Lifestyle

1995 Bugatti EB110 GT Coupe


Before the $1 million Bugatti Veyron, there was the $500,000 1995 Bugatti EB110 GT Coupe

Forty years after Ettore Bugatti's death in 1947, the once legendary marque--one of the most renowned in automotive history--was acquired by ambitious Italian businessman Romano Artioli. His aim was nothing less than a resurrection of Bugatti as a state-of-the-art supercar.

Designated "EB110" (signifying 110 years after Ettore's birth), the first new Bugatti since the 1950s was an advanced mid-engined supercar acclaimed as worthy successor to its formidable antecedents.

The Bugatti EB110 was designed by none other than engineer Paolo Stanzani and stylist Marcello Gandini, co-creators of the exotic Lamborghini Countach. Beneath the skin there were similarities too, the short-stroke V12 engine with forward-mounted gearbox having been pioneered on the Countach.

To the already outstanding specification, Stanzani added five valves per cylinder, four turbochargers, a bespoke 6-speed gearbox, and four-wheel drive. Despite the complexity, the EB110 worked well on the road; its compact dimensions, combined with four-wheel drive, made for exceptional agility and excellent grip and balance no matter what the conditions. The 3.5-liter V12 developed 561 hp, good enough for a top speed of 212 mph, a figure recorded at the Nardi test track in Italy that placed the EB110 on par with that other "World's Fastest Car," the Jaguar XJ220.

While headline writers emphasized its performance to the exclusion of almost everything else except the price ($456,000), the EB110 was nevertheless a very well-built product possessing a roomy and lavishly equipped interior. Unfortunately for Artioli and his collaborators, the EB110 launched just as the early 1990s recession took hold, and the company entered receivership in 1994. Perhaps 154 of these exotic cars were built (different sources offer varying production numbers), Michael Schumacher being the most high-profile owner.

This left-hand-drive EB110 GT is one of the final three cars completed at the factory in 1995. It was bought by Bugatti director Jean-Marc Borel and road-registered in Luxembourg in 1996. In July 2001, the car was imported into Holland where it formed part of second owner Mike Dawud's private collection until purchased for Gran Turismo Classic in 2003.

Finished in silver gray metallic with matching two-tone leather interior, the vehicle is presented in excellent order throughout, appearing as if it left the factory only yesterday. It comes complete with tool kit, owner's wallet, warranty/service booklet (recording all three owners), full service history, and owner's manual, and has covered a mere 11,000 kilometers (approximately 6,800 miles) from new.

The SCM Analysis

This car sold for $259,200 (€199,913) including premium at the Bonhams Monte Carlo auction held on May 21, 2007.

Romano Artioli was an Italian who owned Autoexpò, the Suzuki import franchise for the country. His announcement in 1987 of his purchase of the rights to the Bugatti name and intent to revive the marque with the most technologically advanced supercar ever seen was greeted with a combination of curiosity and skepticism.

Since the death of the founder Ettore in 1947, and indeed, some might say, the death of his son Jean in 1939, there had been little hope that the company would be able to return to anything approaching its glory days. Bugatti's other son Roland was thwarted in his attempt in the mid-'50s, while Virgil Exner's design study built on the last Type 101 chassis in 1965 failed to excite sufficient interest and, more importantly, financing. The name passed along through a number of aircraft manufacturing businesses and ended up at Messier-Bugatti in 1977, from whom Artioli bought the name.

The first carbon fiber road car

To bolster his audacious plan, Artioli engaged Stanzani and Gandini to design the car, later adding ex-Ferrari engineer Mauro Forghieri as technical director. The body structure was developed by aircraft manufacturer Aérospatiale, which created it in carbon fiber, the first time ever for a road car.

The initial offering was the EB110 GT, unveiled to the world in September 1991 in Paris. Built in a spectacular, cost-no-object state-of-the-art factory, it was everything Artioli clamed it to be. With its sophisticated specification, high performance, and high-dollar price tag, it was at its release the ultimate in a sports car for the road. The styling was the only question mark, with many considering it rather unattractive; however, at least Artioli got some value for the money he paid Gandini, as it was one of the more original ideas from his pen in this period.

The EB110 GT was at first enthusiastically received in spite of its almost half-million dollar price tag, but ultimately became another victim of the bursting of the speculative bubble in the high-end auto market and the coming of yet another ultimate supercar, the McLaren F1.

A second model, the Giugiaro-designed EB112 four-door, was shown in 1993 and one was even crash-tested, but it never saw production. The purchase by Artioli of Lotus Cars from GM in the same year certainly didn't help the cash flow, either.

More than a stripped-out racer

The EB110 GT offered considerable value for money, as it is a surprisingly usable car. It's no stripped-out racer for the street, having an interior that boasts lots of leather, wood, and a high-end stereo. You are cosseted while enjoying the outrageous performance. The EB110 generally impresses as a well-developed production car, not a slapped-together prototype show special designed to attract attention.

They are solidly built, with a chassis more than able to handle the prodigious power. The fact that they came with a three-year cost-inclusive service plan, like an Audi lease, showed that the makers had confidence in them and intended the cars to be used, not posed in. (It's not known who handled the service calls after the bankruptcy.)

The fact that the Club Bugatti France actually welcomes owners of the EB110 is testament to the regard even traditional Bugattistes have for Artioli's effort. While these cars are highly thought of by those who know them, their values have not appreciated in the past few years. They generally sell in the mid $200,000 range. Even this example, with its Bugatti director ownership history and very low mileage, reached the same number. It's hard to see a real opportunity for any immediate increase in prices, although you probably won't lose money owning a good one for a few years.

The slightly ironic footnote to the EB110 saga is the fact that Artioli retained rights to the Bugatti name even after his company folded. There is little doubt that the move paid off in 1998 when Volkswagen paid to take it off his hands. It's good to know that someone has made money from Bugatti recently.

Years Produced: 1992 -- 95

Number Produced: 154 (some sources say 130)

Original List Price: $350,000 approx.

SCM Valuation: $180,000 -- $300,000

Tune-up Cost: $1,900 -- $3,100 approx.

Distributor Caps: $275 (2)

Chassis # Location: Door jamb

Engine # Location: Between cylinder heads

Club Info: Club Bugatti France 14bis boulevard Voltaire 92130 Issy les Moulineaux, France

Website: www.club-bugatti-france.net

Alternatives: 1986 -- 88 Porsche 959, 1991 -- 93 Jaguar XJ220, 1994 -- 98 McLaren F1

Investment Grade: B


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