what made the EB110 truly special. Rather than modifying an existing unit, the Tecnostile team constructed a true mechanical tour-de-force, a longitudinally-mounted 3.5-liter, quad-turbocharged V12 sporting 560 horsepower at 8,000 RPM and 450 lb-ft of torque at 4,200 RPM, redlining at an amazing 10,000 revolutions per minute.
The engine owed its impressive number to numerous unique solutions, starting from the fact that it had five valves per cylinder. When the EB110 came out, four valves were reserved for sports cars and supercars, while having three intake and two exhaust valves were Formula One technology. Bugatti brought that technology to roadworthy cars and quite a few engines utilized this technology after the EB110.
The real horsepower boost came from four IHI turbos. The turbochargers worked in sequence operating at 1.05 and 1.2 bar; the first pair of smaller turbos spooled in the lower RPM range, while the larger pair activated above 5,000 RPM, giving neck-bending acceleration as the engine revved towards its horsepower peak.
Even from an aesthetical standpoint, the EB110’s engine was a work of art. The Bugatti blue satin finish of the exposed fuel rails, the carbon fiber piping, and the decorated valve cover made it a beautiful sight to behold through the glass cover.
The six-speed manual transmission distributing power to both axles was equally a unique state-of-the-art unit as well. The gear train was integrated into the engine block and placed alongside the crankshaft case. This way, the power loss from the engine to the wheels was kept at the minimum. The prop shaft running towards the front of the vehicle is then connected to the coupling unit of the front axle, making a unique engineering solution.
When it comes to power delivery and balance, Vittecoq’s and Biocchi’s inputs during the late-stage testing redistributed the EB110’s transmission from the initial 40:60 distribution to the more rear-biased 28:72 ratio. The reason behind the redistribution was the earlier prototype car’s tendency to cause oversteer due to excess power on the front axle.
Body of the EB110
The internals of the EB110 was idiosyncratic, but the body didn’t lack temperament and individuality either. After the in-house redesign by Giampaolo Benedini, the EB110 as we know it retained only a few of Gandini’s feats, namely the side windows and the scissor doors.
The whole car was given a thorough makeover and even the unveiled ‘final’ prototype differed from the subsequent production cars. In fact, Artioli even commissioned Tom Tjaarda to do a redesign of the redesign, but this concept luckily never made it past the drawing board as it would have delayed the production even further.
The car’s designated designer redefined the front end by incorporating the horseshoe in the form of a small central air intake later dubbed the mousehole.
The flat surface of the fixed headlights replaced Gandini’s pop-ups, balancing the curved front end.
The rear was also thoroughly revised with a set of horizontal heat-dispersing slits and pill-shaped rear lights. Interestingly, the reason the EB110 had two-piece windows is that no glass could withstand the forces at speeds of 200 MPH.
The EB110 was presented in Bugatti Blue and it was perhaps its most memorable color. Apart from the national shade of pre-war Gaelic race cars, the EB110 was painted in nine standard colors and three shades in a special order.
With its mixture of sharp and round edges and awkwardly positioned headlights, the design of the EB110 was most definitely an acquired taste. Its beauty wasn’t inherent, nor it was conventional. Yet, this supercar was undoubtedly a modern work of art, the kind appealing to those appreciating the radical, the innovative, the nonconformist, and the world-shattering. The Bugatti EB110 was all of that and as such, it was a car worthy of Bugatti’s name.
Interior of the EB110
The unorthodox exterior of the Bugatti EB110 was coupled with a rather traditional cockpit. As its centerpiece, the driver-oriented instrument cluster famously featured a prominent tachometer etched to 10,000 RPM directly behind the simple Nardi three-spoke steering wheel. To the right side of it, there was the speedometer etched to 400 km/h, under 50 km/h short of its actual top speed. The whole dash was trimmed in wood and the center console featured digital climate control and a high-end Nakamichi tape deck. After all, it was the early 90s.
The highlight of the interior was monolithic electrically adjustable bucket seats sporting an almost art deco silhouette accented with stitching on the headrests and the leg rests, as well as EB initials on its sides.
