Tech Toys 360: Ettore Bugatti Revived

Ettore Bugatti (1881-1947) grew up in a family full of artists. His father is well known for his Art Nouveau furniture and jewelry. Bronze animal sculptures by brother Rembrandt today sell for millions. Son Jean designed iconic cars.

The early 20th century Bugatti family moved in a world populated by the likes of composer Giacomo Puccini and the painter Giovanni_Segantini (who married into the Bugatti family).

However, Ettore was drawn to engineering as much as he was to the fine arts. And with this powerful combination of interests and influences, he built a legendary car company that wowed the automotive world and European elites and royalty starting around 1910.

Yet, while the story of Bugatti’s exclusive luxury cars is full of glamour, it’s also peppered by tragedy, including the early deaths of Jean and Rembrandt and several major setbacks during World War II. Ettore died in 1947, and the company never really recovered.

Bugatti’s is a fascinating history that deserves a book, or at least a feature film starring Leonardo DiCaprio.

At the same time, it might seem an act of hubris that in 1998, Volkswagen sought to revive the Bugatti brand. How does the company famous for its anti-luxury 1960s “Think Small” ads do justice to a name that built the Type 35 Grand Prix cars, the Type 41 “Royale” (which includes one of Rembrandt’s elephants on the radiator cap), the Type 57 “Atlantic,” and the Type 55 sports car?

Volkswagen chairman Ferdinand Piëch thought he knew how to do it. He directed his designers to revive the heritage of Ettore Bugatti with a new super sports car: The Bugatti Veyron. Assembled by hand in Molsheim, France, the $2 million Veyron was designed to be both technically sophisticated and artistic.

Did Bugatti (a PTC customer, by the way) under Volkswagen’s direction honor Ettore’s vision?

See what you think in this segment of Tech Toys 360, a Velocity Discovery show that features “vehicles, gadgets, and gear.”

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