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Check out the classic cars that the Bugatti Tourbillon traces its roots to

Check Out The Classic Cars That The Bugatti Tourbillon Traces Its Roots To

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MOLSHEIM, France — Bugatti unveiled the new, 1,800-horsepower Tourbillon at its historic headquarters in Molsheim, France. While the Chiron’s successor was the uncontested star of the show, the brand displayed an impressive selection of classics to give attendees a glimpse into every facet of its past. The roster included grand prix-winning race cars, ultra-luxurious sedans, elegant coupes, and even a small, city-friendly electric car.

Enthusiasts tend to associate the Bugatti name with hypercars, but there’s more to the brand than four-digit horsepower figures and speed records. In the late 1920s and early 1930s, the company made one of the most luxurious cars in the world: the Type 41, which is also known as the Royale. It stretched 252 inches from bumper to bumper in its longest configuration (several body styles were available) and its wheelbase measured nearly 170 inches; I’ve owned cars that were shorter than that. Power came from a 12.8-liter straight-eight engine.

Pictured in our gallery above, the example Bugatti displayed at the Tourbillon unveiling features 24-inch wheels, the famous “Dancing Elephant” hood ornament, and a closed rear cabin with windows made of reinforced glass. The front compartment is always open, and the rear passengers could talk to the driver using an intercom system called a Motor Dictograph. The behemoth of an engine made about 300 horsepower at 1,800 rpm, which was enough to unlock a top speed of about 124 mph — that was a supercar-worthy figure a century ago.

Bugatti has explored the more family-friendly side of its heritage on several occasions over the past few decades, though none of its projects have reached production. In the 1990s, when the brand was owned by Romano Artioli and based in Italy, it experimented with a Giorgetto Giugiaro-designed super-sedan called EB112 and powered by a 6.0-liter V12. In 1999, after joining the Volkswagen Group, Bugatti showed a four-door, W18-powered concept called EB218. Ten years later, the 16C Galibier made its debut as a potential follow-up to the Veyron.

Racing has been part of Bugatti’s DNA for over 100 years; it has won major events like the Targa Florio and the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Four vintage race cars illustrated this part of its heritage at the unveiling, including a surprisingly futuristic model from 1923 called Type 23 and nicknamed Tank. Take a look at its bodywork and you’ll immediately understand why. In an era when open-wheel cars dominated the racing scene, the Tank featured a streamlined body that consisted mostly of flat metal panels held together with rivets. It could reach over 110 mph thanks to a 90-horsepower 1.8-liter straight-eight. It wasn’t as successful as Bugatti hoped, but it illustrated an approach to design that was innovative, daring, and unusual. Its successor, the Type 35, became the company’s most successful race car by a significant margin.

Bugatti also displayed more modern cars including the EB110, the Centodieci, the Mistral, and the one-of-a-kind Chiron Profilée that sold for over $10 million at an auction in February 2023. But while most of Bugatti’s past and present models put a big focus on performance, there’s one exception to the rule: the Type 56 that I drove in 2018. It’s electric, it has a tiller instead of a steering wheel, and it maxes out at 20 mph.

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