- Bugatti Veyron(38)
It's been sixteen years since Volkswagen acquired the Bugatti name and started showing off successive concept cars to preview the Veyron that followed. It's been eleven years since the first Veyron prototype started testing, and nine years since it entered production. But soon - probably sometime next year - Bugatti will have sold the last of the Veyrons it will ever build. And considering that the Veyron is the only model it offers, it will need something else to take its place, lest the marque effectively go dormant once again.
Having ruled out the prospect of doing a less expensive sports car years ago and, more recently, the production prospects for the Galibier super-sedan, Bugatti is committed to further the concept of a super-sports car that will, in all likelihood, be lighter than the current Veyron - which may seem like a no-brainer, considering the car weighs over 4,000 pounds - but with an engine that is, by every metric but output, twice the size of the one you'd find in, say, a modern McLaren, trimming weight will be no mean feat.
That does appear, however, to be what Bugatti is seen testing at the Nürburgring in this video clip below. Going by the handle fastsportscardriver, the videographer/uploader doesn't seem to know what he has captured here, but the Grand Sport prototype he's spotted seems to be wearing some sort of metal frame over the exposed engine, suggesting something's at work here. Just what that is, we don't know. But when you're dealing with an engine that already produces upwards of a thousand horsepower, whatever they're working on, it's got to be good.
Southern California's wonderful jewel, the Mullin Automotive Museum, opened its latest exhibit this week and it is worthy of a road trip. Titled "The Art of Bugatti," the new show is an intimate look at more than a century's worth of Bugatti family creativity - automotive enthusiasts associate the name with cars, but the Italian-born, French-based Bugattis were accomplished sculptors, painters, furniture makers as well as car collectors. The work on exhibit in coastal Oxnard, about an hour northwest of Los Angeles, includes more than 40 automobiles (and an aircraft) from Ettore Bugatti, nearly two dozen pieces of sculpture from Rembrandt Bugatti and more than 40 pieces of furniture from Carlo Bugatti.
Peter Mullin, the museum's founder and chairman, owns the largest private collection of Bugattis in the world. This exhibit celebrates the achievements of the Bugatti family. "It was one of the rare artistic and artisanal families of the era. Everyone in the family just exuded huge artistic talent," said Mullin.
At an early private peek at the collection, our eyes were glazed over by the spectacular 1932 Bugatti Type 41 "Royale" Coupe de Ville, with a massive 12.7-liter straight-eight, and the 1927 Bugatti 35C race car, one of its most successful competitive models. The famed 1936 Bugatti Type 57SC Atlantic is also on display, which recently sold in the range of $30-40 million. One of the most unique items is the Bugatti 100P, a full scale reproduction of a V-tail wood twin-engine aircraft designed by Ettore Bugatti and Louis de Monge, built for the 1939 Deutsch de la Meurthe Cup Race (there are plans to fly it in the near future).
While it wouldn't be fair to say it stumbled upon it, having invested unprecedented amounts to develop the Veyron in the first place, Bugatti has certainly arrived at a winning formula with its special editions. Take on the world's most expensive and desirable supercars, give it a special paintjob and name, and presto! You've got a multi-million-dollar prospect on your hands of which collectors just can't seem to get enough.
If that was the case with previous special-edition and one-off versions of the Veyron - and there have been many - it certainly applies to the company's "Les Legendes de Bugatti" line. The series pays homage to six legendary figures from the marque's history, each honored with a run of three special versions of the Vitesse roadster done up in their name with a unique color scheme inside and out. It started with the Jean-Pierre Wimille edition at Pebble Beach in August and continued with the Jean Bugatti edition in Frankfurt, the Meo Costantini edition in Dubai and the Rembrandt edition (pictured above) at the Geneva Motor Show last week. That leaves two more to go, and now we now what to expect - or rather, when to expect it.
