Photokina 2014 highlights

Bugatti pays homage to classic Type 18 sports car with new special edition

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April 22, 2014

Bugatti shows the new Vitesse Legend next to the original Black Bess in Beijing

Bugatti shows the new Vitesse Legend next to the original Black Bess in Beijing

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It seems the only constant at international auto shows these days is a new Veyron special edition. Bugatti has been unloading these Veyron cosmetic packages one by one, in an effort to keep attracting buyers to the decade-old model. The latest such special edition brings a little more intrigue than the average, recalling what Bugatti calls "one of the first ever street legal super sports cars."

The Veyron 16.4 Grand Sport Vitesse "Black Bess" is the fifth of six Les Légendes de Bugatti (Bugatti Legends) models. What makes this one particularly interesting is that it honors the Bugatti Type 18, a pre-WWI model that featured a 90-hp 5.0-liter four-cylinder engine and chain drive. Founder Ettore Bugatti raced the car himself and seven examples were built, of which only three exist today. According to the automaker, the car was the fastest road car of its time, reaching speeds of 100 mph (160 km/h).

Bugatti sold the VIN 474 Type 18 to famous French aviator Roland Garros in 1913. The model was sold to Ivy Cummings in 1922, several years after Garros died in WWI. She nicknamed it "Black Bess," after the English racehorse, a nickname that has stuck until this very day. Black Bess was auctioned in 2009, selling for US$3.3 million. Today, it's on display at the Louwman Museum in The Hague, Netherlands.

The "fastest road car" of the early 20th century finds its way into the look and spirit of the fastest road car of the early 21st century. The convertible's carbon fiber body gets a black paint job with a 24-carat horseshoe grille surround and gold-painted highlights, mimicking the black-and-gold look of the original Type 18. The tank and oil caps have "Black Bess" engraving and gold paint.

The Black Bess Vitesse has a 25-carat horseshoe grille surround and gold striping around t...

Inside, the Vitesse Black Bess has a mixture of light beige and "Havanna" leathers. The crimson steering wheel is a reference to the bright-red steering wheel of the Type 18 Black Bess, a color that's repeated in the contrast stitching. The interior also includes gold accents and a rosewood shift knob and center console panel. There's also the typical special edition badging.

Easily the most interesting detail of the Vitesse Black Bess's interior is the artwork depicting the original Black Bess and Roland Garros' Morane Saulnier Type H airplane. These pictures are meticulously hand-painted in the leather of the door panels, using a special ink and impregnation process designed to hold up to the tests of time. Each of the six door panels on the three Black Bess editions is unique from the others.

Hand paintings on the door panels

"We have developed a new process for individually hand-painting the leather in the vehicle's interior, the like of which has never been used before in the automotive industry," explains Achim Anscheidt, Bugatti head designer. "The leather and the ink applied by the designer have been technically developed and processed so that they can withstand the stresses inside the vehicle and fulfill the valid quality requirements demanded by modern day production."

As tends to be the case with Veyron special editions, there are no mechanical enhancements, and the Black Bess relies on the standard Grand Sport Vitesse 1,200-bhp 8.0-liter W16 engine. The Grand Sport Vitesse is capable of attaining 100 mph (62 km/h) in just 2.6 seconds and set a world convertible speed record last year.

Bugatti revealed the Grand Sport Vitesse Black Bess at this week's Beijing Motor Show, where it appeared with the original 1913 Black Bess on loan from the Louwman Museum. Only three examples will be made, each running the standard Legends price of €2.15 million (US$3 million).

Source: Bugatti

About the Author
C.C. Weiss Upon graduating college with a poli sci degree, Chris toiled in the political world for several years. Realizing he was better off making cynical comments from afar than actually getting involved in all that mess, he turned away from matters of government and news to cover the things that really matter: outdoor recreation, cool cars, technology, wild gadgets and all forms of other toys. He's happily following the wisdom of his father who told him that if you find something you love to do, it won't really be work.   All articles by C.C. Weiss
3 Comments

Enough already Volkswagen! No aficionado relates to the bombastic creation of yours. Nothing you do will ever relate your car to Bugatti.

This is a lesson in branding corporations get wrong. When the original Bugatti men stopped manufacturing cars, that was the end of Bugatti. Volkswagen's attempt to lend itself a sense of romance and or panache is gross. The only benefit has been the restoration of the Bugatti atelier and its environs.

steveraxx
23rd April, 2014 @ 10:03 am PDT

steveraxx - stop nitpicking!

Just be glad that somebody cares enough about the Bugatti name and history to even think about doing something like this - and has the money and engineering prowess to do so.

It might be expensive and vulgar to some eyes, but even Bugatti lovers would admit the originals were a bit 'over the top' in their era.

I am very glad also that the inspiring original has survived to be that inspiration, not just a few photographs in a collection somewhere.

The Skud
23rd April, 2014 @ 08:25 pm PDT

Enough already with the endless iterations Volkswagen, you are on the path Pagini has taken. What work was done previously that was at least somewhat relevant is now lessened.

steveraxx
1st June, 2014 @ 06:50 am PDT
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