The cars we loved.
Bugatti is one of the most legendary names in automotive design and engineering. The 100+ year old French company was known for building advanced race cars during it’s peak in the 1920’s and 30’s. After World War II, the company went slowly into a decline that ended with ceased operations by 1952. There were a few short lived attempts at revival, but it was in the late 80’s that the company would introduce its first modern supercar.
Now in the hands of an Italian entrepreneur, the new project would mix it up in Italy. The first order of business was to build a state of the art factory in Campogalliano to produce what would be the first car to wear the Bugatti name since 1956. Called the EB110 GT, the new car featured an all-star development team that included the designers of the Lamborghini Miura and Countach. Their influence can be seen in the Countach-like swing up doors. The director of technical operations was also a noted race car designer who insured that the new project would be a race car for the street with some of the comforts of a gran tourer.
The EB110 was a mid-engined all-wheel drive beast and was part of an early wave of all-wheel drive supercars coming from Europe and Japan. The rapid growth of the sports car market fuel plans for the car’s feasibility with sales aimed mostly at Europe and North America. The optimism extended to the revived company’s aggressive purchase of troubled Lotus, presumably for its engineering might.
The initial car’s 3.5 liter V12 was a 60-valve design with 553 hp. A 6-speed manual was the only transmission option. Acceleration to 62 mph was recorded at 4.2 seconds. While the car might look heavy on paper at around 3500 lb, close attention to detail was made in reducing weight where possible. Exotic materials like carbon fiber were used for its double wishbone suspension. Despite its weight, it was still the fastest production sports car in 1991 with a top speed of 209 mph, topping former greats like the Porsche 959 and Ferrari F40.
Bugatti got an early vote of confidence when Formula One race driver Michael Schuachmer famously bought a yellow EB110 in 1994. In America to EB110 made its debut at the 1996 24 Hours of Daytona race, creating something of an sensation, despite Oldsmobile winning that year. The race coverage was the only exposure to many to the EB110.
Unfortunately, the striking low slung coupe was the victim of bad timing. Just as it was to be broadly exported , many of the World’s major economies fell into a recession in 1994. The EB110 never made it to mass production with just 139 cars produced. A North American version called the Bugatti America remained on the drawing board as the company was forced into liquidation. While the real car never made it to dealers, toys and scale models became a popular item and remain many people’s only exposure to the EB110.
While Bugatti’s assets like Lotus were sold off to the Chinese, a German firm Dauer, bought the license and remaining parts to build a few vehicles. Called EB110 SS, the German EB110’s were more refined than the prototypes that came out of Italy. The SS cars were lighter and more powerful with 603hp. With a top speed of 216 mph, the EB110 SS was no longer the fastest supercar, but remained one of the most exclusive with only 5 said to have been built. Dauer cars can be identified by slight changes to the “C’ pillar area and different wheels. In other words, beyond replacing glass with more venting for the engine, very little was done to compromise the original external design.
Dauer stopped building cars in 2011 and another German firm Toscana-Motors bought what was left of Dauer’s parts bin. Volkswagen bought the Bugatti brand in 1998 and set a plan in motion to build a EB110’s successor, the Veyron.