In correspondence with Autoblog, Bugatti confirmed that it will reveal the fifth model at the Beijing Motor Show next month, and the sixth and final version at Pebble Beach in August. But just what will they be? All signs seem to be pointing toward pioneered female racer Elisabeth Junek for one of them - likely the next - but if we had to guess, we'd suspect that the final version will honor Ettore Bugatti himself. We'll just have to wait to find out for sure, but whoever Bugatti names them after, you can bet they'll all sell out rather quickly.
As far as tuning companies go, Mansory isn't exactly known for its restraint. That's why this Bugatti Veyron-based Vivere is a little shocking to us. In terms of ostentatiousness, this thing is actually pretty tame, especially considering how over-the-top Bugatti itself can go with its legendary supercar.
For starters, the body is done up in a two-tone white-and-carbon-fiber look, which is actually sort of cool. Of course, we'd do without the added aero treatment, consisting of a "striking front apron," side skirts, larger air outlets and a new rear diffuser. Mansory again uses the word "striking" to describe the new, double-five-spoke wheels, but as far as exterior, um, enhancements go... that's it.
Inside, Mansory has added a healthy dose of LED lighting, the tuning company saying "the whole passenger compartment glows in the light" from these added lamps. The upholstery is done up in a black-and-white leather theme, sort of matching the exterior, and there's a new steering wheel that "looks sporty with great grip." Cool.
Remember when the Bugatti Veyron first came out? You'll have to go back the better part of a decade to 2005. People were taken aback by the million-dollar asking price. But now there are plenty of cars with price tags in the seven-figure range.
Pagani gets that much for the Huayra, as does McLaren for the P1 and Ferrari for LaFerrari. Aston Martin charged seven digits for the One-77, Hennessey charges that much for the Lotus-based Venom GT, Zenvo does for the ST1 and you can bet SSC will charge at least as much for the Tuatara. Suddenly the notion of a million-dollar supercar doesn't seem so absurd, does it?
$3 million - now that's another story, but that's just what Bugatti gets for the latest special edition Veyron you see here. The price for the "basic" Veyron inflated over the years, of course, and then went up with each iteration. The Grand Sport kicked it up a notch when it blew the roof off. The Super Sport that much more when it upped the power and the speed. Bugatti got that much more when it combined the best attributes of both to make the Vitesse roadster, and squeezes out just an extra little bit for each edition of its Legends series.
You may have balked at the release of each of Bugatti's Legend edition Veyrons and dismissed them as simple a way for the Alsatian marque to sell the last 50 cars it needs to move before it can put the series to rest. But what you can't argue with is the fact that it's working, because Bugatti has sold every last one of them.
The "Legendes de Bugatti" series launched, as you may recall, with the Jean-Pierre Wimille edition (pictured above and in the updated image gallery) at Pebble Beach this past August. The Jean Bugatti edition followed at the Frankfurt show, and the Meo Costantini edition debuted in Dubai. Each one is based on the Vitesse roadster and comes with a special paint scheme and interior palette created in tribute to a legendary driver from the marque's hey day in pre-war grand prix racing. Each of the three limited runs is limited to three examples, each of which, Bugatti has confirmed, has sold for around 2.2 million euros - equivalent to approximately $3 million at present exchange rates. And here we thought the million-dollar asking price for the original Veyron was a lot.
Before all is said and done, there will be three more of these special series - nine more examples - for a total of eighteen vehicles. Bugatti is set to unveil the fourth version next week in Geneva, anticipated to pay tribute to pioneering female driver Elisabeth Junek. We're still expecting Ettore's son Rembrandt Bugatti to be the subject of another one, leaving the sixth up in the air. Whoever those remaining examples honor, however, you can bet Bugatti will sell them all, which will only bring it closer to selling those last few Veyrons and moving on to its successor, whatever form it may take.
After six years running its American operations, John Hill is leaving Bugatti. So the exotic carmaker is going to need someone to fill his shoes - particularly since the United States and Canada account for a quarter of all Bugattis sold (to say nothing of Latin America). Fortunately, it appears to have found just the right person in Maurizio Parlato.
