LSA ICONS: From being the fastest car of its era and saving Bugatti from bankruptcy, here’s how the Bugatti Veyron 16.4 became an icon.
The 2005 Bugatti Veyron 16.4 was designed with one mission – Disrupting world speed records. Being the world’s first ‘hyper’ sports car, it proved to the world that yes, a production car can break the 253-miles/hour barrier without looking like an obnoxious space shuttle with a rocket hatched onto its rear. Instead, an ultra-luxe French automobile mobile. However, what if I told you that merely a few years ago, Bugatti was ready to file for bankruptcy? Yes, After the EB110 from the 90s, Bugatti needed an ace in the hole. And the Veyron was exactly that. This is how Bugatti not only turned the tide around but created one of the most influential motoring silhouettes of all time.
Bugatti Veyron 16.4 history: World’s first hypercar
Going back to the beginning – Bugatti was founded in 1909 with most of their early models being race-ready like the Type 10 and Type 13. This helped them build quite a brand reputation for building powerful automobiles. The Type 13, which boasted a top speed of just 126-km/hour, came with exceptional handling, good braking, and of course, a great engine (for its time). That was a winning combination for any auto enthusiast back in the day. Continuing this stride of producing high-horsepower cars, they also introduced the Black Bess (Type 18), the world’s first street-legal sports car.
All this racing glamour was put to halt and so was production, as the First World War hit. After which, Bugatti switched to producing aircraft engines and city cars instead and continued building extravagant rides till the legendary Typ5 57 SC Atlantic -The final Bugatti model before the industrial plummet of the Second World War. And with the death of Ettore and Jean Bugatti, things got rough for the brand. Bugatti struggled both, financially and creatively for the next three decades until it was taken over by Romano Artioli. He then blessed the world with a true motoring wonder, the EB110 in 1991.
However, soon after production ceased for the ED110, the company nearly went bankrupt and was almost the end of Bugatti. Three years later, VW purchased Bugatti, telling them to go back to what they did best – Building fast cars. After years of R&D, the fourth car to leave the Molsheim shed was the Veyron 16.4.
Even though the Veyron 16.4 made its debut in 2005, its journey began in 1997 –
On the Skinkansen express between Tokyo and Nagoya, Ferdinand Karl Piëch, a gifted engineer and long-time CEO and chairman of the VW Group accompanied by Head of Powertrain Development at VW, Karl-Heinz Neumann drew on an envelope, an engine design that changed the automotive world forever. It was an engine with 18 cylinders – Powerful, strong, and better than anything the world had seen thus far.
The goal was simple – “The engine had to be powerful, surpassing anything else in existence”. This engine was a new vantage point for the brand as they experimented with various designs and emotions of motoring. Starting with the Giugiaro-designed EB 118, which was a front-engined all-wheel-drive GT, followed by the EB 218 four-door saloon. After which, we saw the EB 18/3 Chiron and the EB 18/4 Veyron.
The Veyron 16.4’s outlines were slowly becoming prominent and finally, at the 2000 Geneva Motor Show, Bugatti announced the impending arrival of a speedster capable of doing 400-km/hour and zooming from zero-100-km/hour in less than three seconds, using a ground-rumbling engine that could make 1001-horsepower (a.k.a. the Veyron).
2005: With the Bugatti Veyron 16.4 being the brand’s newest and perhaps the only weapon of choice, they stunned the world. Named after one of Bugatti’s most successful drivers from their early 20th century racing days, Pierre Veyron, Bugatti needed this one to be a success, as their very survival was at stake. However, going back to their roots of motoring and ditching the city-car-minded designs and focusing on performance, truly paid off. The Veyron wasn’t just a trophy for the brand for coming out of bankruptcy, but also a titan that changed the automobile industry forever.
The Bugatti Veyron 16.4 kept up to its word. It made an astonishing 1001-horsepower and 1250-Nm of torque. it was capable of catapulting from zero-100-km/hour in 2.5 seconds with a top speed of 407-km/hour. It used a quad-turbocharged 8.0-liter W16 which saw later advancements. The Veyron and versions of it that followed, held the title of being the world’s fastest production car from 2005 to 2014. Limited to 450 units, each came with a base price of $2.5 million USD.
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All images: Courtesy Bugatti