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Dreams can become realities

November 16, 2005, by Bill Cawthon

In September 2003, Audi unveiled a new design study at the Frankfurt Auto Show. Named the Le Mans Quattro to honor the company's three consecutive wins in the legendary endurance race, the new car had a beautifully clean design that both updated and preserved Audi's signature style.

The 2003 Audi Le Mans Quattro will become the R8 as a production car in 2007.

The following year, a number of the Le Mans Quattro's styling cues were seen by audiences around the world when they were incorporated in the Audi RSQ driven by Will Smith in the hit movie, "I, Robot."

In a bit more than a year, a fortunate few will have the opportunity to own the Le Mans Quattro. On November 15, Audi announced it would produce the Le Mans Quattro as the Audi R8. The new car will go into production at the Quattro facility in Neckarsulm, Germany at the end of 2006. The market launch is scheduled for the spring of 2007.

The designation of the new car is fitting. The Le Mans Quattro was named for the track where Audi enjoyed so many victories; the R8 is named for the cars that did the winning.

No word on pricing or whether it will be available in North America, but I understand that smaller, and far more affordable, versions will be produced in 1:18, 1:43 and 1:87 scales from some of Audi's regular promotional model suppliers.

I am a big fan of concept cars; have been since I was a little boy. I had the Schuco Piccolo 1:90 scale replicas of the Ford FX Atmos and GM Firebird II and built the Ford Leva-Car, Chrysler Turbine Car and other kits. My collection includes a Wiking Mercedes C111, several of the Colani-designed Mercedes beer trucks models and the Hot Wheels replica of Syd Mead's Sentinel 400 and, of course, the Audi Quattro Spyder and Avus concept models made by Rietze. I am looking forward to the 1:87 scale version of the 2003 Cadillac Sixteen show car coming from Ricko next spring.

Three modern styling concepts I would like to see in scale model form come from what you might think an unlikely source: Bugatti.

In addition to building some of automotive history's most successful race cars, Ettore Bugatti's name appeared on some of the most extravagant and beautiful automobiles built in the 1930s. Today, classic Bugattis routinely command seven-figure prices at auctions.

The Bugatti EB112 was planned as a production model, but became of the victim of the economic downturn in the early 1990s.

The history of Bugatti will be the subject of another column, but as the new Veyron went into production just a couple of months ago, I thought it would be interesting to look at a couple of the designs that came between the last Type 101 and Volkswagen's new supercar.

After Bugatti's death in 1947, his company faltered. Several attempts were made to create a new automobile, but none were successful. Automobile production ended in 1956 and the firm was making aircraft parts when it was acquired by Hispano-Suiza in 1963.

Five years later, Hispano-Suiza and Bugatti became subsidiaries of French aerospace giant Snecma.

In 1987, a wealthy Italian businessman named Romano Artioli, bought the rights to use the Bugatti name on an automobile and created Bugatti Automobili SpA in Campogalliano, Italy, not far from the Modena and the homes of several of the big names in Italian sports cars.

Artioli built a state-of-the-art factory and brought in Marcello Gandini and Paolo Stanzani, who had designed the Lamborghini Countach and Miura, to create a new sports car that would be the most technically advanced in the world. The result of their efforts was the Bugatti EB110 GT.

Launched in September 1989, the EB110 GT boasted a 553 horsepower, 3.5-liter V12 engine with quad turbochargers, four-wheel drive and ABS. Zero-to-sixty took just 4.4 seconds and the EB110 GT could easily top 200 miles per hour before running out of steam.

In 1992, a more performance-oriented version of the EB 110 made its debut. The EB110 SS could hit sixty in 3.2 seconds and reach a top speed of 217 miles per hour.

Unfortunately, the years it took to go from start to showroom were fatal for Artioli's company. By the time the EB110s were ready, the world was in the grip of a severe recession and there was no market for a new ultra-premium car. Only 95 GTs and 31 SS models had been delivered when Bugatti Automobili filed for bankruptcy in 1995.

While the EB110s are perhaps better-known, there was a third Bugatti: the 1993 EB112 Sport Saloon. Unlike the Gandini-styled EB110 coupes, the EB112 was a luxury sedan designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro's Italdesign. While it had no sporting pretensions, the EB112 was no slouch in the performance department. It had a 6-liter V12 engine that used the five valve per cylinder design of the EB110. With 455 horsepower and 435 foot-pounds of torque on tap, the EB112 cruised to sixty in 4.4 seconds on its way to a top speed of 181 miles per hour.

