PH HERO: BUGATTI EB110
Before Veyron there was EB110, perhaps the forgotten supercar of recent years
Bugatti has had a chequered past. First there were the glory days of the 1920s and 30s, then in 1947 Ettore Bugatti died and shortly afterwards, and without his steady hand on the tiller, the factory shut its doors for good. There was an attempt in the mid 1950s by Ettore's older son, Roland, to resurrect his father's company but that failed, as did Virgil Exner's effort in 1965, neither finding sufficient interest from investors to take either project further.
Today, we really don't think twice about a car with more than 500hp - no self-respecting uber barge would show its face with less - but back then, at the start of the 1990s, there were only a handful of cars which could boast such high numbers. So, with 560hp on tap, not only was the EB110 somewhat extraordinary in that respect, it was also revolutionary in the way the power was extracted out of mid-mounted 3.5-litre V12 engine. Stanzani added five valves per cylinder, four turbochargers, a bespoke six-speed gearbox, and four-wheel drive.
It's a shame then, the same can't be said for the interior. As expected, several cows have been sacrificed for the sake of the seat coverings, which still gives it a luxurious flavour. However, the rest of the cabin just feels and looks so dated. The plastics are cheap and the wood veneers are tacky although, for an Italian manufacturer of its day, it has all been bolted beautifully together. Then there are the switches and buttons. These are strewn everywhere, as if an over-excited orang-utan had placed them there, and I kid you not here; the air vents on top of the dashboard cannot be reached by anything human. On a positive note it is a supremely comfortable place to be sat in for a long period of time and the driving ergonomics aren't half bad.
Quiet at the back
Artioli had a vision though, and his unyielding intention was to create a tame racing monster, and that's exactly what he got with the EB110. The only problem is he may have muted this particular monster a little too much. I'll be honest here, my inner hooligan wanted to hear a big loud noise expelled from the V12. This car should scream out "LOOK AT ME", instead, the exhaust note is little more than a stage whisper, which is a slight disappointment.
For all of Artioli's grand plans, only 139 EB110 GTs were ever built. The recession of the 1990s put pay to further orders and the company went bankrupt, leaving Volkswagen to pick up the pieces and acquire the production rights in 1998. And we all know what happened next. But without the EB110 the Bugatti story could have had a completely different outcome, and for that one reason alone we should all get down on bended knee and hail this mighty car.
Engine: 3,500cc V12 quad-turbo
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Power (hp): 560@8,000rpm
Torque (lb ft): 448@3,700rpm
Top speed: 213mph
Weight: 1,600kg (approx)
On sale: 1991-1998
Price new: £285,000
Price now: c. £350,000
Images: Max Earey