Recently, when we’ve thought about the Bugatti EB110—one of our favorite supercars of all time—we’ve also thought of the common regretful refrain that circulates among history, literature, and archaeological types.
These academics lament the loss of the great Library of Alexandria that occurred somewhere around 275 AD. It doesn’t matter that they missed the cut-off for a library card by around 2,000 years; the gradual decline and eventual destruction of the archive represents a loss of information and likely wiped out a sizeable portion of the historical record, inciting strange feelings of nostalgia and sad longing in these individuals for a time far before they were born. Again, we think of the Bugatti EB110.
In 2020, we’re certainly seeing flashes of the same sad wistfulness for the fabulous supercar and the circumstances that surrounded its development. Never mind the Bugatti brand has never been stronger, and we’re blessed to be part of the timeline when a Bugatti-branded hypercar nudges against the 300-mph barrier; the 1995 bankruptcy of Bugatti Automobili S.p.A represented a tremendous loss for the supercar industry, even if we didn’t know it at the time.
Bugatti’s previous rebirth, engineered by industrialist Romano Artioli along with former Lamborghini engineer and designer Paolo Stanzani, and French professor and historian Jean-Marc Borel, was one of the impressive and hopeful brand resuscitations the automotive industry had seen up until that point. With an incredible cutting-edge factory in Campogalliano (Modena), Italy, and a superstar engineering team drafted from Ferrari, Lamborghini, and Maserati, the resulting Bugatti EB110 supercar was one of the 20th century’s most intricately engineered and impressive designs.
Sadly, the nascent Bugatti had the rotten luck of launching just prior to a global financial crisis, and the tremendous startup costs involved outpaced the relatively low income. Despite multiple new models in the works—one of which was an ultra-luxe sedan—the company’s modernist factory was shuttered overnight in 1995, and Artioli’s vision of Bugatti remains one of the greatest “what-ifs” in automotive history.
If you couldn’t tell, we’re big fans of this alluring chapter in the annals of the supercar saga. In hopes you share our fascination (and pain), we scoured archives for some of the best images of Bugatti Automobili in its old prime, catching a glimpse of the Bugatti EB110 shortly before and after its launch. We picked a few of our favorites below, but make sure you check out the full gallery.
For its era, the Bugatti EB110 was considered bleeding-edge impressive, but that didn’t mean it completely eschewed traditional design and engineering techniques. Here, one of the team members sketches out a portion of the prototype, seen in very early development.
Prototype in Motion
The fruits of all that toil and trouble were running test prototypes that eventually morphed into the Bugatti EB110. Details on much of the earlier mules is scarce, but this appears to be the Marcello Gandini-designed DMD80 prototype in action.
Gone With the Wind Tunnel
Crucial to a modern supercar’s high-speed stability is nailing the aerodynamic profile, so it’s no surprise the early Bugatti EB110 spent more than a few hours in a wind tunnel. From the looks of things, it appears this was Pininfarina’s facility.
Good Things Come to Those Who Work Exceptionally Hard
After some teething problems, upper-level management disputes, and tireless work from a passionate team, the EB110 was ready for its world debut. We can see one group of Bugatti employees was particularly happy to see the car complete.
One of the largest keystones to the Bugatti Automobili mythos is the incredibly opulent launch party staged on the Champs-Élysées. French superstar actor and heartthrob Alain Delon—seen above hanging out of the EB110–played emcee to the lavish event, framed by a parade of vintage Bugattis and a massive floral arrangement that spelled out “Bugatti”—an ingenious display organized by Artioli’s wife to skirt the location’s strict no-advertisement policy.
Here’s Mr. Bugatti Automobili himself, holding what appears to be the intake runner from his incredible supercar. Even if somehow the Bugatti EB110 isn’t your cup of tea, you have this man to thank for the Lotus Elise, so-named after Artioli’s granddaughter.
A Gorgeous Modern Factory
For all of the company’s financial struggles, the factory remains one of the most aesthetic and stylish manufacturing facilities we’ve ever seen. Just take a look at this Bugatti EB110 in the process of being built, framed by incredible studio shots of Bugattis of yore hanging from the ceiling girders.
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