Before the Veyron, the notion of the hypercar didn't even exist.
There was a time, car fans, when hypercars didn't exist. When the idea of an automobile with four-digit output figures, capable of cracking 250 miles per hour, seemed unthinkable. And you wouldn't think it was that long ago. But it was.
Though it may seem like only yesterday, it's actually been 20 years since Bugatti started work on the pioneering Veyron – the car that arguably (if not empirically) opened the segment of what we now know as the hypercar and paved the way for all those that have followed.
The stage was set 21 years ago when Volkswagen bought the brand from Romano Artioli and set about creating a string of concept cars. The fourth and last of them was the EB18/4 Veyron (pictured above), showcased at the 1999 Tokyo Motor Show after four months of work that began 20 years ago this month.
It was, in every sense, a fantastic design, which originally called for an eighteen-cylinder quad-turbo engine. The production version that followed ultimately cut two cylinders from the original brief, but it was still lightyears ahead of anything that had ever been actually put into series production.
After six more years of work, the Veyron EB16.4 began rolling out of the revived workshop at Bugatti's historic home in Molsheim, France, packing 987 horsepower and 992 lb-ft of torque. It required ten radiators to keep it cool, and was one of the first road-going automobiles to feature a dual-clutch transmission and carbon-ceramic brakes to transfer all its power to the tarmac and keep it in check. The tires alone took five years to develop. And the results spoke (and continue to speak) for themselves, reaching 62 mph from a standstill in 2.5 seconds and pulling to a top speed in excess of 250 mph.
"Thanks to the Veyron, Bugatti catapulted itself into a new dimension. We set benchmarks around 20 years ago with the first luxury hyper sports car and we are proud of that to this day," rightly recalls Stephan Winkelmann, the former Lamborghini chief who now presides over Bugatti. "The Veyron continues to be a car of superlatives: it broke several speed records and redefined what outstanding automotive engineering can do." That was before the subsequent Grand Sport, Super Sport, and Vitesse versions that followed, and the Chiron that has since taken its place. And it all started two decades ago.