Every now and then there comes a milestone in the the history of engineering. The first lightbulb, the microprocessor, the combustion engine, Concorde. These are all things we can marvel at and admire for their technical excellence, but one machine that is missing from that list is the Bugatti Veyron, a car that took the laws of physics and threw them out of the window.
In 1909 Ettore Bugatti set out to build some of the worlds most exclusive cars for the wealthy that could afford them. Italian born Ettore set up shop in France building his first road car in 1910. Named the Type 13, it proved not only popular with customers but also saw success in motorsport. Many more powerful and prestigious models followed as well as victories at the worlds most famous endurance race, the Le Mans 24 Hour. Ettore’s son, Jean, took over the company in later years however his death and the following war saw Bugatti sold in the 1950’s. 1987 brought a revival of the Bugatti name as it was acquired by Romano Artioli. The Bugatti EB110 came into being in 1989 and became the worlds fastest road production car in 1991. Due to a following recession the company again failed producing just 139 examples of the EB110.VW bought the rights to the name in 1998 and showed a range of luxury saloon concepts featuring the worlds first W16 engines for the road. However it was at the 1999 Frankfurt motor show where the first production concept of what we today call the Veyron was shown. Named the 18/3 Chiron. It was to become the brands future.
The mandate was clear after the reaction of the concept car that claimed so much. Build the worlds most powerful, fastest and desired road car. This task was given to Hartmut Warkuss (Chief Designer) under the guidance of Wolfgang Schreiber. Produced under the official title of Bugatti Automobiles SAS in Château St. Jean France, the yet to be named project was not designed to be beautiful but functional. Delivering biblical speeds had been done time and again but coupling that with unrivaled luxury was to be a huge challenge. With this much power how do you craft refinement? Testing began of the 8.0 litre W16 quad-turbocharged monster producing results that even surprised the engineers that built it. Traveling at speed in excess of 250MPH required some of the most focused technologies the world had to offer as the car must adapt to its rapidly increasing speed. Signed off in 2003 this incredible machine now had a name. The Bugatti Veyron.
They had done it. The laws of physics had been challenged and banished. This 253MPH mechanical miracle was the trophy for the engineers responsible. The Bugatti Veyron became the worlds fastest road production car but better yet, a genuinely comfortable experience and not just two seats with a rocket attached to the back. Critics have said time and again that this extraordinary machine is as tranquil at 30MPH as it is 230MPH. Collecting multiple awards the Bugatti very quickly became THE car to own. However its £839,000 price-tag reserved it strictly for the worlds most wealthy. VW built this car to show what can be achieved with pure engineering and so make no profit at all on all 350 cars. In fact the car costs £4,000,000 more to build than what it is sold for.
Over the years the Veyron’s record has been challenged and so Bugatti needed to produce something that would silence the claims of others. The Bugatti Veyron Super Sport became the world’s fastest production car. At VW’s secure test facility. This 1,200BHP goliath set a biblical speed of 267.81MPH! The new car has 1,106 pound-feet of torque as well as a modified aerodynamic profile. All production models are limited to 257.9MPH, as if the car was set free the tyres would only last 7 minutes.
It is a machine that changed the fortunes of a company. It is a symbol of mans true engineering potential. It is today one of the most globally recognizable cars on the planet. The Bugatti Veyron is many things to many people but what it is in isolation is an achievement.