How Bugatti built the fastest car in the world

It has 16 cylinders, 1,001 horsepower, goes from 0-60 in 2.5 seconds, has a top speed of 253 miles per hour — and a starting price of well over $US1 million.

The Bugatti Veyron is made of incredible numbers. What began as a mere idea deep within the Volkswagen Group grew to become the equivalent of the Concorde for the road.

But it’s on the way out, to be succeeded by an even more insanely fast and powerful Bugatti, to be named later (that named could be “Chiron,” and the horsepower rating could go to 1,500).

In the early 20th century, the Bugatti name was synonymous with performance. Frenchman Ettore Bugatti founded the company in 1909 and built some of the most legendary performance and touring cars ever. However, misfortunes and changes in markets forced them to shut down in 1952.

But the company has been resurrected twice. In the late 1980s, Italian businessman Romano Artoli purchased the rights to the name and built the EB110 supercar. But the company shut down in 1995.

In 1998, Volkswagen bought the name, and unleashed a slew of concept cars on the show circuit. Starting in 2001, they decided to make the fastest car in the world in a bespoke factory in Molsheim, France.

But how the Veyron was made is unlike the process for any other other car in the world. Its story is one of creating a car that in many respects redefined what we thought a car could be.

It’s not surprising that auto enthusiasts — notably the chaps at the British motoring TV show “Top Gear” — have called the Veyron the greatest car ever created by human hands on planet Earth.

This is how it was put together and tested.

[An earlier version of this post was written by Travis Okulski.]

The 16-cylinder engine is the heart of the Veyron.

And its journey started here: VW's Salzgitter engine plant.

This is, without a doubt, one of the largest engine factories in the world.

Yet the Veyron's engine was assembled by hand in a tiny room.

The bespoke titanium and aluminium parts were delivered by hand in sealed, padded cases.

Each piston was carved out of solid aluminium.

The engine is actually a W configuration: a pair of V8 engines bolted together.

It took a craftsmen one week to complete a single Veyron engine.

To test it, they ran it on a dyno -- an instrument that measures output -- for the first time in 2001.

It produced the magical 1,000 horsepower -- and then some.

It actually made 3,000 horsepower, 2/3 of which was heat. The building almost burned to the ground.

When the car was first tested on the road, it had 6 foot flames shooting out the back at 200 MPH. That isn't exactly legal.

So they upped the cooling capacity. Each Veyron has 10 radiators.

Italian company Riccardo was contracted to make the gearbox.

While now common, this was one of the earlier applications of a dual-clutch unit.

They could make it go, but could they make it stop?

The Veyron has massive carbon-ceramic brakes.

They're all hand made, once again in Germany.

They can withstand heat up to 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit. But that wasn't enough to safely stop the car.

So the rear wing pops up to help the Veyron stop from speeds over 125 MPH. On its own, the air brake provides 70 per cent the force of standard car brakes.

Heggemann Aerospace constructed the wing and other assemblies in Germany.

The front of the car is made of aerospace-grade stainless steel.

The fuel tank has 250 separate components and took three days to complete.

When complete, the parts were shipped to Bugatti in France.

Tires had never been built for a car this fast. Michelin was contracted to make them work.

They originally made two tires, one for the road and one for the track. But Bugatti came back and said they needed one for both.

A standard tire can be stamped out in 30 seconds. Veyron tires took one hour to make.

And if they wear out, you are in for an expensive bill. A set of four costs $17,000.

When all of the subassemblies are complete, they were sent to the Bugatti 'Atelier' in Molsheim, France.

Atelier is the French word for 'artists' workshop.'

Inside, incomplete Veyrons were kept in 3 sections until they are ready to be put together.

The carbon fibre driver's cockpit provides protection for the occupants.

It may be hard to believe, but the front and rear of the car are held together by just 14 bolts.

Before the body panels were applied, the car was run through a series of tests to make sure assembly went as intended.

Every bolt in the entire car was done by hand. Each car took four to five weeks to finish.

Every Veyron was then driven 300 miles to ensure that the work was done properly.

Some were even run at Volkswagen's test facility, Ehra-Lessien, in Germany.

At top speed, the Veyron can cover more than a football field each second.

And it gets 3 miles per gallon. It runs out of fuel in 12 minutes.

It was then lovingly polished for two days ...

... before it was sent to its new owner.

But if you paid $1 million for a car, you expected this level of commitment.

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