When a person is spending as much on a car as they would on a waterfront villa on the Palm Jumeirah, purchasing criteria differ vastly from those of the typical vehicle buyer.
The average Bugatti buyer has 84 cars, three jets and one yacht, so the acquisition of another vehicle clearly isn’t fuelled by need. Such people are making the purchase with a similar mindset to those looking to acquire a rare artwork. The intention is to own something bespoke, created by craftsmen, rather than churned out by a robotised production line.
'If it is comparable, it is no longer Bugatti'
With an entry point at about Dh11 million (before tax), Bugatti resides in a different universe from any other automotive brand, and so does its audience. Company founder Ettore Bugatti famously said: “If it is comparable, it is no longer Bugatti”, and that mantra still applies today. Ordering a new Bugatti gives you access to a virtually infinite number of personalisation options, so you’ll almost never see two examples that are exactly the same.
Given the dizzying array of customising options on offer, it’s imperative for customers to be guided by an expert with the right skill set to talk them through the vast catalogue of choices, so the end result is a tasteful recipe, rather than an ill-resolved combination of colours, materials and – possibly – graphics.
Every Bugatti ordered from the Molsheim Atelier – not far from the French city of Strasbourg – has the touch of Jascha Straub. The dapper designer was heavily involved with the exterior styling of two recent limited-edition hypercars – the Divo and the Centodieci. He’s aware of every last design detail in a Bugatti, so there’s no one better able to steer customers through the brand’s almost infinite personalisation possibilities.
Straub says the customisation process can take hours, several months or even a year, depending on how individual the car will be, and the spend on personalisation options can range from a couple of hundred thousand euros to millions.
“If, for example, a customer wants a colour for brake calipers that we don’t have, it can take several months to develop, as it has to satisfy all the criteria for durability and heat resistance, as everything we do has to be 100 per cent. Developing bespoke stitching for the seats can also take up to nine months,” he explains.
A custom-designed Bugatti Chiron
To gain some insight into the process, I was able to personalise “my own” Bugatti Chiron Pur Sport, under the guidance of Straub.
A visual representation was provided by the digital configurator that only Bugatti customers can access.
The typical customer experience would involve a tour of the car maker's production facility and Atelier in Molsheim, but Covid-19 constraints meant we’d be going through our mock exercise via Zoom. We also had only an hour, rather than all day or all week, so the session was merely intended to provide a snapshot of the process. More elaborate customising projects usually require the use of other methods and tools, such as physical sketches and Photoshop renderings.
Almost every Bugatti ordered has a two-tone colour split, so the first step was selecting how this would be configured. I opted for a horizontal split, with the lower section in black carbon and a complementary black tone for the central sections of the roof and bonnet, as well as for the curved cowl in front of the windscreen and the upper halves of the wing mirrors.
Bugatti offers a palette of four standard colours for the Pur Sport, but I opted instead for Giallo Midas, a bright yellow hue that was a favourite of company founder of Ettore Bugatti. The possibilities don't end there. "If you come in with your favourite Nike shoes and say: 'I want my car in this colour,' we can develop exactly that colour," Straub says.
The same applies for the interior. "If a customer says: 'I want the leather seats or stitching to match my wife's Hermes bag', we can do that, too."
Getting back to “my car”, the “16” graphic on the grille of the Pur Sport is normally etched in blue, but in order to ensure it didn’t clash with my chosen bright yellow paintwork, Straub suggested switching it to a more neutral grey. For further visual harmony, I opted for yellow Bugatti-themed graphics and accents on the rear wing and engine covers.
The Pur Sport is offered with a choice of three wheel designs, and of these I selected a sophisticated-looking aero-blade pattern that also boosts the car’s aerodynamics and brake cooling efficiency.
To match the theme of the rest of the car, I chose gloss-black paint for the wheel spokes and a carbon fibre finish for the aero blades housed within. Yellow paint for the “EB” logo on the centre cap and for the brake calipers further complemented the Giallo Midas paintwork.
For my interior choices, I opted for carbon fibre trim on the doors and dashboard, an Alcantara-trimmed steering wheel, black quilted leather seats with yellow stitching (to complement the exterior) and yellow embroidered logos on the transmission tunnel and seat headrests.
From zebras to ladybugs
And there’s scope to do much more. One example is the Chiron Zebra, a striking one-off design made especially for a long-term Bugatti customer in Qatar.
“The customer came to us with the idea and we made it work, which goes to show that our levels of individualisation really have no limit. To adapt to the flowing lines of the Chiron, we had to develop a completely new solution to tape off parts of the bodywork ready for painting,” Straub explains.
Another eye-catching one-off is the Bugatti Divo Lady Bug, which was conceived shortly after the world premiere of the Divo in August 2018. “The idea for a geometric algorithmic fading pattern on the bodywork emerged in collaboration with the customer. What the collector from the US had in mind was a strict geometric pattern consisting of diamond shapes in a unique colour contrast.
“In collaboration with the collector, the Bugatti design and development team then set about developing the special colours, Customer Special Red and Graphite, both metallic tones, to achieve the contrasting effect.
The diamond pattern was designed to run precisely from the front over the sides to the rear – matching the silhouette of the Divo.
“It took the team over 18 months to find and implement the technical and graphic solutions. One could not have predicted how complex and difficult it would be to paint the diamonds on to the car body with precision and exact definition,” Straub says.
The complexity of the task was owing to the fact that the 2D-printed diamond became distorted on the sculptural form of the Divo, with its contours, curves and ribs.
As a result, they had to be digitally modified. “All it took was one millimetre’s difference to ruin the entire visual effect,” says Straub.
“The diamonds also had to be positioned perfectly on the roofline, doors and rear fender edge in order to achieve a clean visual finish. Together with the customer, Cad modellers developed and simulated a diamond pattern design with around 1,600 diamonds. It was a highly complex and time-consuming task.”
Straub clearly revels in his role crafting unique Bugattis that meet customers’ bespoke tailoring briefs down to the most minute detail. As an added bonus, he gives each customer a sketch of their bespoke car to remind them of their interaction with Bugatti.
It’s as close as you’ll get to acquiring a Monet on wheels.