Forty years after Ettore Bugatti’s death in 1947, the once-legendary but moribund 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 in the form of a state-of-the-art supercar. Artioli chose Modena, home to Ferrari, Lamborghini and Maserati, as the place to build his modern factory from which the first completed production car rolled out in 1992. Designated “EB110” (signifying its debut 110 years after Ettore’s birth) the first new Bugatti since the 1950s was an advanced mid-engined supercar acclaimed as a worthy successor to its formidable antecedents.
The Bugatti EB110 GT was designed by none other than engineer Paolo Stanzani and stylist Marcello Gandini, co-creators of the exotic Lamborghini Countach supercar to which the EB110, with its short nose, wedge-shaped body and gullwing doors, bore a strong resemblance. Beneath the skin there were similarities too, the short-stroke V12 engine with forward-mounted gearbox having been pioneered on the Countach. The 3.5-liter V12 developed 561 horsepower, good enough for a top speed which placed the EB110 on par with that other “World’s Fastest Car,” the Jaguar XJ 220.
There was also a lightweight version, the even more powerful and expensive EB110 SS (Super Sport), which debuted at the Geneva Salon in 1992, six months after the launch of the EB110 GT in Paris. For the Super Sport, Bugatti boosted power still further to 610 hp. Overall weight was reduced by some 200 kg.
Unfortunately for Artioli, the EB110 was launched just as the early-1990s recession took hold, and the company entered receivership in 1995. About 130 of these exotic cars were built (100 GT and 30 SS).
This EB110 SS was ordered on July 30, 1993, and delivered via German importer Auto König in April 1994 to Dr. Bernd Pöhlmann. A sports-car enthusiast from Bavaria who also owned a McLaren F1, he specified that his EB110 SS should have a more-powerful engine.
Especially for this sale, the Bugatti was dispatched to B.Engineering in Campogalliano for a full service, technical inspection and certification, and at the same time was returned to absolutely original condition. In addition, the car was carefully examined and found to show no signs of any accidents. The car has been serviced by the Bugatti Customer Service Department on three occasions in total (November 2005, February 2014 and July 2021), the odometer reading on the last visit being recorded as 29,995 km.
Finished in Grigio Chiaro Metallizzato (Light Gray Metallic) with dark blue leather interior, it is presented in excellent order throughout and represents a rare opportunity to own and enjoy one of the iconic supercars of the 1990s, the performance of which few cars can match, even today.
|Vehicle:||1994 Bugatti EB110 Super Sport|
|Number Produced:||About 30|
|Tune Up Cost:||$1,500|
|Chassis Number Location:||Inside driver’s door sill, ID plate on right-hand side footwell|
|Engine Number Location:||Inside driver’s door sill, boss near front of engine block on passenger’s side|
|Club Info:||American Bugatti Club|
|Alternatives:||1988–92 Ferrari F40, 1992–94 Jaguar XJ 220, 1994–98 McLaren F1|
This car, Lot 40, sold for $2,594,348 (€2,242,500), including buyer’s premium, at Bonhams’ The Zoute Sale in Knokke-Heist, Belgium, on October 10, 2021.
Real EB110 SS examples are an extremely rare breed. Only about 30 of these lightweight versions of the standard EB110 GT were built towards the end of the Artioli saga. None of them are identical to their siblings, with some finished even after Bugatti’s bankruptcy.
One would think then that these come to market extremely infrequently, and that is, in fact, true if you look back over the past decade. Nevertheless, we have recently seen no fewer than four cars — this one included — sold in the past three years. One changed hands privately (for an amount believed to be in a similar range as our subject car), but the others now make a market.
With transactions at $2.3m in February 2019 at RM Sotheby’s Paris sale (SCM# 6891381), and $2.8m at RM Sotheby’s Monterey sale in August 2021 (SCM# 6946731), respectively, we can see prices are headed up from the $1m–$1.4m range we saw in 2015–18.
If one takes a closer look at these recent sales, the $2.6m result for our subject car becomes even more impressive. This early SS is number 11 built and has a proper continuous history, but its condition was not quite as good as expected when viewed. Not only are there some flaws in the bodywork, but there is evidence of a number of panels having been resprayed.
It has rather high mileage for a supercar at about 19k miles, more than three times that of the Monterey car that sold just two months prior. However, the healthy mileage of our example also underlines that this 1990s-vintage Bugatti is a quality automobile, one that can still be enjoyed on roads today with comparable performance to contemporary supercars.
The EB110 featured a carbon-fiber chassis, truly exotic technology for its era. Its all-wheel drive and four turbochargers foreshadowed contemporary Bugatti models. The EB110’s innovations did not stop there, as it had a 6-speed gearbox integrated in the engine block and a 5-valve cylinder head with 60 total valves and 12 separate throttle bodies.
This was an automobile that was decades ahead of its competition. So much so that this would also lead to its own downfall, not unlike the plot of ancient Greek tragedies. The Bugatti EB110 was simply too good for its own good, too expensive to manufacture, with Romano Artioli’s “money no object” philosophy placing his Bugatti revival in a one-way cul-de-sac.
Room for more?
In the past decade, the market has seen the EB110 develop from a $200k car to a $2m one. An impressive appreciation, yet a McLaren F1 is still roughly 10 times as valuable. Why is this?, we must ask.
The Bugatti was a world-record-setting machine, the fastest production road car in-period, twice. The EB110 GT went 342 km/h (213 mph) in 1992 at Nardo and then the EB110 SS hit 351 km/h (218 mph) in 1993, again at Nardo. The EB110 also set the brand DNA that Bugatti has mined for the Veyron and Chiron. Don’t think that the VW subsidiary’s recent success hasn’t played a factor in renewed interest in the EB110.
This now leaves us with a collectible that I believe is still undervalued in 2021. Supercars from the 1990s have been showing solid and consistent performance, even in difficult market conditions. With similarly small production numbers, I see no reason why an EB110 shouldn’t tailgate the McLaren F1 within the next decade.
Our EB110 subject car was the highest-selling car at the Bonhams auction, with a result right in the middle of its estimate. Considering its condition and relatively high mileage, this sale seems fair for both seller and buyer. Nevertheless, the buyer has certainly made no mistake, and I think he can expect to see his acquisition steadily appreciate.
(Introductory description courtesy of Bonhams.)