Care to Take a Ride in a Bugatti EB 110?
There’s nothing quite like the sound of a quad-turbo V-12 engine splitting our eardrumsby Kirby, on
Before the Bugatti Veyron rewrote our expectations of what supercars are supposed to be and before the Bugatti Chiron took those expectations to another level, there was the Bugatti EB110. The mid-engine sports car often gets lost in the shuffle of iconic Bugattis, in part because it’s the only model ever produced by Bugatti Automobili S.p.A., the Italian incarnation of the iconic brand that was headed by Italian businessman Romano Artioli. The lack of attention given to the EB110 makes the following video an even bigger treat. The fine folks over at Motor1 Italy paid a visit to the Bugatti Automobili’s old stomping grounds in Modena, Italy, where they got a chance to meet Loris Bicocchi, the man who spearheaded the development of the EB110. In an even bigger treat, Bicocchi brought a race-spec version of the EB110 for a little go-around the facility, and for a 20-year-old racer, the race-spec EB110 still packs a wallop. It’s best if you watch this video with the volume turned way up. Listening to that 3.5-liter quad-turbocharged V-12 engine explode in anger at peak revs is like listening to a caged monster dying to get out from behind bars. It’s incredible and scary at the same time.
It’s not every day that you see a Bugatti EB 110 out in the wild, let alone a race-spec version that’s based on the EB 110 Super Sport SS and was built to compete in the Le Mans 24 Hours. So this video is a treat for all of us, even if we’re not the ones riding shotgun beside Loris Bicocchi, the man credited for leading the charge in the development of the EB 110 two decades ago.
For those who are unfamiliar, the Bugatti EB 110 has a unique place in the automaker’s history. It’s considered the first modern Bugatti supercar and the first Bugatti created since the late 1950s.
It’s hard to believe now given the current status of the brand, but Bugatti was a dormant brand for almost 30 years back in the late 20th century until the Italian entrepreneur acquired the brand in 1987 and established Bugatti Automobili S.p.A. This particular incarnation lasted only eight years, in part because it arrived at a time when the global economy was on a downturn. That contributed to the short lifespan of the “Italian” chapter of Bugatti, though in that span, the company was able to build one production model: the EB 110.
The Bugatti EB 110 was a lot of things. It was fast, powerful, and it was developed with leading technology that still looks and sounds impressive to this day. I can’t say the EB 110’s design has aged as well as it probably should, specifically the headlamps that now make the car look cross-eyed. But that didn’t matter as much back in the ’90s, not when the EB 110 packed a walloping 3.5-liter quad-turbocharged V-12 engine that produced a heart-stopping 553 horsepower in base GT form and 603 horsepower in the lighter and more powerful Super Sport version. To this day, you look at the EB 110’s power and performance figures — it could sprint from 0 to 60 mph in 3.3 seconds and hit a top speed of 218 mph — and you would think that the EB 110 was of this era. That’s how ground-breaking the model was when it first arrived in 1991.
Unfortunately, the global economic environment of that era, as well as Artioli’s ambitious purchase of Lotus, didn’t do any favors to Bugatti.
The automaker only built 139 units of the EB 110 from 1991 to 1995 before the company filed for bankruptcy. That, of course, set the table for the Volkswagen Group’s purchase of Bugatti in 1998, setting the stage for the brand’s return to prominence as Bugatti Automobiles. 20 years later, everyone knows about the Veyron and the Chiron even though these two supercars owe a great deal of their existence to the “one” that came before, the EB 110.
|Bugatti EB 110 GT||Bugatti EB 110 SS|
|Engine||3.5-litre V12, 60-valve, water-cooled||3.5-litre V12, 60-valve, water-cooled|
|Supercharging||four IHI turbochargers with charge-air cooling||four IHI turbochargers with charge-air cooling|
|Output||553 hp at 8,000 rpm||603 hp at 8,250 rpm|
|Torque||450 lb-ft at 4,200 rpm||479 lb-ft at 4,200 rpm|
|Transmission||manual 6-speed transmission||manual 6-speed transmission|
|Drive||permanent all-wheel drive||permanent all-wheel drive|
|Acceleration||3.5 s from 0 to 100 km/h||3.3 s from 0 to 100 km/h|
|Vmax||212 mph||218 mph|
OK, so let’s return to the video. I watched it a couple of times already and what strikes me the most about this race-spec EB 110 is how noisy it is, not in an annoying way, but a glorious way. The sound of that quad-turbocharged V-12 engine isn’t so much a roar or a scream or even a shriek. The engine sounds like it’s exploding, loud enough, at least, to startle Bicocchi and the guy from Motor1 every time Bicocchi goes up to the higher gears. I don’t even know if it’s a healthy kind of noise, but it’s exhilarating to listen to. I recommend that you watch it multiple times too. Raise the volume as high as it can go because the sound of that engine is unlike anything you’ll ever hear.
It seems fitting, too, that the Bugatti EB 110 is making a lot of headlines these days. Far more important than this video are rumors that Bugatti is developing a tribute model to the EB 110 that could debut as early as this weekend’s Monterey Car Week in California. Remember the one-off Bugatti La Voiture Noire that was unveiled earlier this year as a tribute to the missing Bugatti Type 57 Atlantic? Well, it seems like Bugatti’s dipping into that tribute well once again with another showcase one-off that’s based largely on the EB 110.
Come to think of it, I like that the Bugatti EB 110 is in the headlines a lot these days. It never got its proper due as a bonafide supercar in its day. Some people don’t even know that it existed. But it did, and, in many ways, it’s the model that’s responsible for laying the foundation of what Bugatti has become. It took an ownership change and the respective arrivals of the Veyron and Chiron for Bugatti to get to where it is today, but I don’t think any of it would’ve been possible without the EB 110 bursting into the supercar scene in the early 1990s.
Take a victory lap around your old stomping grounds, Bugatti EB 110. You’ve earned it.
Read our full review on the 1992 Bugatti EB 110 SS.
Read our full review on the 1994 Bugatti EB110 GT.