Bugatti Reconfirms its Universal Supercar Dominance with the Legends. We take a look at The Bugatti Veyron Grand Sport Vitesse Les Legendes.
by Gregory Berdette
If Michelangelo Could Have Designed A Car, We’d Have The Bugatti Meo Costantini Legend
A good piece of art should make you stop and take notice. A great piece of art can combine tragedy with beauty in a way that compels you to contemplate the vision of the artist. A masterpiece will change your view of the world, and cost you a fortune. A Bugatti Legend will do all of these things, and leave you breathless, exhilarated, and feeling a strange sense of lust for anything that falls within your field of vision.
The concept behind the Legends was for Bugatti to develop a way to commemorate the individuals who have been instrumental, in one form or another, to the development and heritage of the Bugatti name. The Legends were released over a one year period, with the last (and most significant) being the Legend named after Ettore Bugatti himself. There are six different Legends in total, and only three copies of each Legend will be produced. They’ll all most likely be sold to collectors and will likely never see more than 10,000km each, if they even hit the road at all. But that won’t matter, because these Legends do their thing best while standing still.
What’s In A Name?
Have you ever wondered why Bugatti named the Veyron the Veyron? It’s an aggressive sounding word that could mean either ‘shark’ or ‘tiger’ in a foreign language, or be the name of a famous fighting bull or German Thoroughbred racing horse, but it’s not. The Veyron was named after Pierre Veyron, a French racing driver who was Bugatti’s test driver, development engineer, and factory racing driver during the 1930s. Pierre Veyron, among other things, won the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1939 driving a Bugatti Type 57S. This gives us an idea of where the inspiration for the Legends arose.
The 6 Bugatti Legends special editions
1. The Jean-Pierre Wimille Bugatti
The first Legend is named after Jean-Pierre Wimille, who was Pierre Veyron’s co-pilot during the 1939 24 Hours of Le Mans, and who also won the race in 1937 with Robert Benoist. During World War II, Wimille fought with the French Resistance, alongside Benoist and another Frenchman, William Grover-Williams, who was also a Grand Prix racing driver and a racer of Bugattis. Wimille was the only one of the three to survive the war. Both Grover-Williams and Benoist were captured and executed by the Nazis.
The Jean-Pierre Wimille Legend sports the French racing colours from that period, with extensive use of Bugatti’s blue clear-coated carbon fibre bodywork across the haunches, sills and fenders. The Jean-Pierre Wimille is not a huge deviation from what can normally be expected from a Bugatti Veyron in terms of style and creativity, although it is tastefully done, which is not always something that happens when customers get to choose their own options. What the Jean-Pierre Wimille represents is the starting point for the Legends. It cleans the palate and calms the nerves in an attempt to prepare us for what is to come.
2. The Jean Bugatti
The second Legend is dedicated to Jean Bugatti, the eldest son of founder Ettore Bugatti. Jean ran the company (and designed and engineered the Type 57) from 1936 until his untimely death in 1939, when he crashed a Type 57 Tank during testing. He swerved to avoid a drunken bicyclist who had squeezed through a hole in the fence at the track, and crashed into a tree. He was 30 years old. The Jean Bugatti is a fierce jet-black with platinum brightwork and is designed after Jean Bugatti’s personal Type 57SC, of which only four were produced (the 57SC is the supercharged version of the 57S, which was itself a lowered version of the 57). A Type 57SC (not Jean Bugatti’s, it was lost during WWII) currently sits in Ralph Lauren’s collection and is valued at $40 million. The interior of the Jean Bugatti is a soothing combination of light and dark browns that both offsets and compliments the menacing exterior magnificently. The Jean Bugatti represents both the bright and sorrowful history of the marque.
3. The Meo Costantini Bugatti
The third Legend is the Meo Costantini, and this is what Michelangelo would have designed if he were alive today. Dedicated to one of Bugatti’s most successful racers and also head of the factory racing team from 1927 to 1935, the Meo Costantini features clear-coated, polished aluminium on it’s doors and fenders. The contrast with the bright and milky Bugatti racing blue is shocking, breathtaking, and beautiful (it’s the type of colourful contrast that Michelangelo would have chosen). The vehicle ceases to look like an automobile and begins to look like something else entirely. Like Michelangelo transforming a slab of marble into the Madonna of Bruges, the Meo Costantini transforms the Bugatti Veyron into a vehicle that looks as if it could transport you to the stars, the heavens, or even through time itself.
