There's a definitely sense of crossing the streams with the Bugatti Centodieci. Carmakers tend to mine their past history carefully, cautious about referring to controversies or projects that didn't work out. Yet as its name suggests, the Centodieci (Italian for 110) which has just been unveiled at the Pebble Beach Concours in California is a homage to the EB110.
PH got a chance to see it last month, well ahead of its launch in the 'States, at the spectacular abandoned Bugatti factory in Campogalliano near Modena. This was the same event where I got the chance for a brief spin in a Chiron with Andy Wallace, but I wasn't allowed to talk about the Centodieci until it became officially official.
While there has never been much doubt about the EB110's coolness, it certainly doesn't represent a commercially successful period in Bugatti's history. In the late 1980s Romano Artioli bought control of the brand - the Italian businessman later acquired Lotus from GM - with the plan being to relaunch Bugatti with a supercar that would lead the world on both technology and performance.
It pretty much did, with a carbonfibre monocoque - the world's first in a production car - and a bespoke quad-turbocharged 60-valve V12 producing a then-huge 553hp and all-wheel drive. Bugatti claimed a 3.6-second 0-62mph time and verified a 212 mph top speed in testing, the latter making it (briefly) the fastest road car in the world.
But the EB110's gestation wasn't a happy one, Artioli fell out with original designer Marcello Gandini over his proposal for the styling; the car was finished by architect Giampaolo Bendini, who was also responsible for the futuristic brand new factory at Campogalliano constructed to build it. It arrived in 1991, just as the supercar bubble burst and with the added problem of competing against two other proto-hypercars: the Jaguar XJ220 and, soon afterwards, the McLaren F1.
The Bugatti was the cheapest of the three; indeed the asking price of £285,500 meant it was over a hundred grand cheaper than the far less sophisticated Jaguar, and almost exactly half the price of the F1. Bugatti also included a three year "service contract" with the car, covering all maintenance and even the replacement of brakes and tyres. But it wasn't enough, just 118 were made over four years and Artioli's Bugatti collapsed into bankruptcy after he over-extended himself through the purchase of Lotus - the Elise is named after his granddaughter, Eliza. Volkswagen took control of the brand in 1998, but there was no blood relationship between the Veyron and the EB110.
Yet it is still one that is being celebrated with the Centodieci. "It should not be forgotten, it was the start of a trilogy," Bugatti design director Achim Anscheidt said, as he showed me around the car in Campogalliano, "the EB110 and then the Veyron and then the Chiron - it started the revival of the Bugatti brand after it had been silent for decades."
Like the Divo which made its debut at Pebble Beach last year the Centodieci is based around the same core structure and mechanical package of the Chiron, but with tweaks to make it the quickest accelerating Bugatti so far. The 8.0-litre quad-turbo W-16 will deliver 1577hp - up from the Chiron's 1478hp - and the Centodieci is also a modest 20kg lighter. Bugatti claims a 2.4-second 0-62mph time, a 6.1-second 0-124mph time and a 13.1-second 0-186mph time, the last of those being half a second quicker than the Chiron.
There is downforce too, but probably not as much as you would expect given the size of the vast (moveable) rear wing. Bugatti claims the peak of "more than 90kg", less than the hundreds of kilos of many modern hypercars. Like the Chiron, the Centodieci is designed for high speed stability rather than circuit speed, Bugatti says it can deliver similar levels of lateral acceleration to those of the Divo. Oh, and it won't be the fastest Bugatti, top speed limited - as in the Divo - to what we need to think of as a mere 236mph, 25mph less than the Chiron.
Anscheidt and his team have clearly had some fun riffing on the theme of the EB110, without turning the Centodieci into a retro pastiche. The modern car's ultra-thin headlamps give the impression of the shape of the EB's goggly eyes without their dominating size, and the radiator grille graphic is similar. Anscheidt says that the wrap-around windscreen, effectively hiding the A-pillar, as well as the shape of the five air intakes in the side panels behind the doors have been directly inspired by the earlier car, as are the stacked two-by-two exhaust tailpipes at the back.
How much will it cost? Presuming you've not skipped ahead then have a guess based on the following: production will be limited to 10 and the regular Chiron costs £2.3m.
The answer is €8m before taxes - that's £8.9m including VAT at current rates. And all 10 had names against them well before the car was officially announced, indeed Bugatti insiders admit the company could have sold them several times over. It must be fun to be part of the 0.001 percent, right?
Being taken to Italy to see the car also gave a chance for a guided tour around the derelict factory at Campogalliano. A diligent caretaker and his son have guarded the site against the sort of vandalism that normally afflicts abandoned industrial sites. Although equipment has been removed from the assembly areas there are still plenty of mementoes, piles of metal where milling machines used to prepare engine components, 1995 calendars hanging on walls. The reception area immediately made me think of Scarface, security monitors in granite mountings next to a vast desk made of the same material.
It's a reminder of how quickly things can turn bad in the supercar game. But also, I'd suggest, why even those of us several million short of being able to afford one of Bugatti's modern products should be glad that it still exists.
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