An old hand in moving exotic sports cars in North America, Parlato comes to his role as Chief Operating Officer at Bugatti of the Americas after years in the business. He served as top man in America first for Ferrari and Maserati and then at Lotus, holding numerous other positions at both companies over the years, including the latter's global sales and marketing director. (Lotus, for what it's worth, was once owned by Bugatti, but that was long before Parlato arrived on the scene.)
Parlato assumes his new role at Bugatti at a time when the company is trying to move the last few dozen Veyrons before switching over to its successor. He'll have a network of 13 dealers to manage, satisfy and ultimately expand, but if anyone can do it, Parlato seems to have proven that he can.
Bugatti is in the habit of recalling names from its storied history on the nameplates of its new models. The Veyron, after all, was named after Pierre, one of its most accomplished racing and test drivers. So, too, was the concept that preceded it named after Louis Chiron, another Bugatti racing driver of yore. And lately, the Alsatian marque has been reviving other names from its history with a series of special editions.
The "Légendes de Bugatti" series kicked off with the Jean-Pierre Wimille edition last year, which was followed by the Jean Bugatti edition and the Meo Costatini edition (pictured above) just a few months ago. We would have expected that the next one would honor Jean's brother Rembrandt Bugatti - the artist behind the rearing elephant hood ornament that adorned the legendary Bugatti Royale - but the word on the street is that the next special-edition Vitesse will pay tribute to one Elisabeth Junek.
Also known as Eliška Junková, she was one of the earliest and most renowned of female racing drivers at the dawn of motorsport. She would often accompany her banker/gentleman-racer husband Cenek Junek on his motoring exploits in their Bugatti Type 35B and would sometimes take the wheel herself. Her most famous race was the 1928 Targa Florio, which she led until the final lap before mechanical troubles dropped her down to fifth place - but still ahead of Tazio Nuvolari.
Bugatti has been building some of the fastest vehicles in the world since 1909, but its brief history with airplane racing is less well known to many fans. It started in the '30s when founder Ettore Bugatti believed he could build a plane to win the Deutsch de la Merthe Cup Race. He worked on a design called the 100P that never flew. At least, it never flew until a group of Bugatti fanatics called Le Reve Blue decided to build an exact replica of the plane at the Mullin Automotive Museum's Art of Bugatti exhibition. The plane will make its public debut on March 25 in Oxnard, California.
The 100P was on the cutting edge for 1930s aircraft. It used two Bugatti-built 4.9-liter, straight-eight engines with 450 horsepower each to power two counter-rotating props mounted in tandem at the front of the plane. It boasts an estimated top speed of around 500 miles per hour. Other amazing features for the time included the V-shaped tail, forward-pitched wings and a zero-drag cooling system.
Le Reve Blue took on the project in 2009 to create a replica using the same materials and production processes as the original. The group decided to unveil the finished project at the Mullin because of the museum's commitment to Art Deco and machine-age design. It plans to actually fly the plane at some point in the future as well.
There may be trouble brewing with the supercar specialists at Bugatti. The French brand shocked the world with the Veyron when it debuted in 2006, but at eight years old, the hypercar may be getting a little stale to its wealthy clientele. What's worse, Bugatti insiders say a replacement is still years away.
Bugatti planned an initial run of 300 Veyron coupes when it went on sale, but the introduction of the convertible added an extra 150 cars to the docket. Generally, its cars have been built to order, other than some of its show cars. In December, Bugatti confirmed that it had sold its 400th car. Now, there are still about 40 Veyron Grand Sports to find homes for, according to Bloomberg, which amounts to about 62.5 million euros ($85 million) in product.
To solve the problem, Bugatti has devised the Dynamic Drive Experience that has the Grand Sport touring the US. It allows potential buyers to drive the car on the road and experience its raw speed on closed airport runways. The company hopes being hands-on with the supercar is going to move a few more of them.