Tag Archives: Bugatti

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Chiron

The launch of a new Bugatti is a very rare event, like the alignment of the planets, it may come but once or twice in our life spans. So the opportunity the witness the latest model from this most exclusive of brands in the flesh was not to be missed by our Special Correspondent. So he set course for Geneva and here are some of his reflections.

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For this scribe the chief excitement of the 2016 Geneva Motor show was the début of the Bugatti Chiron. Based on the Veyron, the Chiron pushes all the limits of its predecessor further ahead.

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It’s taller and wider and the 8.0-litre quad turbo W16 has been re-developed to give a staggering 1,479 b.h.p., almost 300 b.h.p. more than the Veyron, by dint of stronger titanium connecting rods, enlarged (by 30%) turbos while 1.4 kg have been machined off the crankshaft. There is an up-graded 7-speed Ricardo DCT with a bigger crown wheel, stronger universal joints and stouter driveshafts. Carbon silicon brakes with eight pistons and an air-brake help to arrest the unbelievable performance. The car sits on a new lighter carbon-fibre monocoque to which is attached the adaptive suspension and specially developed tyres. The carbon-fibre bodywork is a bold mix of curves and straight lines and a cutaway rear end is used to get rid of the enormous heat.

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Some 300,000 miles of testing has proved that these improvements are up to the job and customers (existing Veyron owners are given first refusal) are invited to part with a mere £1.9 million as from the autumn. To reassure them the road car is limited to a top speed of 261 m.p.h. Bugatti expects to make up to 500 Chirons, taking production up to 2024.

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Let us not forget that there was an earlier Bugatti Chiron, a concept car which appeared at the Frankfurt Show in 1999. It was a 2-seater mid-engined coupé, labelled “EB 18/3 Chiron”, the 18 indicating the number of cylinders and the 3 representing Volkswagen’s project.
So why Chiron, and who was he? Like Pierre Veyron he was a successful Bugatti driver but he drove other marques as well.

T 51 Chiron 1932
He was born in Monaco in 1899, the son of the Maître d’Hôtel in the Hôtel de Paris. Having joined the French Army as an artilleryman, he became the chauffeur to Marshal Pétain. He was then able to obtain a Bugatti T22 which was prepared and supported by Ernest Friderich who was the Bugatti agent in Nice. In 1923 Chiron started taking part in local sprints and hill climbs, registering an initial success with a 3rd place in the Mont Agel hill climb.

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By 1926 a Bugatti T35 was bought for him by Alfred Hoffman, heir to the Hoffman-La Roche pharmaceutical empire, and Chiron finished 4th in the Grand Prix de Province, his first circuit race; a win at the Grand Prix de Comminges followed. For 1927 Hoffman obliged with a T35T which was converted to T35B specification. A first at Miramas was scored and then a second in the supporting race to the French Grand Prix. Chiron took 7th at Indianapolis in a Delage 15S 8 before going on to Brooklands where he finished 4th in the British Grand Prix.

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All this brought Chiron to the attention of Ettore Bugatti who invited him to drive for the works team. So for 1928 a T35C was used to win at Rome, Reims, San Sebastian and the Grand Prix d’Europe at Monza. In 1929 he won again at San Sebastian and took victory in the sports car Grand Prix von Deutschland. By now the T35 was becoming outclassed but he still managed to win at Spa.

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The twin-cam T51 restored his fortunes and in 1931 he won his home race, the Monaco Grand Prix, as well as taking a shared victory (with Varzi) in the French Grand Prix; he also won at Brno. 1932 began with a 9th place in the Monte Carlo Rally, Chiron driving a big Type 50 Bugatti, but back on the circuits the T51 was in turn being outpaced by the P3 Alfa Romeo; nevertheless, he managed victories at Nice, Dieppe and Brno again.

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So in 1933 it was all change to Alfa Romeos, initially teaming up with Caracciola to form Scuderia CC but this fell apart when the German ace crashed badly at Monaco. Chiron joined Scuderia Ferrari and threw away a certain win at Monaco with two laps to go in 1934. He made up for it with a splendid victory over the full might of the German teams in the French Grand Prix at Montlhéry. A season with Mercedes-Benz in 1936 did not work out well and this prompted his (premature) retirement. He was tempted back to drive sports T150C Talbots in 1937 and won the French Grand Prix, whereupon he retired once again.

