Moving Machines: Back in Red and Black
For over 60 years, the Bugatti brand has been riddled with false starts: In 1939, World War II halted production of the cars; in 1947, the death of Ettore Bugatti, the company’s founder, rattled the marque; and in 1995, four years after Romano Artioli relaunched Bugatti, the company went bankrupt.
In less than two years, however, the marque, purchased by the Volkswagen Group in 1998, will return, and its flagship model won’t be your grandfather’s Bugatti. The Bugatti EB 16/4 Veyron, a sleek, powerful, supercar capable of over 250 mph, will go on sale in 2004. Only 50 of the models will be produced.
The 1,001-hp (yes, one thousand and one) machine is a polar opposite of the stately classics—the Type 41, Type 57S, and Type 32 that are car connoisseurs’ dreams—that produced Bugatti’s reputation for excellence. But the company is attempting to entice both high-performance aficionados and traditional Bugatti enthusiasts with the Veyron, which will be available for one million euros (not one million and one), or approximately $940,000.
“There will be owners who have followed the marque,” says Georges Keller, head of communications for Volks-wagen’s luxury brands. “Others are who we call the hard core of the luxury car segment. I have rarely met seriously interested customers who are not already driving a Bentley, Rolls-Royce, or Ferrari.”
The car, named after former Bugatti racing team driver Pierre Veyron, requires future owners to sign commitment contracts and place down payments of 300,000 euros (approximately $282,000). The Veyron, with its stylish windswept profile, has a Formula One–style carbon fiber chassis that safely houses the car’s occupants—and its power. The centerpiece of the Veyron is its 16-cylinder, 8-liter engine. To cool the bulky block, the Veyron’s front end was designed with enough intake apertures to push air through the engine.
The Veyron will require an expert driver to handle its power, especially when the needle is at the far end of the speedometer. The car’s 7-speed gearbox, operated by F/1-style paddle shifters, allows for gear changes in two-tenths of a second. Bugatti can reserve racetracks for Veyron owners and will also provide proper racing tires for those who plan to push the car to its limits. “You need to be fairly experienced to dare to drive at that speed,” Keller says. “Of course, some of our customers have driven in races.”
To an F/1 driver accustomed to the confines of his racecar’s cockpit, the Veyron’s spacious and lavish cabin would feel like a mansion. The interior features a Dieter Burmester sound system and a one-carat diamond mounted on the speedometer needle. The company also placed a one-carat diamond, cut with 16 sunray facets to represent each of the Veyron’s cylinders, on the center of the powermeter dial, which displays what percentage of the engine’s power capacity is being used.
For all of the Veyron’s groundbreaking characteristics, Bugatti does not foresee the car’s becoming a staple of the automotive world. After all, there are only a small number of drivers who have the skill to operate the Veyron to its full capabilities. “I don’t think it’s going to be trendsetting,” says Keller. “I can’t speak for the other carmakers, but it’s a matter of whether somebody wants to compete on that level. But for Bugatti, this is always what the company aimed to be.”