4. The Rembrandt Bugatti
The fourth Legend is the Rembrandt Bugatti, and it somehow looks edible and delicious. Named after Ettore’s younger brother, the Rembrandt Bugatti revisits the Jean Bugatti interior theme of dark and light browns, but this time on the exterior, and with a very particular shade of bronze serving as the principle exterior colour. Rembrandt Bugatti was a sculptor, and bronze was his medium of choice. He famously created a dancing elephant sculpture that was used as the hood ornament on the Type 41 Royale. A reproduction of the sculpture is half-embedded in a clear-coated carbon fibre panel between the seats in the Rembrandt Bugatti Legend.
The gentle stylistic nature of the Rembrandt Bugatti likely resonates from Rembrandt’s own gentle personal nature. His main focus in sculpture was animals, and he spent a lot of time at the Antwerp Zoo in Belgium. During WWI, Rembrandt volunteered as a paramedical at a military hospital in Antwerp. This experience, combined with a shortage in foodstuff that caused the Antwerp Zoo to have to kill the animals that Rembrandt had studied for years, caused Rembrandt to fall into depression. He committed suicide at the age of 31 in 1916. Some of Rembrandt’s sculptures are today valued at over US$2million, and all three examples of the Rembrandt Bugatti Legend sold at its unveiling for US$3million each.
5. The Black Bess Bugatti
The fifth Legend is the Black Bess, which is the only Legend of the six to be named after a prior generation of Bugatti sports car, in this case the Type 18, which was Ettore Bugatti’s second road car to be produced. (The name Black Bess actually came from an English Thoroughbred of that era). Only 7 examples of the Type 18 were sold, and one was sold to Roland Garros, the famous Frenchman who was the first person to successfully fly non-stop across the Mediterranean Sea. Roland Garros was an all-around speed junkie and this sale represented one of Ettore Bugatti’s first marketing coups. Roland Garros became a French fighter pilot during WWI and was shot down and killed one month before the end of the war. He was 29 years, 364 days old.
The Black Bess is painted entirely black, with 24-karat gold accents that highlight the aerodynamics of the front fenders, and are stylistically reminiscent of early aviation technology and speed. The 24-karat gold horseshoe grille is so pure (99.95% or greater by mass) and soft, that at 408km/h, a fat bumble bee, decked in its own black and gold livery, would leave it’s own indelible impression on this Legend. (Such are the lives of aviators.)
6. The Ettore Bugatti
The sixth Legend is the Ettore Bugatti, named after the founder himself. Ettore Bugatti had a personal ambition to combine art, form, and technique into automobile design. He was able to draw on his family’s rich artistic history to combine form with function (through his own engineering expertise) to create what was heavily lauded as the most beautiful and fastest cars of his era. The Ettore Bugatti Legend features a mesmerizing surface area of hand-polished, clear-coated aluminium across the hood, fenders, doors, and medaillons (a French word for that small area aft of the doors on the Veyron). The dark blue clear-coated carbon fibre haunches and sills help focus attention on the aluminium. Platinum is used for the exterior brightwork. Calf’s leather is used inside for the seating surfaces, but cordovan leather is used for touch surfaces that require durability (in case this Legend is actually driven 10,000km). Cordovan leather takes six months to prepare and comes from a particular part of a horse’s hide, and one horse is typically able to contribute only enough of this leather to make one pair of cordovan shoes (your high quality, tanned dress shoe). The Ettore Bugatti is perhaps the most confident of the Legends, exuding a take-no-prisoners persona through its exterior, and swallowing its occupants within a magnate’s cigar-and-cognac-esque, warp-speed-equipped, grand touring lounge.
With each Legend, you are drawn into the experience of looking at an automotive masterpiece. The overall shape of the Veyron is beguiling, composed as it is of soft curves and light creases that hide and understate the monstrous Grand Sport Vitesse 1200hp, quad-turbocharged, 8.0L W16 power plant. To this, Bugatti has added an assortment of exotic materials and breathtaking colours to create unique interpretations of automotive art. More importantly, Bugatti has captured the essence of the people (and one horse) for which the Legends are named after. Bugatti’s history itself is a masterpiece, containing elements of tragedy, success, breakthrough, and enduring relevance. Eighteen people (at most) now own the automotive incarnation of Bugatti’s rich history. It might be that one of them is a nice person and will let you take one for a spin one day. If that happens, you will have become one of the lucky few who gets to experience the visceral heritage of Bugatti.
Learn more at Bugatti Editions