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Chiron returned to Talbot after the war and won the first post-war French Grand Prix at Lyon, repeating the victory at Reims in 1949. His best performance in 1950 was a 3rd place at Monaco in a Maserati 4CLT/48. In the 1951 Monte Carlo Rally he brought his Delahaye 175S up to 5th overall by being the fastest in the Test around the Monaco Grand Prix circuit. His last Grand Prix was at Monaco in 1955 when he finished 6th in one of the Lancia D50s at the age of almost 56 years; he had won the Monte Carlo Rally the year before in a Lancia Aurelia. Non-qualification at Monaco 1958 in a Maserati 250F saw his last Grand Prix appearance, and a class win that year in a Porsche Carrera at the Vuillafans-Echevannes hill climb brought his impressive career to a close. He then devoted himself to organisation with the Monaco Club and died in 1979, appropriately, in Monaco.
The new car has much to live up to!
David Blumlein, May 2016

The Italian Job

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Name the odd one out – Maserati, Ferrari, Lamborghini, Pagani, Bugatti, Lancia, Alfa Romeo. Easy I hear you cry, Bugatti! – Though Ettore Bugatti was born in Milan almost all of the cars that bore his name were built at Molsheim in the French province of Alsace. Since the acquisition of the marque by the Volkswagen Group production has returned to Molsheim. The rest are all Italian car companies so that is that.

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However, there was, some 30 years ago, an attempt to revive Bugatti and locate it in the shadow of Modena (where else in Italy?) at a purpose built factory in Campogalliano. The author of this plan was Italian automotive entrepreneur Romano Artioli who somehow persuaded the French state-owned industrial conglomerate, Snecma, to sell him the rights to the brand of Bugatti, succeeding where so many others before him had failed. Perhaps he made them an offer they could not refuse.

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Artioli had a vision of the car he wanted to create, this had been hatched over several years with an old friend, Ferruccio Lamborghini, yes that Lamborghini. This was going to be the fastest, greatest car in the world and to achieve this aim Artioli recruited some of the stars of the local auto industry. Designer Marcello Gandini was a logical choice given his record with such supercars as the Alfa Romeo Montreal, De Thomaso Pantera, Ferrari Dino 308GT4, Iso Grifo, Lamborghini Miura, Lamborghini Countach, Lancia Stratos and Maserati Khamsin plus many others. The technical side was handled by Paolo Stanzani who drew up the initial concept of a two seater mid-engined sportscar with four-wheel drive, powered by a 3.5 litre V12 with four turbochargers giving over 600bhp in extreme form. Chassis were initially planned to be aluminium but this lacked the necessary rigidity so French aeronautics experts, Aérospatiale were called upon to develop and build a carbon fibre unit.

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Artioli managed to fall out with both of his project leaders prior to launch but the EB110GT continued its development and during this period recorded a record speed of 212.5mph, making it the fastest production car on the planet. The EB110GT was launched in 14th September 1991 at La Grande Arche de la Défense to the west of Paris to a crowd of 5,000 media and guests. The date was the 110th anniversary of Ettore Bugatti’s birth and 1,800 VIPs celebrated into the night at a sumptuous reception and dinner at the Palace of Versailles.

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Such extravagance set the tone and were to have consequences particularly as there were cost overruns at Bugatti and, to compound matters, Artioli acquired Lotus Cars from General Motors. He also launched the Ettore Bugatti fashion brand, all of this funded by a combination of personal wealth and borrowings. Artioli’s luck deserted him, his principal income streams, a large Ferrari dealership and being Suzuki’s agent in Italy, were experiencing difficulties with the general economic situation and the financial crisis that hit Japan at that time. Two other factors worked against the EB110GT, failure to get a foothold in the vital North American market and the arrival on the scene of the McLaren F1 which took SuperCar performance levels to a new dimension.

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In an attempt to drum up business in the face of the new arrival from Woking an even more extreme version of the EB110 was launched, the Supersport, but it was too little too late. The planned output of 300 units per annum was never achieved and in the end only 140 cars were built, including 38 Supersports.

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The end for Artioli’s Bugatti dream came in September 1995 when the corporation was declared insolvent with debts of $125 million, eventually after a couple of years of financial and legal wrangling the Volkswagen Group acquired the Bugatti brand. The Veyron was the next exotic chapter in the story of Bugatti and the recent launch of the Chiron at the Geneva Salon points to the future.

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So the EB110 is a rare beast, so to encounter two of the Supersports sharing the same stage is highly unlikely scenario, that they were in the company of a prototype EB112 saloon is even more so, this is hen’s teeth territory.

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The trio had been owned by Monegasque businessman, Gildo Pallanca Pastor, and closer inspection showed the cars to be even more important that I had first believed. The two Supersports appeared to have competition history, that much I figured from the sponsors’ logos, one turned out to be a world record holder. On 2nd March 1995 Pastor set a new record for a car on ice of 296.34 km/h (184 mph) at Oulu Finland, the record being set on winter tyres without spikes.

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Pastor was not finished with returning Bugatti back to the race-tracks, following the lead of Michel Hommel who entered an EB110SS in the 1994 Le Mans 24 Hours. The car ran competitively till an accident near the end of the race forced it into retirement. Pastor took his other SS to the USA and ran in two races with two finishes in 1995 before heading to Japan for the Suzuka 1000kms, a round of the BPR Global Endurance Series. He was partnered with 1993-Le Mans winner Eric Hélary but transmission problems caused the Bugatti to retire. Pastor entered the 1996 Rolex 24 at Daytona International Speedway. Joining him at the wheel was Derek Hill, son of 1961 F1 World Champion Phil Hill, and Olivier Grouillard but they went out after 154 laps with gearbox failure.