Even the materials were an ode to tradition: acres of Poltrona Frau leather and burled exotic wood. Having said that, the EB110 had quite a tame color palette with different shades of grays, black, dark blue and cream leather, while only one original EB110 carried the loud red interior. It was the Bugatti EB110 SS finished in Giallo Bugatti yellow.
Suspension and Steering
The EB110 owed precise steering due to rack-and-pinion setup while sublime road holding came as a result of a double-wishbone suspension. The front axle featured a single shock absorber and gas dampers on each wheel respectively, while the rear suspension carried dual shocks and dampers.
Brakes, Wheels and Tires
The EB110 GT had two-piece cast magnesium wheels produced by BBS exclusively for Bugatti. The lightweight wheels featured a closed design and measured 18×9-inch in the front and 18×12-inch in the back with Michelin Pilot Sport 245/40 ZR18 and 325/30 ZR18 respectively.
Nested behind the magnesium wheels, the stopping power came from ABS-assisted 322mm brake rotors with Brembo four-piston calipers.
Bugatti EB110 SS
Although it was introduced at the 1992 Geneva Motor Show as a concept, Bugatti presented the EB110 Super Sport at the 1994 Geneva Motor Show. A focused and distilled variant, the EB110 SS was the final evolution of the Campogalliano’s original supercar
The exterior was revamped with a new aerodynamically revised front bumper, circular air intakes for the engine, and the functional fixed rear wing to increase stability at higher speeds.
The interior got lightweight leather-wrapped racing buckets and ‘waffle’ quilted sheets instead of carpets for a more track-focused panache.
For this version, BBS created a distinctive 7-spoke magnesium wheel design with titanium bolts sporting 245/40 ZR18 and 325/30 ZR18 Michelin Pilot Sport rubber. The wheels were inspired by the pre-war Bugatti T35 8-spoke design.
These changes weren’t cosmetic though, as the 330 lb lighter and moderately redesigned supercar packed more horses too. The power output from the V12 was now at 603 horsepower due to changes in the engine management unit and turbo boost while the transmission was revised for a different gear ratio. All that totaled to the top speed of 221 MPH and a 0-60 sprint in 3.2 seconds.
In 1994, German magazine Auto Bild put rising Formula One star Michael Schumacher inside the ultimate cars of the period. Out of all the supercars he tested, Schumacher was so enamored with sheer performance and the refinement of the EB110 SS that he decided to buy one. In a highly publicized event, Schumacher was presented with an EB110 SS in Bugatti Yellow with a blue leather interior and seats from the EB110 GT.
EB110: The End of a Dream
In the first years of production, Bugatti hoped to sell enough cars for the company to break even in 1994 and Artioli was still closely monitoring the sales, ensuring that each EB110 got exclusively to the buyers possessing both means and right moral qualities. However, the company needed to branch beyond the one-model line-up and to conquer other markets.
To help the company restructure, improve the EB110, and develop new projects, Artioli employed Mauro Forghieri in 1992. Soon, the regarded ex-Ferrari racing engineer came up with a sedan version called EB112 and the EB110 Super Sport.
The ambitious EB112 sedan concept debuted in March 1993 with the plans for production being set for September of the same year. Moreover, Artioli’s spouse established Ettore Bugatti SRL, a luxury goods brand producing high-quality accessories, and finally, Artioli acquired Lotus from General Motors, hoping to create an empire step by step.
Artioli needed the British company for its engineering expertise which could be outsourced, but also for help homologating the EB110 for the North American market.
Despite all the efforts to find buyers, the EB110 was the right car at the wrong moment and the decline of Artioli’s other business ventures didn’t help Bugatti survive either. In 1993, a real estate crash in Japan set off a series of events leading to the economic recession, and Artioli was hit hard from various fronts.
His business as an importer of Isuzu and Suzuki went down first, but as the recession became global, the stock market collapse left Bugatti with fewer and fewer potential clients. The worlds richest were losing millions virtually overnight, first in Japan and then in the US, two markets in which Artioli held high hopes.
