Words: Mike Ryan
While plenty of car owners have used their vehicles as a canvas since the automobile’s earliest days, BMW made the ‘art car’ a corporate initiative in the 1970s. Other carmakers have adopted the idea since then, but the most recent creation from Bugatti interprets the art car in a new way.
Unlike a custom car, an art car leaves the fundamental shape of the vehicle and its appointments unchanged, instead altering it cosmetically. That’s the case with this Bugatti, a Chiron Super Sport that its US-based owner wanted to be transformed into something unique.
Like most premium carmakers, Bugatti offer a personalisation service – Sur Measure – which literally translates as Custom Made, but refers to the tailoring service that Bugatti offer customers on things like paint, wheels, trim and interior finishes.
While options are abundant in Sur Measure, some things fall outside that portfolio. Such was the case with this Chiron Super Sport, which the owner asked Bugatti to transform into a tribute to the two distinct eras in Bugatti history.
The first era covers Bugatti’s original period, from 1909 to 1956, when automotive icons like the Type 35, Type 56 SC Atlantic and Type 41 Royale set the bar in terms of performance, style and luxury. The second era covers Bugatti’s rebirth in 1987 that led to the EB110 and subsequent growth under Volkswagen Group ownership that saw the game-changing Veyron and its various offshoots introduced.
The ‘Golden Era’ name for this bespoke creation may seem to refer to the original period in Bugatti history, but can just as equally apply to the modern era, especially given the mighty W16 engine from this period is being phased out as Bugatti joins other carmakers in moving from internal combustion to electrification.
Both ‘old’ and ‘new’ eras have been given equal space with this car.
Clay and Graphite
If you’re old enough to remember using pencils at school, you’ll probably also remember the ‘lead’ in those pencils wasn’t actually lead at all, but a mix of clay and graphite.
What does this have to do with the Chiron Super Sport Golden Era?
Well, when the car’s owner wanted to pay homage to Bugatti history, Sur Measure proposed that history be literally applied to the vehicle’s exterior – with a pencil.
It sounds simple, but this ultimately became the most challenging bespoke project that Bugatti has ever undertaken.
“Our customers can be incredibly creative and we take great pride in helping them realise what they dream of, but extensive special commissions such as this are exceedingly rare,” said Achim Anscheidt, former Bugatti Design Director, who led the team on this creation.
“Given the vision and exacting nature for this project – and the fantastical ideation we wanted to realise – ‘Golden Era’ is probably the most demanding piece of tailored personalisation work that my team and I have ever worked on.”
Ideas into Sketches
Selecting which vehicles and key elements from Bugatti history to apply to the Golden Era was the first challenge. Following extensive conversations with the customer, Anscheidt’s team settled on the nearside (LHD) of the car’s exterior as a canvas for the modern (1987-2023) era, with the offside devoted to the cars and engineering from the 1909-1956 period.
Ultimately, the concept presented to the customer consisted of 45 sketches that would be applied directly to the car, in pencil and by hand.
“The owner immediately fell in love with the idea,” Anscheidt said. “The implementation may sound quite straightforward, but achieving a perfect finish, and one that would last the test of time, took more patience and craftsmanship than you could ever imagine.”
The owner was referred to Sur Measure by the Bugatti dealer in Connecticut in the north-eastern US, and while the owner made multiple trips to the Buagtti works in Molsheim, France, to follow the development of Golden Era personally, the dealership proved crucial in tracking and reporting on the project’s progress, too.
“Each step, every decision and – in the case of the Golden Era – every stroke of the pencil, was completed with the close oversight and input of the owner to exceed his expectations in a way that no other brand is able to do,” said Hendrik Malinowski, Bugatti Managing Director.
Black, Gold and Graphite
Before a pencil was applied to the Chiron Super Sport’s surface, the car was repainted, with a metallic variant of the existing Bugatti Nocturne Black at the front end fading to a bespoke metallic gold called ‘Doré’. The pencil renderings were then applied over the top, appearing to emerge from the black section of the car to be highlighted by the gold.
Gloss black wheels, accented with gold details, complement the two-tone paint. The ‘EB’ badge at the rear was finished in gold and the underside of the Chiron Super Sport’s wing was adorned with the ‘Golden Era’ name for this bespoke creation.
All By Hand
Moving on to the sketches, they consist of 19 on the nearside, with the EB110 at the leading edge, flowing into the W16 engine, Veyron, Chiron and its offshoots, like the Super Sport 300+, Divo, Centodieci and Bolide.
On the offside, 26 sketches run from the earliest Bugatti creations to more familiar machines, like the Type 35, the ‘Tank’ Le Mans racer, Atlantic and Royale. Ettore Bugatti’s Chateau Saint Jean home is also rendered, along with past Bugatti designs for ships, aircraft and trains. The familiar ‘standing elephant’ mascot, designed by Rembrandt Bugatti, also features on the offside.
The scale, form and proportion for each sketch was refined and adjusted before a pencil touched the body.
“It was very clear to us from the beginning that we can only achieve an authentic finish for these sketches – and at Bugatti authenticity is paramount – if we actually used the pencils that we use for sketching on paper,” Anscheidt added. “Anything else would result in something looking fake or low in quality.”
Finding a process where the pencils could be used naturally on a surface they were never intended for was the next challenge, but Bugatti say they developed a “brand new” technique to achieve the desired finish. Anscheidt admits there were some setbacks along the way, which may explain why completing this stage of Golden Era took more than 400 hours.
Pencil Outside, Paint Inside
With the exterior completed, attention turned to the Golden Era’s interior. It seemed natural to reference the exterior treatment inside, so a simplified version of the outside renderings was applied to the door cards.
Again referencing the two periods in Bugatti history, the nearside carries nose-on renderings of the EB110, Veyron and Chiron, while on the offside, the Type 35. Type 57 SC Atlantic and Type 41 Royale are honoured.
Each vehicle was painted – not drawn – by hand onto the leather-trimmed doorcards using specially formulated paint and a fine brush. While the identity of who applied the renderings both inside and out has not been supplied, the paintings on the doorcards appear to be the work of Bugatti interior designer, Aldo Maria Sica.
Reinforcing the “two halves” of this car, sill plates carry the years of the era rendered on each side, while the tan and black treatment of the doorcards extends to the seats, which carry embroidered ‘Golden Era’ script in the headrests. Finally, ‘One of One’ script confirming this car's unique nature was hand-painted onto the centre console.
Honouring the Past, Surviving the Future
While Bugatti don’t go into detail on how the hand-rendered interior and exterior of Golden Era will survive even mild use, they do say that “new methods and processes were crafted to ensure that these details would stand the test of time.”
What the Chiron Super Sport Golden Era cost to complete is unrecorded, but the asking price for such a model is around AU$5.5 million, so assume that the Sur Measure touch adds at least AU$1 million more.
The customer that commissioned Golden Era officially received their one-off Bugatti at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, part of Monterey Car Week in the US, this past August.