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This inspired Pastor to enter Le Mans but that initiative sank almost at the start of Pre-Qualifying when ex-Ferrari F1 star, Patrick Tambay, crashed the Bugatti beyond immediate repair and, aside from a club race at Dijon a few months later, that was the end of the competitions career of Bugatti, which is unlikely to be revived under the current ownership.

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The EB112 also warrants more attention, something it attracted in spades at the 1993 Geneva Salon when it was shown to the world for the first time. Powered by a 6 litre V12, the elegant saloon design was the work Giorgetto Giugiaro at ItalDesign. The engineering team was under the guidance of the great Mauro Forghieri, whose work for Ferrari in the ‘60s and ’70s is legendary, producing four drivers World Championships and eight Constructors titles. Two EB112 prototypes were built and the project was set to go into production in 1996 but the financial disaster that engulfed Bugatti ended that dream.

Under the new owners Bugatti returned to its spiritual home in Molsheim, the automotive Risorgimento was done.

John Brooks, April 2016

A Very Classic Car Show

To Birmingham’s NEC with The Special Correspondent for the 2012 Footman James Classic Car Show. The Show has expanded this year to fill even more halls and the extra space is very welcome.

Of course it being the NEC there are always a few issues………….the lighting in the exhibition halls remains sub-standard and arguably in breach of Health & Safety legislation, and the level of grumpiness shown by those unfortunate to travel to Birmingham by car was at an all time high. Tales of 45 minutes to get parked at the facility were common, not excusable at such a venue. On the other side of the ledger, those of us arriving by train were greeted by an enthusiastic bunch of staff, who cheerfully steered us all the way to the other side of the site. One could not fault that welcome, so credit where credit is due, more to the point the staff were still there and still cheerful we came to leave.

Once inside the Show there was a bewildering array of automobile heritage, the quality of the content certainly matches any other event of its kind, anywhere. There were so many jewels to see, such as the Aston Martin Atom, a prototype built in 1939. This was the only example of the marque that David Brown drove before acquiring the company in 1947, all of the glories that followed can be traced back to this advanced car and the impression it made on DB.

While in the fullness of time out Special Correspondent will produce one of his Rare and Interesting pieces I propose to have a quick look at what was on offer that caught my eye. A car that represented a significant step in the German Auto industry was to be found on the Audi stand. The work of Paul Jaray back in the ’20s inspired Ferdinand Porsche when designing the Wanderer Type 8.

Porsche would develop the aerodynamically efficient shape when producing one of his masterpieces, the Volkswagen. Jaray’s Ugly Duckling turned into a swan.

The Coventry Transport Museum’s collection provided another pioneering vehicle, the Ferguson R4 Prototype. Harry Ferguson designed a four wheel drive system back in the early ’50s, it featured independent suspension and Dunlop disk brakes and Maxaret anti locking device, all very advanced for the time.

The backbone of the Classic Car Show is the support provided by the car clubs. Stand after stand featured great cars backed up by real enthusiasm and deep knowledge of those manning the exhibition. Questions, no matter how basic, were generally answered with patience and good humour. So while virtually all the stands had something to interest there were some that I preferred to others. A tad Orwellian I suppose, all exhibits are equal but some are more equal than others…….Bugatti for instance had several fine cars, all promoting the scene at Prescott…………….from the early days to the present.

The Maserati stand also had a nice bunch of cars, I have always been a fan of the Trident, even more so since visiting the factory a few years back.

Strange, but Ferrari does not appeal to me in the same way, though who could resist this Dino?

This gorgeous Continental was the pride of the Bentley/Rolls Royce stand.

One strange trend that was more common than might have been expected was adorn a “barn find” with some straw…………..what this achieved was anyone’s guess.

And of course the trend was taken to the next level with a string of onions draped on a Citroën Traction Avant……………..no stereotypes here then, no none at all……………..what next we hesitate to enquire?

There were a few competition cars at the Show, mainly sportscars such as the Jaguar XJ220 that won its class at Le Mans in 1993 but was subsequently disqualified, a casualty in the long running conflict between TWR boss, Tom Walkinshaw, and Alain Bertaut of the ACO.

No such problems afflicted the Aston Martin DBR9 in 2007, with a convincing GT1 class win.

Less successful was this TVR, first retirement in the 1962 race.

Shows such as this always throw up a few oddities, who could resist a chance to sit in a truck used by the Great Train Robbers?

Try explaining Del Boy to an American, eh Rodders?

And this optional extra for all aspiring Bond villains would prove very tempting on the M25 morning commute.

Candidate for the worst colour scheme on display………this Lea Francis Lynx, representing the end of the line for the marque.

The 2012 Footman James Classic Car Show was another resounding success and if you have even a sniff of petrol in your veins you should seriously consider making the trip in 2013, I will be there certainly.

Here is a gallery of images, please excuse the weird colour in some shots, them pesky lights again.

John Brooks, November 2012