Bugatti Bolide: What if ... ?

From the inside out. That's Bugatti. The inside is this engine with 16 cylinders. Because it is already revered and celebrated as the ultimate work of art, there is actually little room for experimentation in the rest of the matter. Or so we thought - until this Bugatti bolide stood before us. We spoke to Achim Anscheidt, Director of Design at Bugatti, about it. And he also exclusively outlined the most important features of the Bolide for us.
Text Michael Köckritz
Photo Philipp Rupprecht

Looking at the Bugatti Bolide, it would be no exaggeration to say: Wow! How much fun is it for a designer to create a car like that?
Achim Anscheidt: Before I start in on the stylistic features and characteristics, the most important thing is to listen – to understand what a car like this could possibly be about. Only then do we act. Therein lies my responsibility, and this informs the demands that I place on my team. In contrast to art, design must always be understood from the point of view of function. That’s something you would never say about a work of art as a stand-alone object with no actual purpose or function. Design objects – including but not limited to cars – are generally not created for purely aesthetic viewing. Aesthetics and utility are interconnected, but that’s quite different than in art.

Nevertheless, in no other brand is the connection between the automotive and the artistic as pronounced as in Bugatti.
That’s true. But it would be wrong to assume that the brushstroke, so to speak, is what defines Bugatti, even if the artistic form is deeply rooted in the Bugatti design ethos. It’s what a lot of people think, but it’s not the case. A hundred years ago, as today, the engine was and is what Bugatti is all about. I can hold as many design presentations as I like – but we wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for this engine. And that is the quintessence of the Bolide. We know full well – and I’ve been with Bugatti for sixteen years now – that we’ve always worked around this engine. With the Bolide, we’re taking this to the extreme, because it was a unique opportunity to see what this engine was capable of producing.

"With the Bolide, we’re taking this to the extreme, because it was a unique opportunity to see what this engine was capable of producing."

Achim Anscheidt

No brushstroke?
No brushstroke. And unrestrained by any aesthetic notions. Instead, the artist listens. He first wants to understand what potential this idea holds and to use that idea as a basis for his art. This is the true expertise of Bugatti Design: understanding the technical contexts and using these to create a work of art. And not worrying that the engineers will take over a project and that you, the designer, will be left out in the cold. On the contrary, you have to tease 110 percent out of the engineers first and then see how you can create a work of art in terms of style, design and brand perception.

What were some of the biggest challenges with the Bolide?
Realizing that the basic aerodynamic structure was quite different from that of a Bugatti Chiron, for example. We made a lot of compromises with the Chiron to create this interestingly ambivalent construct of an ultimate Gran Turismo. Compared to a Lamborghini, driving a Chiron from Stuttgart to Rome is a real pleasure. But now, for the first time, we suddenly found ourselves in the position of working uncompromisingly towards pure functionality. That was certainly the biggest challenge, and I must admit that it left me feeling breathless from time to time.

"But now, for the first time, we suddenly found ourselves in the position of working uncompromisingly towards pure functionality. That was certainly the biggest challenge, and I must admit that it left me feeling breathless from time to time. "

Where exactly can you see that?
Let’s take this half-open front end: it’s full of holes – like Swiss cheese. But every square centimeter has a defined function. And every function is assigned in a completely different way than with the Chiron. Not a single airflow has the same function as in the Chiron. The air flows into different ducts, either to ventilate special radiators, to flow around the monocoque differently or to feed into the air-to-air intercoolers behind the monocoque. That in itself is remarkable. And the combination with this X-shape, which is very bold and in-your-face, underscores the attitude of this experiment.

What about the name “Bolide”?
Just between us, we had initially favored the name “X-16”, which would have stood for “experiment with a W16 engine”. But Stephan Winkelmann felt it sounded a bit too military and thought it was too short for a name. He likes simple, clear names, like Murciélago, Aventador, Huracán and Gallardo. I can understand that. He readily admits, “I’m into real names.” So we came up with Bolide. That’s another word for a fast car in both French and German. An approximate English translation could be “cannonball”.

Perhaps we should not print what you just said about your boss . . .
Oh, I don’t care if you do! [laughs]

But the Bolide does convey Stephan Winkelmann’s ideas very nicely.
Feel free to write it like that. I have no problem with it. What Stephan Winkelmann did for Lamborghini, and what he will certainly do again here, is nothing short of amazing. I’m extremely grateful to him for everything he made possible for me at Bugatti: the Divo, La Voiture Noire, the Centodieci and now the Bolide, not to mention the Pure Sport and Super Sport derivatives of the Chiron, all of which can be traced directly back to him.

A truly amazing diversity of cars.
And to be honest, I think we’ve now fired off our entire salvo of ideas.

It was a great fireworks display.
Absolutely. And we went about it in a very systematic way. When Stephan Winkelmann came to us in 2017, we had already presented everything once, and in some cases we already had the names – Divo, La Voiture Noire, those were already fixed at the time. The rest were developed through the process. In addition to the models, we also decided to create a highlight for the motor shows, especially Geneva and Pebble Beach. We worked our way through this plan over the past few years – spending almost ninety percent of our time on it. We were quite radical in our approach.

How great is the risk of overdoing it?
Of course, coachbuilding is something that experienced a sort of revival at Bugatti. But I believe that you have to keep a sense of proportion. We know that, too. If you only offer coachbuilding, at some point it becomes standard, it is no longer special, and it no longer has any particular value in our customers’ collections.

Zur Person: Achim Anscheidt was born on July 30, 1962, in Stuttgart, Germany, where he also grew up. He studied automotive design at Pforzheim University and ArtCenter College of Design in Pasadena, California, before joining Porsche AG at its Styling Center Weissach in 1993. In 1996 he moved to Volkswagen Group. Anscheidt, who is the father of three girls, has been director of the Bugatti brand’s design department since 2004.

Bugatti Bolide
Engine W16
Displacement 7,993 cc
Power 1,850 hp (1,361 kW) at 7,000 rpm
Max. torque 1,850 Nm at 2,000–7,025 rpm
0–500–0 km/h 33.62 s

Das gesamte Interview mit Achim Anscheidt lesen sie in der neuen ramp #52.

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