The EB110 America was ready to be homologated in the United States and the company developed a model for the Arabian market, but the effects of the recession grew bigger each day. In 1994, Ettore Bugatti SRL was the only profitable branch in the empire with more earnings than the Bugatti Automobili itself.
In 1995, the production of the EB110 halted due to a lack of parts that were supposed to arrive via suppliers and various subcontractors. Reportedly, the delay in parts was due to the competition, most notably Ferrari, employing its power and influence to shakedown the small and big business-dependent companies into stopping supplying parts to Artioli’s Bugatti.
Having failed to find investors to back up the company and kickstart the production, Romano Artioli was forced to declare bankruptcy on September 23, 1995. To the very last day, Romano Artioli took care of his employees, making sure every single one of them got paid off for the work done. The factory closed its gates suddenly with the cars still on the production lines and oblivious workers coming to work, only to find their employee cards not working.
The big Bugatti sell-off
In April 1997, a public auction was held at the Campogalliano. Besides the name and the associated trademarks, prototypes, machines, and semi-finished production cars were on offer, and so was a stock of parts.
Four entities ended up taking hold of Bugatti’s assets. The largest one was Volkswagen which ended up buying the Bugatti name and the trademarks, also taking hold of a racing prototype of the EB110. The Monaco Racing Team was able to buy a number of prototypes, semi-finished and finished cars, blank bodies and engines, alongside the EB112.
Dauer Racing bought the rights to the EB110 name and the logo, cars on the production line including three EB110SS models, several prototype cars, and a supply of parts. Finally, B-Engineering bought four finished cars, one prototype, and one engineless car.
A number of prototypes and late production cars fitted with early engines have been assembled and sold to private customers by MRT, Dauer, and B-Engineering. But, having bought the rights to the name and the logo, Dauer Racing GmBH went a step further, offering a redesigned and improved continuation model.
The once glorious Campogalliano was left vacant and it’s slowly deteriorating to this day after numerous failed attempts to repurpose it as a furniture factory and a shopping center.
Upon acquiring assets from the factory, Jochen Dauer was quick to assemble the unfinished cars his company took off the production lines. These cars still had Bugatti VIN numbers and were more or less identical to the cars built in Campogalliano, safe for some minor changes.
After completing the remaining EB110s, Dauer wanted to further explore the supercar’s potential by creating cars from unmarked chassis. In 1999, the company was renamed Dauer Sportscars GmbH and the improved car went by the name of Dauer EB110S.
By 1999, the composite technology progressed enough to make carbon fiber bodies easier to construct, so Dauer offered the EB110 fully constructed from carbon fiber. The continuation of EB110’s carbon fiber body weighed around 450 lb, making the whole car weigh under 3000 lb. Of course, that wasn’t the only change. Dauer’s EB110 had an adjustable rear wing based on the Super Sports’ fixed-wing design.
Due to adjustments in the engine management, especially regarding the turbos, the power output jumped to 645 bhp at 8,250 rpm, but could be further increased to 705 horsepower by opting for a special exhaust. With less weight and more power, the carbon-bodied Dauer could sprint from 0 to 60 in 3.3s with a top speed of 230 MPH. Reportedly, a Dauer prototype stripped of all-wheel drive managed to lap the Nürburgring Nordschleife in under seven minutes.
Dauer itself declared bankruptcy in 2008, selling its stock of parts to Kaiserslautern, Germany-based company Toscana-Motors GmbH.
EB110 in Racing
Artioli’s vision never intended racing, at least not for the EB110 GT nor the SS. However, the races were where Ettore Bugatti gained his glory and several independent teams wanted to do him justice by racing the EB110.
A set of regulations for 1994 24 Hours of Le Mans basically allowed production cars to enter the race. The GT1 class was set to pit the EB110 SS entered by Michel Hommell against Dauer Porsches, MVS Venturis, and Dodge Vipers. In the practice sessions, the EB110 was the fastest in the class (excluding the Dauer 962), but battling fuel leaks and a turbo issue, it sadly didn’t finish the race despite the best efforts by the team and drivers Alain Cudini, Eric Helary, and Jean-Christophe Bouillon.
