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Bugatti Teamed With Duesenberg to Make This Engine 100 Years Before Collabing With Rimac
Suppose you follow the latest updates in performance car news. In that case, you know that the supercar extraordinaires at Bugatti have just agreed to a revolutionary partnership with the EV wizards at Rimac. This news might come as a surprise if you're familiar with the Veyron and Chiron. But Bugatti is no stranger to collaboarting with other high end manufacturers, as we're about to show you.

Bugatti Teamed With Duesenberg to Make This Engine 100 Years Before Collabing With Rimac

King-Bugatti U-16King-Bugatti U-16King-Bugatti U-16King-Bugatti U-16King-Bugatti U-16King-Bugatti U-16King-Bugatti U-16King-Bugatti U-16King-Bugatti U-16King-Bugatti U-16
Want proof? Look no further than the King-Bugatti U-16 aircraft engine. A motor that was just as bonkers in its day as the quad-turbocharged W16 in the Veyron and Chiron are today.

Being one of the very first automotive savants, Ettore Bugatti was still cutting his teeth in the race car and high-performance engine business in the early to mid-1910s. With war looming across Europe and looking to sell his creations to anyone who would buy them, he set about making modifications to a previous straight-eight engine he'd built for road use.

Bugatti ultimately decided to merge two engines to create a gargantuan powerplant suitable for use on military aircraft. The result was a 16-cylinder water-cooled double-eight vertical in-line "U-16 engine." This new engine was given the "U" designation because both banks of cylinders stuck straight up out of the engine block instead of at an angle like most traditional "V" engines.

Both banks of cylinders were controlled via a common cast aluminum crankcase. Each eight-cylinder bank was made up of two cast-iron four-cylinder blocks merged to form a robust and sturdy powerplant.
This being an engine intended to fit into primitive warbirds, Bugatti's U-16 was designed with the ability to mount a 37mm gun barrel inside the crankshaft of the engine.

This metal shaft was specially bored to accept the gun inside it. As the gun would fire through the engine's crankshaft rather than through the blades of the propeller, it eliminated the need for a complex interrupter gear system to keep the aircraft from shooting off its own prop.

The engine also utilized advancements like a single overhead camshaft with three valves per cylinder, a technology that had only been invented less than a decade prior. The U-16 also used a primitive dry-sump oil system. Bugatti still uses such oil systems in more technologically advanced forms in the Chiron hypercar.

At 1,484.3 cubic inches (24.3 liters), the U-16 engine was three times the size of the eight-liter W16 found in the modern Chiron. When you learn that the U-16 cranked out only between 410 and 500 horsepower at 2,000 rpm compared to the 1,500 or so in the current Chiron, it shows just how far internal combustion engineering has come in 100 years' time.

With his engine complete, Ettore Bugatti invited members of the US Armed Forces, fresh off their entrance into the First World War, to come and see the new engine undergo testing. An official military contingent led by Colonel R.C Bolling visited Europe to look at the shiny new engine Mr.Bugatti had created.

While undergoing a 50-hour stress test, a U.S Army officer strayed too close to the propeller and was killed, becoming the first U.S. service member to die in the First World War. Once the war had concluded, the Army contracted the American businessman Charles Brady King to make enhancements to Bugatti's design.

It was a partnership Ettore Bugatti protested initially, but one he eventually accepted. This collaboration resulted in the King-Bugatti U-16, ostensibly the ultimate version of Bugatti's design. A "Bugatti Mission" traveled from Bordeaux for the US to supervise the production of the engine at the Duesenberg Motor Corporation of Elizabeth, New Jersey, where the engines were planned to be built.

As international automotive collaborations go, pairing Bugatti with Duesenberg would be like Bentley and Maybach collaborating today. Unfortunately, not every bonkers military project makes it past the development phase, and the King-Bugatti engine never saw combat service. Very few aircraft were ever fitted with the engine, and even fewer ever flew.

It was an experience that, while not successful in itself, gave Mr.Bugatti the business experience he needed to build better and more successful race cars. This kickstarted a series of events that would go on to yield the two fastest production cars on the planet in the Veyron and Chiron. Whether its owners are aware of these two cars' spiritual connection to the U-16 or not, each and every hypercar that rolls off their production room floor shares its DNA.

Today, you can see one of the 40 or so King-Bugatti U-16s on display at the National Museum of the United States Air Force in Dayton-Ohio. There's also an example in the possesion of the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C. The engine gets more use as a museum piece today than it ever did as an weapon of war over a century ago. If that means we get to live in a timeline where the Chiron exists, that's one hell of a worthy sacrifice.


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