A sketch on an envelope, a toy car … How did the hypercar that divided the world into before and after appear?
The Bugatti Veyron is a phenomenon car that has given new life to the French brand. Its capacity was enough to provide electricity to a small city, and the money spent on the development of a hypercar would be enough to buy this very city. After 15 years and 450 collected copies, let’s remember how it all began.
In 1997, a sketch was drawn by one man on the Shinkansen high-speed train between Tokyo and Nagoya to change the automotive world. It was a sketch of an 18-cylinder engine depicted on a plain paper envelope. And the author of the sketch is the famous Ferdinand Karl Piëch: a gifted engineer, former CEO of the Volkswagen Group, and the “father” of the Bugatti Veyron.
According to Piëch’s idea, the engine was supposed to surpass everything that existed before. Moreover, both in terms of power and the number of cylinders: the strategic engineer did not even consider options with V10 and V12. The goal was to create an 18-cylinder “heart”, which was eventually made up of three “inline-offset” VR6 engines tilted 60 degrees to each other. The 6.25-liter “naturally aspirated” engine had 555 horsepower and was “exceptionally smooth”.
And this engineering madness fits well with Bugatti’s ideology: in 1926, the Bugatti Type 41 Royale was the largest, most powerful, and expensive car in the world, with a 12.8-liter inline 8-cylinder engine producing about 300 horsepower. However, when Piëch’s monstrous engine was ready, it had nothing to do with Bugatti yet – Volkswagen was just about to acquire the rights to the French brand. And this is a separate story.
So, Ferdinand Piëch started looking for a company with a rich heritage, producing exclusive cars to buy. He considered Bentley and Rolls-Royce as options, but the decision was suddenly thrown by his son Gregor during a vacation in Mallorca in 1998. While his father was reading the news of the purchase of Rolls-Royce by rivals from BMW, Gregor begged to buy him a scale model of the Bugatti Type 57 SC Atlantic. Good taste for a five-year-old boy!
Ferdinand Piëch drew attention to the model, and the solution to his problem came by itself. “A funny sign of fate” – wrote Piyeh later in his book “Autobiography”. He bought a second Bugatti and presented it to Volkswagen Group Management Board member Jens Neumann at the first meeting. The present was presented with a request to check the rights of the French brand and to buy them if possible.
In 1998 the Volkswagen Group bought the rights to the Bugatti. Prior to that, since 1987, they belonged to the Italian car importer Romano Artioli. Romano built a plant near Modena in Campogallano, and on September 15, 1991, on the 110th birthday of Ettore Bugatti, he presented the EB 110. The novelty has become one of the most striking supercars of the decade and marked the renaissance of Bugatti. But the demand for expensive cars plummeted and the plant closed again in 1995. The Volkswagen Group that arrived in time managed to save Bugatti from oblivion.
Ferdinand’s plan was ambitious: to re-raise the French brand to the heights that it enjoyed during its heyday in the 1920s and 1930s. Piëch had a great engine and a suitable brand, so it was time to start working on prototypes. He turned to his friend and legendary automotive designer Giorgetto Giugiaro for help. And he was ready to start.
The EB 18/4 Veyron retains the designation based on the number of cylinders and the version of the concept in the name, and the concept is as close as possible to the appearance of the production Veyron. And already next year in Geneva, Piëch announced that Bugatti was planning to build a car with a capacity of 1001 hp. “With the new Bugatti, owners will not only experience unprecedented power, speeds in excess of 400 km / h and acceleration from zero to 100 km / h in less than three seconds on the road and race track – and always with the same set of tires – but will also be able to drive comfortably. in this car to the opera house on the same day. “
At the same time, Piëch forbade engineers to change the appearance of a successful concept. They say that on the sheet with the terms of reference Ferdinand ordered to make a car that would be the embodiment of “world domination”. The designers allowed themselves to change only one thing: the engine.
Veyron series production begins
In September 2000, the almost serial Bugatti EB 16.4 Veyron was presented in Paris. Instead of using an 18-cylinder engine, the engineers chose the W16 layout. This engine was comparable in size to the classic V-shaped and was lighter than the 18-cylinder version.
Two VR8 engines with a camber of 15 degrees were placed at right angles to each other. In this way, a “W” configuration was achieved – hence the name of the engine. The new layout allowed the volume to be increased to eight liters and the use of turbines. The required power is 1001 hp. was achieved, and in 2001, Bugatti speakers announced that the Veyron series production was given the green light.
In addition to the enormous power, Piëch’s demand was to accelerate from 0 to 100 km / h in 2.5 seconds. The top speed had to be above 406 km / h. But why exactly this figure? The fact is that back in the seventies Ferdinand Piëch developed two engines for Porsche: a 16-cylinder engine for the Porsche 917 PA and a V12 for the “combat” 917. developed by Porsche), the second engine brought victory to the Germans. The Porsche 917 won the 24 Hours of Le Mans, hitting 406 km / h on the Sarta circuit. Ferdinand remembered this and wished the Veyron to be even faster.
The designers succeeded! The serial Veyron can catapult up to a maximum of 407 kilometers per hour, exactly one higher than the result of the Porsche 917. A hypercar traveling at this speed in 12 minutes “drinks” nearly a hundred liters of gasoline, emptying the gas tank. And if there were more fuel, already at the fifteenth minute the regular tires of the Veyron would explode, unable to withstand the load. A new set of tires will cost from 30 to 42 thousand dollars. If the Bugatti driver can survive this incident, of course.
Thus, in just eight years, a crazy idea drawn on an ordinary envelope turned into a Car with a capital letter. Despite the fact that Volkswagen Group lost more than $ 6 million for each Veyron built, this hypercar brought the concern enormous image benefits and gave impetus to the development of new projects. La Voiture Noire, Divo, Centodieci, a whole line of Chiron specials – now Bugatti is doing just fine.
And the experience gained during the development of the Bugatti Veyron was transferred to other cars of the Volkswagen group, albeit indirectly. Without the Veyron, there would be no Lamborghini Aventador SVJ with its active aerodynamics: the retractable wing and active Veyron air vents are one of the first VAG experiments in this direction. Nor would the Koenigsegg Agera and Hennessey Venom GT hypercars be built to break Bugatti’s speed record. Sometimes a loss of millions of euros is a justified price for a place of honor in history.