Dauer found a way to bypass the rules and dominated the race in the 962 which took victory over the LMP1 cars despite being officially qualified as a GT1 car.
The next to strive for glory in the EB110 SS was the ambitious Monegasque businessman Gildo Pallanca-Pastor, the founder of the Monaco Racing Team who entered the car at the WSC championship.
Despite not ever being constructed for racing and weighty by race car standards, especially due to its all-wheel drive, the EB110 finished 5th at Watkins Glen in 1995 where Pallanca-Pastor drove alongside Patrick Tambay, followed by a 6th place finish at the 1995 Sears Point event.
Following the initial success, the Monaco Racing Team entered the 1996 24 Hours of Daytona, where Gildo Pallanca-Pastor, Phil Hill’s son Derek John Hill and Olivier Grouillard gave the car a good run for the money before eventually being forced to retire due to a gearbox issue. Phil Hill drove the car in the rain where the EB110’s drivetrain gave MRT an edge, especially while battling the rear-engined Porsches.
The dreams of better luck at the 1996 24 Hours of Le Mans literally came crashing down during practice as Patrick Tambay crashed during practice, dealing damage to the car which couldn’t be fixed in a timely manner. The EB110’s racing outings thus finished in a sad way and to this day, there are no indications that the Bugatti name will return to the race tracks anytime soon.
EB110: The Fastest Car in the World on Road and Ice
On May 24, 1992, two Bugatti EB110 factory prototypes arrived at the Nardó test track in Italy where the C8 piloted by Jean-Philippe Vittecoq achieved the speed of 212.5 MPH, becoming the fastest series-production car in the world.
The record was eclipsed on the same track on May 29 1993 with the EB110 SS running at 218.10 MPH.
Another record obtained by Vittecoq was in July 1994 for cars powered by natural gas. The modified EB110 GT achieved 214.18 MPH running on Ecogas 2000 system.
In March 1995, Monaco Racing Team owner Gildo Pallanca-Pastor averaged the speed of 184.13 MPH on a frozen sea surface in Oulu, Finland. Remarkably, the run was completed on stock spikeless Michelin tires and his race-tuned EB110SS was made heavier to achieve better traction on the slippery surface. The record remained unbeaten all the way until 2013 when an Audi RS6 managed to dethrone it after an 18-year reign supreme.
Today, knowing what Volkswagen did with the Veyron and the Chiron, it is perfectly clear that Artioli’s Bugatti EB110 impacted the future of the company more than it drew influence from the past.
The official confirmation of this hypothesis came at the 2019 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance when Bugatti CEO Stephen Winkelmann unveiled the Bugatti Centodieci, an honest tribute to the EB110 Super Sport.
As a collector car, the EB110 has been overlooked for long, coming out of obscurity just years ago. In a way, it shared its destiny with the Jaguar XJ220, another forgotten supercar killed by the early 1990s economic recession and outshined by the McLaren F1.
Despite being built in ten times fewer examples and being an all-round superior car to the F40, the EB110 cost only a fraction of its price for years. Yet, the esoteric Bugatti gained its ground in the late 2000s and now it’s hard to find examples under the $1 million mark while the even more scarce EB110 SS will cost twofold if they ever come for sale that is. After all, only a grand total of 136 examples have ever been built, with just 31 Super Sport cars.
A car dreamed up by an enthusiast, developed by the greatest minds of the automotive world, designed by an architect, and built by workers assembling it in the most beautiful factory in the world was bound to succeed as an automobile, but sadly it did not as a product. The reason the EB110 didn’t last long was nothing but an unfortunate turn of events and a series of questionable decisions.
The reason the EB110 succeeded in reviving Bugatti stood exactly in the fact that it was pointed towards the future rather than the past as previous ones did. The true ambition was not to mimic heritage already created by Ettore, but to emulate his vision into pushing the boundaries of what a supercar can and should be. Mr. Artioli and the team involved understood the essence of the company, giving us an uncompromising supercar and the only fitting tribute to the great constructor.