A Bug’s Life

World-beating supercar fell foul of politics

BY SCOTT NEWMAN

BUGATTI EB110 1991-1995

IN THE LATE 1980s new supercars were springing up at an incredible rate. Some, like the Ferrari F40 and Porsche 959, were a success; others, like the Cizeta V16 and Yamaha OX99-11, were a total flop. Arguably the most interesting, however, were cars that landed in the middle like the Jaguar XJ220 and Bugatti EB110.

Italian entrepreneur Romano Artioli dreamt of reviving the once great Bugatti brand and in a similar fashion to VW a decade later, he wanted to create the world’s greatest supercar. Some of Italy’s finest engineers and designers were contracted to work on the project and no expense was spared in building a factory and promoting this bold venture.

The car itself was radical. An aluminium chassis was ditched in favour of carbon fibre, but there would be all-wheel drive, the latest electronic driver aids and a bespoke V12. Incredibly oversquare with a 81mm bore and 56.6mm stroke, the 3.5-litre V12 was fed by 60 valves and boosted by four turbochargers. Capable of revving to 8500rpm, it initially produced 412kW/611Nm, which increased to 441kW/637Nm with the introduction of the more focused Superport (SS).

Performance set a new benchmark, test driver Jean Phillipe Vittecoq recording 0-100km/h in 3.46sec, a 400m time of 11.4sec at 200.4km/h and a top speed of 342km/h. Vittecoq would soon best each of these figures with the SS recording 0-100km/h in 3.26sec, a 10.9sec quarter mile and 351km/h top speed.

The EB110 was launched to the public in Paris on September 14, 1991, the 110th anniversary of the birth of Ettore Bugatti. Media reviews were overwhelming positive, while the sale of a yellow SS to a young Michael Schumacher brought welcome publicity. Sadly, financial pressures and parts supply problems – reportedly due to pressure from rival supercar makers – quickly brought the project undone, Bugatti declaring bankruptcy on September 23, 1995.