Modena is the land of real-life utopias and accomplished dreams. It’s the place where men with great vision can come and make their lifelong plans a very tangible reality. Ferrari, Lamborghini, Maserati, Pagani DeTomaso, Stanguellini and the “Italian” Bugatti, were all born there thanks to the vision of charismatic motoring enthusiasts and the stubbornness and ingenuity of local workers.
Although Pagani Automobili is the last true of the “Romantic” supercar builders from the region, there was a time when a former French Company, Bugatti, lived shortly in the land of Supercar.
When Romano Artioli, a successful entrepreneur known for being the official Suzuki importer for Italy and distributor for Ferrari as well, made a decision to revive the Bugatti factory in the early 90ies, no one would believe what was about to happen.
Lasting only between 1991 and 1995, the Bugatti of Campogalliano, Modena developed one of the most significant and revolutionary supercars of all time, which stormed the Automotive world and shook its foundations…and it wasn’t red. It was a very lively Blue.
The EB110 had to be the Bugatti of the new Century. It produced a mighty 550hp, had 4 wheel drive, 4 turbos, a 3.5 liter V12 with 5 valve heads and a carbon-fiber monocoque, developed by Aérospatiale, capable of reaching speeds in excess of 340 km/h. At the time it was launched on the market, it was cheaper than the Jaguar XJ220 and it had everything the British sportscar should have had: a full leather interior, a wooden dash, working AC and a lot more exclusivity.
Of course, numbers alone never let the reader experience what the EB110 was all about: in real life, its beauty, and original styling will force you to focus on every detail.
The task of designing the new Bugatti was a difficult choice at that time: not only the car had to be beautiful, but very functional and very compact as well. 4 different designers were called to propose their ideas: Marcello Gandini, Giorgetto Giugiaro, Paolo Martin of Pininfarina and Marc Deschamps, of Bertone. In the end, Gandini design proved to be the ideal one for this project and it was chosen among the others. However, the definitive shape of the EB110 has been laid down by Giampiero Benedini, who was also the architect of the futuristic Bugatti Factory, specially built for the new supercar.
The whole Bugatti project began in 1987, with 3 years ahead for the development. The first technical drawings were made by former Lamborghini Engineer Paolo Stanzani, who proposed an advanced aluminum honeycomb structure which was rejected due to its complex design. Later it was adopted a revolutionary carbon fiber monocoque.
To keep the masses in the middle and to keep the car compact, the four-wheel-drive transmission case was integrated into the lightweight engine block. With the aid of another former Lamborghini man, test driver Loris Bicocchi, the new Bugatti was fine-tuned for road use, capable of delivering astonishing performance: 0-100 was achieved in 3.2 seconds and the top speed was 340 km/h.
After intensive development work on the initial 10 prototypes, the final car, the EB110 GT was presented at Versailles, in Paris on 14th September 1991, exactly on the 110th anniversary of the birth of Ettore Bugatti.
It was a success, the press loved it and potential customers had another object of desire well suited to empty their bank accounts. If the mesmerizing performance and style of the GT weren’t enough, Bugatti launched in April 1992 the SuperSports version, which was lighter and with a magic output of 600 horsepower.
Despite all of the performance, the EB110 was conceived as a fast 2 seater GT. It wasn’t a track day car and didn’t let the crave for performance compromise ride comfort and ergonomics. When you get inside the cockpit, forget about the silly contortions typically associated to supercars: with the almost-vertical door openings and a well-designed cabin, getting in and out is remarkably easy.
It was a Gran Turismo, designed for extremely fast touring and not outright track times. Yet, let’s not forget about the jaw-dropping 7m42s record at the Nurburgring at that time: comfort aside it sure was capable of pulling some serious performance out of its luxurious package.
The philosophy behind the EB110 was simple, yet intriguing: it was to imagine the kind of car Bugatti would have built if it continued production. It is sure a question every car fanatic have asked themselves once in their lives.
The new Bugatti made the car industry envious. Originally renowned for its overheating issues during the initial stages of its developing, it was so well made that anyone of the roughly 130 produced ever suffered any engine failure. It was the reliable supercar that shamed Lamborghini, Ferrari, and Maserati. Each time you turned the key, it would start.