While it might look larger in the picture, the EB112 was only about as long as a modern Chevrolet Impala, but it was about four inches wider and a couple of inches lower. The distinctive split window and center ridge are somewhat reminiscent of a Corvette Stingray, but that ridge was actually inspired by the legendary Bugatti 57SC Atlantic.

The EB112 was the first concept developed after Volkswagen acquired the rights to the Bugatti name.

According to a March 1994 letter to the International Herald Tribune from Bugatti vice president Mario G. Barbieri, the EB112 was scheduled for production in mid-1995. In fact, Barbieri said the company had 85 advance orders for EB112s. However, world market conditions ensured this beautiful car never got past the show car stage. In the end, only four were built and of those, only one is still running.

Incidentally, Bugatti Automobili SpA had planned to enter the American market in the latter part of 1994 and had a U.S.-spec model in the works, but those plans never came to fruition.

In 1998, Volkswagen bought the rights to the Bugatti name as part of the expansion program undertaken by former VW CEO Ferdinand Piech. Once again, Italdesign was brought in to create a styling concept and quickly produced the EB118 coupe in time for the Paris Auto Show. The styling of the EB118 was similar to the EB112, but there was a big difference under the hood. The EB118 was equipped with the world's first W18 engine, a 6.2-liter powerhouse with three rows of six cylinders producing 555 horsepower capable of propelling the EB118 to a top speed of nearly 200 miles per hour.

The EB218 might provide a clue to the appearance of a possible new Bugatti sedan.

At the 1999 Geneva Auto Show, Volkswagen showed the real successor to the EB112, the EB218. In addition to the changes under the hood, the EB218 is a much larger car, almost a foot longer and both wider and taller than the EB112. Even with a larger canvas, Italdesign and Volkswagen made only subtle styling changes, adding a few more classic Bugatti styling elements, like the side window surround.

Unlike the EB112, which was free to go as fast as its drive train would allow, the EB218's top speed is limited to 155 which is still pretty fast for a car that's bigger than a Cadillac DeVille. And, though the EB218 is about 800 pounds heavier than the EB112, it's only one-tenth second slower to sixty.

While the various sports cars like the EB110, Chiron and Veyron are exciting, I am more interested in seeing new ideas for sedans and other vehicles. I will say I find the designs for a new Bugatti to be much more handsome and distinctive than the current Rolls-Royce or the Maybach.

I do have some hope. Volkswagen has said they plan to offer a four-door Bugatti in the future. As it appears there will be a 1:87 model of the Veyron, perhaps I will have my EB218 model, after all.

Herpa announced their new models for January and February 2006 this morning. Among the new releases is a 1:1250 model of a the container ship "Evergreen," complete with a deck filled with containers. Herpa has also brought back their short wheelbase Mercedes-Benz 300 GE Gelaendewagen, this time with a chrome ram bar ready for offroading. Among the new models are Seat Leons in standard and metallic finishes. They aren't prototypical for North America, but you might think of them as a particularly good-looking version of the Volkswagen Golf.

Wings fans will find several new liveries and a set of 1:500 palm trees to add to your tropical airport scene.

Of special note is the 1:1250 replica of an Evergreen container ship complete with a deck load of containers. It looks pretty neat.

Rather than tell you about everything, I will let Bill Brillinger get the information and pictures posted. Then you can browse and pick out the models you want.

Images of the Audi Le Mans Quattro are copyright 2005 Audi AG and are used by permission. Images of Bugatti automobiles are copyright 2005 Bugatti SAS and are used by permission.

See you next time!

- Bill Cawthon

Bill Cawthon is a modeler and collector. His primary hobby interests are vehicle models in 1:87 and 1:160 scales and model railroading. He is senior editor of Route 1-87, the magazine of the 1/87 Vehicle Club, and a columnist and product reviewer for Model Railroad News. He is one of the creators of the award-winning "Grimy Gulch" model railroad layout.

In real life, Bill is a marketing and public relations consultant for MARK III Systems, a successful information technology company. He also writes for just-auto.com, an international auto industry publication, reporting on the U.S. light vehicle industry.

He lives in Houston, Texas with his wife, Marge, and their children.

Bill's columns appear twice monthly on Promotex Online. To learn more about him, click here.

 

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published by Cadabra Corp. This page was lasted updated: November 16, 2005