A French car company with an Italian name, currently owned by a German conglomerate (Volkswagen), Ettore Arco Isidoro Bugatti founded Automobiles Ettore Bugatti in 1909. Among the world’s most desirable cars of his time, Bugatti’s automobiles were known both for their high level of engineering and for their stunningly beautiful designs.

In 1926, 1928, 1930, and 1931, Bugatti’s racing cars won 16 times—four major victories each year. He also won the 24 Hours of LeMans in 1937 and again in 1939. Bugatti died in 1947. Without his leadership, the factory closed in 1952.

Romano Artioli, an Italian industrialist, revived the marque in 1987 as Bugatti Automobili SpA. A new factory was built and the resulting car was the 1991 Bugatti EB110 GT. Producing 553 horsepower from a 3.5-liter quad turbo V12, the all-wheel drive supercar was capable of 213 miles per hour.

This car was the forerunner to today’s Bugatti Veyron, the fastest series production car the world has ever known. The car is named in honor of Pierre Veyron, who won the 24 Hours of Le Mans at the wheel of a Bugatti automobile in 1939. Veyron was also a development engineer and a test driver for the company.

In 1998, Volkswagen acquired the Bugatti brand name, established Bugatti Automobiles S.A.S., and proceeded to build the fastest series production supercar the world has ever known.  The Bugatti Veyron 16.4 uses a quad turbocharged 16-cylinder engine. The current ultimate iteration of this all-wheel drive sports car makes 1200 horsepower, costs in excess of $2.2 million, and is capable of a top speed of 255 miles per hour.

The engine’s 16 cylinders are arrayed in a “W” configuration for more compact packaging. Essentially, Bugatti’s engineers merged two V8 engines onto a common crankshaft. The two merged Vs create a W. The all-wheel drive Veyron’s seven-speed dual clutch transmission is also unique, tasked with harnessing twice the torque of a regular sports car transmission. The direct-shift gearbox is computer-controlled with magnesium paddles behind the steering wheel. The unit boasts a shift time of less than 150 milliseconds, and is built by Ricardo of England.

A number of different iterations of the Bugatti Veyron have been offered since the car was introduced in 2005. The Bugatti Veyron Grand Sport debuted in 2009, bringing open motoring to the model for the first time. The Bugatti Veyron Super Sport followed the Grand Sport closely in 2010. There have also been a number of “designer” versions of the Veyron over the years.