Such a car was meant to be taken on fast roads and driven just like a high performance touring car: despite the absence of luggage space, it was conceived to be comfortable and a top level performer.
Perfect car for a hedonistic escape? You bet. Racking up miles is what we enjoy the most, and this rare Supersports has been our office for a day. This one is one of the earliest examples to be delivered new to customers: finished in silver with a dark blue full leather interior it looked like it came out of a dream.
The SS is understandingly more rigid than the “base” GT and around 50 hp more powerful. The proportions of the interior trick you into believing that the car is a lot bigger than it is in reality: the dash is massive and gives the sensation that you’re sitting miles behind the front axle than you really are. Visibility from the windscreen and side windows is good but not exceptional. Looking through the rear mirrors is a reminder of the first rule of Italian driving: what’s behind me is not important. Give this girl a good go and you’ll know why you’ll never look back. Just stomp on the throttle and worry no more.
Start the engine with a conventional key, step your feet on the offset pedalboard, ease the first gear in and gently release the clutch and the EB110 will pull away gently and without protesting. The sound is never loud, nor the car is doing anything to grab more attention that it does for itself.
As we made our way through the traffic in Verona, the car behaved flawlessly: it’s remarkably easy to drive and very civilized, even though is not made to be sitting in traffic.
As we take the north-western SP1 road towards the hills of Valpolicella, where the road becomes more stretchy and well suited for the SS power qualities. Drop two gears, rev the engine past to 5000 rpm, and feel the turbos violently kicking in. The experience is much like engaging the afterburners on a fighter jet, where you hear a violent BANG! behind your head and all of a sudden you’re in hyperspeed. The 400 km/h limit you have on the tachometer will feel terrifyingly easy to achieve once you’re on the throttle.
Go through the gears and savor the precision of the six-speed gear lever, hear the wastegate and allow your face to put on your biggest smile ever.
It’s not just an exhilarating ride, the EB110 is a dream that is tangible. Only the Lord knows how many hours I’ve spent playing around with my 1:18 scale Burago scale model in my room as a kid. The 6 year old in me that has been quiet since I entered adulthood had been woken up and it’s now back playing with its favorite toy-car…for real Alongside the McLaren F1, this is perhaps one of the most exclusive and advanced cars on the 1990ies. It is a proper supercar: it has not just mere performance and astronomical numbers, but especially the charisma and the intriguing details you’ll only find in cars such as these. It’s rare: while Bugatti claimed 33 Supersports, only 19 to 21 are believed to exist today.
The SS is very reactive, powerful and remarkably neutral through the corners. The four-wheel-drive system allows for precise handling: the tires squeal under heavy loads while the back end wants to step out. Yet, everything is so easy to control that the confidence level increases meter after meter.
It’s the perfect car to enter the ancient XIV century Villa Serego Alighieri of Cantine Masi, one of the most respected names in wines and spirits. Renowned for being the best Amarone producers of the region, the Masi winery, owned by the noble family Serego Alighieri, is a wonderful place, rich in history.
Purchased by Piero Alighieri, son of the poet Dante in 1353, the ancient housing complex has withstood the trial of time and it’s still in perfect condition. If it wasn’t for “our” car, the houses that host the aging wine and grapes looked like they have been frozen in time.
As guests in the house of descendants of the Father of the Italian language, we couldn’t honor better this place with a rare gem from our beloved Country.
The Bugatti dream came to an abrupt end in 1995, when the Factory filed for bankruptcy, after being forcefully stopped by the competition. Customer orders came in but investors refused to put their money in, letting it die from financial problems.
Never believe those who tell you “believe in your dreams” or “never stop dreaming”, for those are the ones who love to sleep more than putting dirt on their hands. After driving the Italian Bugatti, one could say that there is no other pleasure in life than to live the present and be part of it.
The EB110 is a concrete reality and one of the examples in history that to be able to fulfill your dream, you need to be very conscious of the reality surrounding you. Romano Artioli made his utopia a reality because he worked his way up to the very top of the Automotive Universe and stroke everyone with enviable precision.
Perhaps the Bugatti of Campogalliano was too good to be true, but indeed it was a tangible and exciting reality.
A special thanks to Cantine Masi and the Serego Alighieri Family for allowing us in their remarkable home, and our friend Marcello for the Bugatti.