Bugatti Veyron 16.4: Veyron goes topless for £1.3m

Removing the roof reduces top speed to 224mph – and if it rains you're likely to get wet

See Bugatti launch videos here

The snappily titled Bugatti Veyron 16.4 Grand Sport finally broke cover this month at the ultra-exclusive Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. This new model is the long-expected targa-roofed version of the Veyron and comes with a removable polycarbonate roof – something Bugatti quietly admits was far from easy to develop.

The challenge stemmed from the fact that the fixed roof of the hard-top Veyron is a vital part of the car’s structure, both in terms of crash protection and torsional rigidity (vital when harnessing 1000bhp), so dramatic changes had to be made to the rest of the car’s structure to achieve the open-top Grand Sport.

For a start, the monocoque bodyshell has been reinforced around the sills and transmission tunnel with the addition of substantial carbonfibre plates, then the doors have been re-engineered in carbonfibre (rather than aluminium) and contain substantial longitudinal beams designed to transfer the massive forces that occur during a crash throughout the bodyshell. Finally, the distinctive dual air-intakes that rise above the bodywork to draw air into the massive W16 engine have been redesigned to include carbonfibre reinforcement, now offering enough strength to protect occupants should the car roll. The result of all this work is what Bugatti claims is the world’s stiffest (in terms of torsional rigidity) roadster ever produced.

With the roof in place, to the casual observer the overall look of the car has barely altered. Look closer and you’ll see that the windscreen is in fact all-new and sits slightly higher to give a smooth look to the roofline over the cabin.

Space is so limited in the Veyron that once the targa roof is removed, there is nowhere to carry it within the car, so owners will have no option but to leave it at home and hope it doesn’t rain. If the skies do open, the options are a) get wet, or b) use a fairly primitive umbrella-type contraption that’s stored in the front boot-space and only to be fitted in emergencies, allowing journeys to continue so long as you don’t exceed 130kph (80mph).

With the solid targa roof in place, the top speed is unaltered at 407kph (253mph) but once it’s removed the speed is electronically limited to ‘just’ 360kph (224mph).

The first cars will roll out of the factory in spring 2009 and will cost a cool £1.3million, some £280K more than the fixed-head. But there are already some raised eyebrows about the number of Grand Sports Bugatti is planning to build. Until now the company has said it would build just 300 Veyrons, but now it has announced that it will build 150 Grand Sports on top of the 300 originally planned (only 45 of which remain unallocated at time of writing). Since only around 80 cars can be built per year at the Bugatti factory, this means a further two years’ worth of Veyron production, which now won’t end until well into 2012. What effect all this will have on the thus-far buoyant Veyron market remains to be seen.

See Bugatti launch videos here

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