Bugatti design director on form follows performance

The Chiron is the most powerful, the fastest and most exclusive car built by Bugatti. This hypercar has succeeded the Veyron as the luxury marque’s sole model. Only 500 are made, and retails at over £2m. It may be a hugely indulgent and exclusive car, yet the Chiron remains an inspired example of industrial design – pure and uncluttered, and staying true to Bugatti’s design ethos ‘form follows performance’. Ettore Bugatti, the Italian-born French car designer and company founder, famously said of his inspiration: ‘Pure blood, absolute clarity, predominance of purpose, immaculate shape.’ On the Chiron too, almost every element is linked to engineering. I caught up with the current Bugatti design director, Achim Anscheidt, to find out more.

What does luxury mean to Bugatti?

We don’t like to dilute the core value we stand for – producing the world’s most powerful cars. This is what has made our customers tick in the last ten years, and it’s what will make them tick in the future.

You see our cars are like valuable wristwatches – so much craft and expertise has gone into the making of these objects and admiration for them will last forever. This is what the Chiron is going to do. I see it as being the tourbillon of the automotive industry.

The Chiron is very dramatic in the metal. Was the duality of the design – the drama of the C motif contrasting with the simple, almost serene sculptural surfacing intentional?

Yes, it was calculated as it follows our overall principal of form follows performance. When we found out the power and aerodynamic increase, and knew the new targets to be achieved by this car are so high, we realised there were so many areas around the car that needed to be changed substantially and the only way to achieve this is to stick closely with the engineering team.

Can you explain how design can vastly help performance?

Performance for our cars mainly means getting rid of the heat from front brakes and rear engine – the energy sources. The biggest problem we had on the Veyron was how to get rid of the hot air that gets trapped inside the powerplant and the hot turbo chargers on the bottom. So, with the Chiron most elements are linked to temperature handling.

Is the C shape a styling element or even a nod to Louis Chiron’s signature, one of the original Grand Prix greats?

It may seem that way, and yes you can be very romantic and see a resemblance to the Bugatti signature line to the Type 49 Royal, or even to Louis Chiron’s signature, but no. This is a performance element – here to to get more air into the complete engine compartment and get it out of it again afterwards.

Please explain…

When air travels along the wheel house, then along the body side, it arrives with quite some turbulence, maybe with 60 per cent quality of pressure. However, because  of our round windshield, the air that’s going to the upper area stays very close to the glass as it travels along the A-pillar arriving with almost 85 to 90 per cent efficiency! So if you imagine, it makes this complete swoop from the B-pillar all the way down into one very effective air intake… and this explains the C shaped element.

Why does form follows performance direct your design? 

It allows us to explain and orchestrate everything in an authentic way. If these elements are strong everything else is allowed to go relatively calm and remain in the background. Look there is no line on the body side, just one line on the rear fender but everything else is organic… there isn’t anything extra going on.

Would you say this adds to the car’s timeless appeal? 

It’s important for our cars to be valuable not only today, but in five, ten, even fifty years time, and the best way to achieve this is to be very authentic in what we do and why we do it. The cleaner the design, the better it will survive the test of time.

How would you summarise your design philosophy?

The magic happens when you minimise all the factors to a couple of key statements around the car. If you look at Bauhaus buildings from the twenties and thirties from where I live in Berlin, they still look wonderful. They are not modern anymore in terms of today’s architecture. But because they stood for something, had a strong belief, they remain precious and valuable and will stand the test of time.

Do designing hugely exclusive cars such as the Chiron restrict or liberate the designer?

I found it liberating to realise a concept that took us so long to reach… to bring it to life. The car has meant so much to our team. Around 60 per cent of our time was taken with looking after the Veyron, the special editions and individualising our customers’ cars, and the rest to searching for the next phase – the Veyron’s successor.

It took a long time, looking at designs, talking with management and only in 2010 we finalised the Chiron concept. My career was so dependent on this car. It has been so close to me for so long.

Nargess Banks

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