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Although the historical Bugatti brand had laid dormant since the shuttering of its doors in 1952, the late 1980s provided Italian Ferrari dealer Romano Artioli with the finances and motivation to create a new supercar. Artioli established the brand once more and in 1987 built an enormous, state of the art factory in Campogalliano outside Modena in Northern Italy.
After four years of development, the EB110 was revealed to the world for the first time on 15th September 1991, honouring 110 years since Ettore Bugatti was born.
A technological tour de force, the EB110 was equipped with a 3.5-litre mid-mounted V-12. Five valves per cylinder and four turbochargers meant the EB110 benefitted from 553 bhp in GT form, mated to a six-speed manual and four-wheel drive system. Penned by the inimitable Marcello Gandini and Giampalo Bendini, his striking, angular design really set the car apart from its rivals. The car’s technical know-how came from the brains behind Ferrari’s F40 – renowned master engineer Nicola Materazzi.
Whilst the brief had very much dictated class-leading performance, much like Bugattis of old the EB110 was very much designed to be a luxurious yet sporting automobile. A leather interior with wood trim meant it was well suited to longer journeys.
Six months after the launch of the GT, Artioli introduced the Supersport (SS) at Geneva in 1992. Revisions to the engine, ECU and exhaust meant that power was increased a considerable 60 bhp up to 610 bhp. At the same time, the aerodynamics were improved, the car gained new wheels and a rear spoiler, as well as distinctive circular vents behind the side windows in profile. Through the use of carbon-kevlar panels instead of lightweight aluminium, weight was dropped by 150 kg to just 1,400 kg, figures which are mighty impressive today and were more so for a 610 bhp supercar in 1992.
The Supersport was capable of 0-62 mph in just 3.26 seconds. The four-wheel-drive system, lower weight and increased power output gave the car the edge over the likes of Ferrari’s F50 and Porsche GT1. The top speed was a mind-blowing 221 mph. These improvements afforded the EB110 records for fastest acceleration, fastest series-production car and even fastest series-production car on ice.
Artioli had high hopes for the brand and it started to gain traction after the purchase of a Supersport by Michael Schumacher in 1994. The next step was to broaden the appeal with a right-hand drive offering and, in order, to raise the profile of the brand even more, the EB110 made a surprise appearance at the 24hrs of Le Mans, 55 years since Bugatti had raced at the circuit. The SS was the fastest qualifier in class, although a blowout in the final hour threw the car into the wall on the Mulsanne straight. A second race car was commissioned from its demonstrated abilities at Le Mans and raced in the USA in the IMSA championship.