A Bugatti Journey

It was Bugatti savant and EB110 collector Chris Hrabalek who graciously allowed us to drive his Sport Stradale (which is what "SS" stood for) in Berlin. Hrabalek's is reportedly one of only two yellow SS's produced -- the other was famously owned by Michael Schumacher -- and one of only about thirty total. Its limited number, high price, and spectacular performance are certainly hallmarks of a Bugatti, but the EB110 is quite different from the prewar cars: it's not, when viewed up close, an assemblage of hundreds of small pieces of art. There are sloppy welds in the engine compartment, with electrical wires zip-tied to messy intercooler tubes. Even the all-black, all-business cabin is nothing special in terms of design or material quality. Moving further away from the homemade Bugatti recipe, many of the EB110's components bear the name of outside suppliers -- the brakes say Brembo, the exhaust ANSA, and the wheels BBS.

As with other supercars of this era, getting into and out of the EB110 requires a bit of gymnastics (although the forward-rotating scissor doors are pretty cool), the pedals are offset to the side, and there's so much tumblehome that the A-pillar meets the roof precisely at your left temple. Forward vision is OK, but you wouldn't notice a Boeing 747 landing beside or behind the EB110.

Adjusting the rearview mirror, your choice is to see nothing behind you or to aim the mirror directly at the V-12's complicated throttle linkage. It's mesmerizing watching the rods move, knowing they're opening and closing twelve individual throttle butterflies over and over as the four turbos build and release boost through vocal, chirping blow-off valves.

So what if this Bugatti follows a slightly different formula? The car isn't comprised of individual pieces of art, but as a whole, the EB110 was one magnificent, carbon-fiber sculpture. One that, like the cars that wore the red Bugatti badge before it, broke records, redefined supercars, and indelibly etched the Bugatti name into the psyche of another generation of car enthusiasts. The EB110's most profound contribution, alas, was to pass its DNA directly to what is unquestionably the most prolific expression of haute engineering in the history of the automobile: the Bugatti Veyron Super Sport.

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