If you're of the demographic they call Generation Z, your interest in Bugatti is likely to have started with the Veyron. To you, Bugatti is Volkswagen's 'sod all budgets, let's show them what we can do' brand, the company that produces ultra high-speed luxury heavyweights once a decade with the security of an automotive juggernaut so immense not even a £22 billion fine from a global emission scandal can stop it. But for the rest of us, Bugatti's identity is much less straightforward.
Remember when the marque was on the brink of extinction in the 1990s? It'd happened before, of course, back in the 50s when the original company, established half a century earlier by Ettore Bugatti, finally succumbed to financial struggle. But in the 90s, it was different. This then small, Italian-owned French brand had just enjoyed a brief but significant burst back into the limelight. That burst had brought with it the EB110. Take note, Generation Z.
Under the leadership of company owner Romano Artioli, the Italian entrepreneur that resurrected the Bugatti name in 1987, this was a supercar designed to take on the very fastest machines on the planet. It was launched in 1991, when the likes of the Porsche 959 and Ferrari F40 ruled the roost, to reign as the fastest production car in the world with a 213mph top speed. Jaguar slightly spoiled the party with its XJ220 in 1992, which could also do 213mph, but the point was made - Bugatti was back.
The EB110 used a mid-mounted, quad-turbocharged, 60-valve 3.5-litre V12 engine that produced - and remember, it's 1991 - 560hp at 8,000rpm. With such massive hardware, it was never going to be light, so the fact it tipped the scales at 1,618kg was understandable. But, like the Volkswagen Group spiritual successors that now garner the same amount of respect for their achievements, the EB110 ranked itself right at the sharp end of supercardom.
Then there was the EB110 Super Sport. This car's compact V12 powerplant ditched two catalytic converters, gained bigger injectors and received a revised ECU to produce 611hp at 8,250rpm. It also shed weight by trading aluminium parts for carbon fibre alternatives and using magnesium wheels, bringing the total kerbweight down to 1,488kg. The resulting SS model could do 220mph, ranking it as fastest production car in the world. Well, it was for a year, until the McLaren F1 came along.
The EB110 SS remained rare, being produced in just 31 examples. This, you might have thought, would help promote it into the highest realms of exotica. Yet it remained in the shadows of the F1, and even the Ferrari F50 that came after, despite that car's less spectacular performance figures. The EB110 SS was a supercar in the clearest form, but not even it could save Artioli's Bugatti from falling into bankruptcy.
The car did, however, act as the catalyst to convince the folk at Volkswagen that this brand name was worth saving. Those top speed records also likely motivated VW's board to plough immense amounts of money into returning the title of fastest production car to Bugatti. The Veyron and Chiron that have succeeded the EB110 both have enjoyed stints at the top of the supercar (now hypercar) table.
Whatever generation group you fall into, we can all agree that each EB110 in existence is just a little bit special. But we've found one that's probably the most special of them all. It's a former Artioli-owned EB110, finished in the best colour for the car, French Racing Blue, and produced in extra potent form. This SS was given a factory-engineered power boost with larger turbochargers to produce 650hp, meaning it's the fastest officially sanctioned EB110 in the world.
Given the significance of this particular car and its one-off power status, it's possible it could also be the most expensive EB110 in existence. With other cars fetching north of £600,000, would you get much change back from £1 million for Artioli's old hack? Let us know what you think in the comments below...
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