Bugatti in its original form began a steady decline during the Second World War. The death of Ettore Buggati’s son Jean in 1939 was a major setback, add to this the destruction of the factory during the War and Ettore’s death in 1947 meant that the company did not survive beyond 1952. Between then and the revival of the brand under the Volkswagen group in the early 2000s, a couple of attempts were made to revive the brand, but with not much success.
The most prominent of these revival attempts was in 1988 by Romano Artioli, a wealthy Italian entrepreneur and owner of a Ferrari dealership. Artioli assembled a team of Italian engineers and enlisted the services of Marcello Gandini, who is best known as the designer of the Lamborghini Miura and the Countach. The new car was christened the Bugatti EB110 GT with the public unveiling happening in 1991, the 110th birth anniversary of Ettore Bugatti.
The design, though polarising, was effective. It featured the signature angular look Gandini was known for, right up to the scissor doors. The Bugatti EB110 GT was powered by an in-house quad turbo 3.5-litre V12 designed by Paolo Stanzani. The engine put out 550 hp and 611 Nm of torque. Top speed was rated at 213 mph (343 kmph) and 0 to 60 mph (96 kmph) took about 3.2 seconds. The chassis was made from carbon fibre and built by a French aircraft company, Aérospatiale. Four wheel drive was standard, as were a 6-speed manual and double wishbone suspension.
This spec sheet put the Bugatti EB110 GT in direct competition with the likes of the Jaguar XJ220. Reviewers at the time praised the EB110 GT for its confidence inspiring setup, flexible engine and relative ease of use. Another surprising advantage, though probably irrelevant in present company, was its superior fuel economy. The only gripes were a cramped interior and on-limit handling which fell short of the XJ220. At £285,000 it was also much cheaper than the £400,000 XJ220 and the then upcoming £500,000 Mclaren F1.
As promising as the car was, the Bugatti EB110 GT’s run was short-lived. The economic recession of 1991-92 affected the company directly. This was compounded by a string of bad decisions by the company management. The most prominent of which was the purchase of Lotus Cars from GM in 1993 and the hastily put together four door EB112 protoype, also from 1993. These factors strained the company financially and Bugatti went bankrupt by 1995.
Only about a 139 Bugatti EB110s were ever built, off which 30 were in SS (SuperSport) spec saw a power bump of upto 605 hp and had a 216 mph (347 kmph) top speed. This means that the car seen here and up for auction at RM Sotheby’s Arizona sale, a 1995 EB110 GT, is exceptionally rare. Setting this car apart even further is that it only has had one owner and just 4,540 km on the clock since new.
The Bugatti EB110 GT was a singular feat in design and engineering, a statement given more weightage by the fact that Michael Schumacher was a former owner. It competed and held its own against formidable competition, namely the XJ220 and can best be described as a fitting precursor to the Veyron and then the Chiron. While it did not try to be the ‘ultimate’ car, the EB110 GT did showcase the poise and flexibility that the modern day Bugattis are so well known for. Photos by Brian Buchard for RM Sotheby’s.