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IT TOOK more than two decades for the Bugatti EB110 to get proper supercar respect, though I recognized its greatness back in the car’s first U.S. road test, Road & Track, July 1994. The March 2015 issue of Octane (to my mind, Britain’s best auto magazine today) has the EB110 on its cover with tag line “Fast, furious and misunderstood: the inside story of a supercar great.”
Back in its July 1994 cover, R&T didn’t hedge on the matter: “World’s Best!” Within: “Le Patron would be proud.”
Taken together, the two magazine stories 21 years apart offer plenty of tidbits. For instance, Octane notes that the Bugatti EB110 was unveiled in Paris on September 14, 1991, (almost) marking the 110th anniversary of Ettore Bugatti’s birth, September 15, 1881, in Milan, Italy. This latter-day Bugatti was dream-fulfillment for Romano Arcioli, a major distributor of Ferraris (and Suzukis) in Italy.
The first EB110 was delivered in December 1992; the last, with the company’s bankruptcy in September 1995. A total of 140 EB110s were built, 102 GTs and 38 Super Sports.
In 1994, serendipity played a role in our exclusive test of the Bugatti EB110. R&T colleague Kim Reynolds (now at Motor Trend) was ready to fly from California to Europe to test the car when his trip got cancelled (because of a wrecked EB110 test car over there.)
In the meantime, I was at Michelin’s test facility in Greenville, South Carolina, for evaluation of the tiremaker’s Pilot SX MXX3 AP tires. (The AP stood for Auto Porteur, French for self-supporting.) And guess what Michelin had for evaluating these new Pilot run-flats? A pair of Bugatti EB110s.
Several phone calls later, and R&T had use of Michelin’s facility for an exclusive test of the EB110.
Among its technical superlatives, the EB110 has a mid-mounted 3.5-liter double-overhead-cam V-12 with four turbochargers and five valves per cylinder (three intake, two exhaust; a total of 60 of them!). Output ranges from 560 hp to more than 700, depending upon state of tune. A 6-speed gearbox delivers torque to all four wheels.
The EB110’s chassis is a carbon fiber monocoque. Its suspension, front and rear, is supercar-traditional double A-arms and coils. Its bodywork is aluminum.
The EB110’s original lines were penned by Marcello Gandini, who left after a falling-out with Arcioli. Giampaolo Benedini, architect (and Arcioli cousin), completed matters, and also designed the state-of-the-art facility for Bugatti in Campogalliano, Italy, 7 miles northwest of Modena, 19 miles north of Ferrari’s Maranello. (Bugatti purists bothered by an Italian locale need only reflect on Ettore’s country of birth.)
On the other hand, Bugatti’s choice of French citizenship legitimizes an EB110’s French racing blue bodywork. (Back before race cars became rolling billboards, other official liveries included American blue/white, Belgian yellow, British green, German white/silver and Italian red.)
What was the EB110 like to drive? In a word, exhilarating. It reached 60 mph from a standing start in 4.4 seconds and passed the quarter-mile mark in 12.5 seconds at 119.5 mph. Its slalom and skidpad values were 64.3 mph and 0.99g. All of these data resided near or at the top of R&T test cars in that era.
Any downsides? Sure. A tight cockpit, scissor doors requiring practiced closure, four turbos that don’t come alive until beyond 4000 rpm (with, I noted, “more whistles than Raquel Welch at a U.S.O. show”). Back in 1994, I cited late R&T editor Tony Hogg who said (of the Aston Martin Lagonda), “This automobile has shortcomings that would be inexcusable in cars costing a tenth as much.”
My view at the time, and now: “Many enthusiasts will mark the day they see such a car. Others of us, lucky indeed, will dine out on reminiscences of our brief experience with them.”
I believe I’ll do that this very evening. ds
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2015