An automotive engineer was on a business trip in Japan. While riding the bullet train between Tokyo and Nagoya, the performance and refinement of their rail system inspired him to sketch a car unlike any other. While most engineers tend to butt-heads with stylists, this gentleman had a bit more influence than his coworkers. Ferdinand Piech was not only a skilled engineer and designer, he was also the grandson of Ferdinand Porsche.
As the head of VW group since 1993, his genius saw Porsche being wrestled from his cousins and brought back under VW control. After transforming Audi into a true competitor to Mercedes-Benz and BMW, he oversaw the purchase of Bentley, Lamborghini, and Ducati.
When he returned from the trip, he gathered his most talented workers to discuss the feasibility of an 18-cylinder engine. Several prototypes were made, based on the VR6 engine architecture. Weight and space considerations persuaded them to chop the last two cylinders off, and the W16 engine was born. The problem is that they didn’t have a brand capable of such performance.
During the mid-90s, millionaire Romano Artioli owned Bugatti and Built the EB110 in Modena, Italy. The cars were amazing but he became too ambitious and bought Lotus from GM. This bankrupted him and Bugatti went into receivership. This allowed VW to purchase the rights and intellectual property for a great price, and resurrect the corporate headquarters in Molsheim.
President of Bugatti Stephan Winkelmann said: “The ideas of the outstanding engineer Ferdinand Piëch in 1997 were a testament to a brilliant mind. As well as his incredible concept of a powerful engine, he was also the driving force behind the resurrection of the Bugatti brand at its original site, the French city of Molsheim. Looking back, I would like to pay him and the employees at the time my utmost respect. They demonstrated great courage, energy and passion in reviving this exceptional brand. Some of those first employees are still loyal to us to this day.”
After a few concepts by Giorgetto Giugiaro, the Veyron was announced in Geneva in 2000. It took 5 years to make sure it was perfect in every way. When production began in 2005, we thought it would be a limited run. A decade later and the Veyron has become a timeless piece of automotive history, and an icon in the pages of our magazine. Although Dr. Piech passed away last year, his visions and leadership will inspire VW long into the future. If you have never experienced a Bugatti, click the button below and stay with us for all your sixteen-cylinder supercars.