The ‘Jean Bugatti’ Veyron
Only four Bugatti Type 57SC Atlantics were ever built – just two still exist in their original condition. One is part of Ralph Lauren’s extensive collection and the other was sold in 2010 for $30-40 million at an auction in California – earning the Atlantic the title of the world’s most expensive car. And the remaining two? One fell victim to an accident on an unguarded railway crossing near Gien in 1955. The remains of the car were sequestered by the railway company and held for over 8 years until the lawsuit was settled and the car eventually restored. The fourth never went up for sale – it was Jean Bugatti’s own personal runaround.
“His jet black La Voiture Noire was more than just Jean’s ‘private’ car. It was also his most impressive work of art – breathtakingly sporty dimensions paired with fluid, elegant lines, with that unmistakably expressive Bugatti DNA.” explains Achim Anscheidt, Chief Designer at Bugatti.
After the outbreak of World War II, the entire Bugatti operation was moved from Molsheim to Bordeaux. In this 600 mile move, Jean Bugatti’s Atlantic was lost – perhaps hidden in France? Shipped home by an American soldier? No one knows, although many have tried and failed to track down the car and with good reason. The missing Atlantic would undoubtedly be the most valuable car in the world – surpassing the $30-40m that Dr Peter Williamson’s fetched.
So how has Anscheidt and his team transposed the black Atlantic to the limited edition Veyron? The body, constructed entirely of clear-coated carbon fibre has been tinted darker, giving the whole Veyron a jet-black appearance, with the carbon texture only visible under direct light. The Bugatti “horseshoe” on the front grille and the front and rear EB logo are constructed entirely from platinum. It’s the first time Bugatti have opted to use platinum, and there’s another material first on the interior, the rosewood gearshift – a material that featured heavily in the original 57SC Atlantics.
Behind the delicate exterior and interior homages, the ferocious 8-litre W16 engine inside still generates 1,200 HP and 1,500 Nm of torque, which takes it from 0 to 62 in 2.6 seconds – continuing until it hits its record-breaking top speed of over 250 miles per hour.
To launch the ‘Jean Bugatti’, the second in the series of six legends, Bugatti held an owner’s event at the Château Saint Jean in Molsheim, France. The anointed and lucky ones from all over the globe travelled (mostly by Veyron) to the very site their cars were designed and assembled. As the world’s most expensive production car, the Veyron owners can be hard to entertain. What can you offer the man with €2m to spend on a hypercar?
The answer is Lang Lang, the world-famous concert pianist who was billed by the New York Times as the “hottest artist on the classical music planet”. In his everyday life, Lang Lang plays sold out concerts in every major city in the world – filling venues like the 2,800 seat Carnegie and 4,000 seat Royal Albert Hall. Tonight, he’d be playing for around fifty, in the Atelier, the same space where 15 technicians assemble no more than 50 Veyrons over the course of a year.
As one of the very fortunate very very few, I sat watching what must have been Lang Lang’s most intimate performance since he was tinkling the ivories in nappies. Earlier in the day, he’d quite modestly told me about his work to help inspire the younger generation to play piano, an effort that has lead over 50 million children in China to take up the challenge. So can a talent like Lang Lang inspire the world’s wealthiest to part with over €2m? I’m sure it helps, but everyone at Bugatti knows the easiest way to sell a Veyron is to get someone in the (exceptional) driving seat.
The Veyron isn’t like a normal super car, so neither are the test drives. When considering the vehicle, most prospects visit Molsheim and after finding out as much (or little) about the production and assembly process, they meet one of Bugatti’s Pilote officiels. This weekend both Pierre-Henri Raphanel and Andy Wallace were on hand. Pierre joined Bugatti having previously driven Formula 1, touring cars and super GT – more recently, he was responsible for the record breaking 431.072 km/h run in July 2010. Andy hails from Oxfordshire, having won over 25 international races including Le Mans, Daytona and Sebring.
At first, the idea of a supervised test drive seemed like a downer but in reality you quickly understand that they’re not here to slow you down, but speed you up. After some gut-wrenching full-throttle and full-brake demonstrations, I took the driver’s seat from Pierre. There’s no explanation needed, no special instructions, no warnings or advice. At normal speeds, the Veyron floats along like any other car (albeit a firm one) – the only hint being the turbine-like whistling and gurgling of the power plant that’s less than a foot away from my head. The horse power meter that runs from zero through to 1,200 flutters around 200. Oh. I’ve hit the speed limit already and the rev counter has barely moved.
Stamping on either pedal, I unleash hell. The acceleration is well documented, but the braking is even more phenomenal – 100 miles per hour to a complete stop in 9.5 seconds. Under acceleration, the power delivery is unlike any car you’ve ever driven, the 100ms gear shifts and double-clutch mean there’s no discernable shift as you floor it – just a single wave of unfathomable acceleration, until you hit 255 mph.
Either you, or the limits of the road will slow you down – there’s few places on earth that anyone can sustain speeds that high. At the maximum speed, you’ll be covering the length of a football field in less than a second, theoretically you could lap the M25 in 27 minutes. I say theoretically because at that speed, you’ll run out of fuel in 15 minutes, but that doesn’t matter – your £40,000 set of 365mm Michelin tyres would only last just twelve. Whilst the numbers are impressive, the level of thought, attention and care that’s gone into this car are even more so. The gearbox alone costs around €200,000, manufactured here in the UK by Ricardo – a complicated unit made not only to help deliver the engine’s awesome power to the wheels, but to stand the test of time.
Veyron owners are encouraged to keep and cherish their cars, because they’ll last. “We hope you’ll pass your Bugatti on to your son or daughter” say Anscheidt as he addresses the owners. There aren’t many super cars that will be relevant or noteworthy in the years to come, but the Veyron is likely to serve as the pinnacle of petrol-powered super cars, a historical last hurrah to the internal combustion engine. A worthy legacy to leave behind – just make sure you stockpile petrol and leave your offspring plenty of cash for tyres.
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