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Building a bespoke Bugatti W16 Mistral with Sur Mesure boss Jascha Straub

It’s no secret that we love all things bespoke here at Magneto. From the tailored suits of Savile Row to coachbuilt automotive wonders, we can’t help but appreciate the craftsmanship, creativity and dedication that artisans lovingly pour into their creations. So it’s no coincidence that many of the world’s oldest and most prestigious car manufacturers have storied histories of creating one-offs that have been gracing magazine pages, concours lawns and museum plinths for decades.

Few brands exemplify this better than Bugatti. Founded by Ettore Bugatti in 1909, the company has created some of the rarest, most beautiful and most unique motor cars ever seen over the course of its 115-year history – and, to this day, no two Bugattis are alike. In the words of the marque’s founder: “Nothing is too beautiful, and nothing is too expensive.”

I was recently granted a rare opportunity to put Ettore Bugatti’s mantra to the test, after being invited to go through the admittedly surreal process of commissioning my very own Bugatti W16 Mistral via the brand’s exclusive Sur Mesure customisation programme.

Recently, a customer ordered a Chiron matching the precise colour of his wife's bespoke Hermès bag

Recently, a customer ordered a Chiron matching the precise colour of his wife's bespoke Hermès bag

The Mistral marks the end of an era, being the effectively the last evolution of the Chiron and the final Bugatti to feature the quad-turbocharged 8.0-litre W16 engine championed by the late Ferdinand Piëch, whose uncompromising approach to engineering led to many of the great VAG cars of the 2000s and 2010s.

With Bugatti’s acquisition by Rimac in 2021, the Chiron’s successor will boast a radically different powertrain – a hybridised V16 – developed under the guidance of Bugatti-Rimac boss Mate Rimac. Just 99 Mistral W16s will be built, and each will cost upwards of £4.25m – and yes, every example is already spoken for. It’s understandable, then, that I was revelling in the opportunity to be customer number 100 – for a couple of hours over Zoom, at least.

As with the other 99 customers, I was guided through the process by Bugatti’s Sur Mesure lead designer, Jascha Straub. Jascha began his career with the marque in the design department, contributing to the striking exterior styling of the recent Centodieci and Divo hypercars, which, like the Mistral, blend bespoke bodywork with the Chiron chassis and powertrain.

“Sometimes customers come with a clear vision of what they want, which could be an homage to a certain racing car, for example,” Jascha explained to me on the day. “We then work together to figure out how we can transport the essence of that car into the present. We look at certain splits and colour combinations, and little ‘Easter eggs’ and details, but it’s always done in an extremely authentic way. With a recent commission, we even went as far as to visit the original car that inspired this customer, with a colour sample, to check that it was completely correct.”

Yet Bugatti customers’ inspiration extends far beyond famous machines from the brand’s back catalogue. Recently, a customer ordered a Chiron matching the precise colour of his wife’s bespoke Hermès bag. “It happens quite a lot,” Jascha told me. “Another customer bought a Bolide, and wanted to replicate the carbonfibre finish from another car in his collection.

“He sent us a small carbon part from his car so that we could scan it and redevelop the carbon tint. It’s easy to do this with paintwork, but for carbon tint it’s much more difficult – the colour of another manufacturer’s carbonfibre can often be different. It took us quite a while, but he was kind enough to leave the little part from his car with us for a couple of weeks so that we could recreate it.”

Other customers come to Bugatti’s home in Molsheim, France with a completely blank sheet of paper, and instead trust Jascha’s expertise and their own preferences to create something special. With no singular source of inspiration, I certainly fell into this camp, and was curious to see how the Sur Mesure process would shape my Mistral. 

Jascha said: “Ninety percent of Mistral customers follow the step-by-step process. Most of the Mistral owners are familiar with the configuration process, because they have already purchased multiple cars with us. Other people are very excited and will have ten people with them discussing the specifications, so you jump back and forth more in that scenario. I often enjoy these commissions more, because it’s more conversational and less like a stiff meeting. Sometimes it also opens my mind to a different design perspective.”

To begin the process, Jascha posed a fundamental question: Should my design emanate elegance or aggression? This preliminary choice profoundly shapes the final product. Recent examples illustrate the contrast: ‘The Alice’, a bespoke Chiron with a delicate rose pink and white palette, epitomises elegance and femininity. Conversely, the striking red and black livery of the Bugatti Divo ‘Lady Bug’ falls on the more masculine and aggressive side of the styling spectrum.

Jascha said: “The majority of the cars are still more driven by carbonfibre and sporty colours, but things are generally heading in a more feminine and elegant direction. I think that’s because we now have quite a lot of women customers. Consequently, we are currently working on some cars that, in my opinion, wouldn’t have existed ten years ago – they’re dreamy and embrace motifs such as flowers and stars on the side… but I don’t want to say too much.”

This trend dovetailed with my own instinct to create something more subtle and elegant, which began with experimenting with midnight purple and a naked green carbonfibre that almost looks black. “In the past one-and-a-half to two years, dark green has been on trend,” Jascha explained. “From a historic perspective you also had British Racing Green, and we also had this request not long ago – it’s a good choice.”

However, it didn’t take long for my commission to do a complete U-turn, when I spotted stunning Ruby red paintwork in the configurator. “This is one of my favourite colours,” Jascha concurred. “In reality, it looks amazing. There was a time when nobody seemed to have this colour on their radar – I don’t know why. Sometimes when customers come to Molsheim, I pre-prepare some paint swatches for them. I’ve chosen this colour a few times and almost everybody falls in love with it.”

Admittedly, I felt flattered that Jascha approved of my choice of colour, which is the polar opposite of the blue hues typically associated with the marque. Part of Jascha’s responsibility at Sur Mesure is to protect the sanctity of the brand and ensure customers don’t end up regretting some of their bolder choices: “I will always give some recommendations – it’s part of my job to say if something isn’t tasteful. But taste is also very different in different regions.”

Having decided on a basic paintwork specification of Ruby against contrasting Grey Carbon, the most fun part of the commission could really begin: picking out the small personalised details that set any bespoke build apart. I remained fairly restrained with my choice of Polished Aluminium badges and air-intake surrounds, and resisted the temptation to option gold wheels – which often look great on Italian exotica. Instead, I decided on the Chiron’s more simple Classique 20-inch wheels, and decorated them with a contrasting diamond-cut pattern.

“A lot of people want to focus on the engine cover, because it’s considered the heart of the entire car,” Jascha pointed out, as we moved back to the engine bay. “That’s why we have several options here. The standard is cast aluminium, and for the Super Sport cars it is always carbonfibre. Or you could have it painted, or finished in polished aluminium.”

With that, Jascha reminded me of the turned-metal finish used to decorate the engine blocks and dashboards of pre-war Bugattis. Serendipitously, he then showed me a real example of this very finish that had already been prepared for a customer. We decided the bespoke turned-metal finish would be a great way to add some flair to the engine heads, while also subtly paying homage to the marque’s heritage. 

The finishing touch to the exterior was adding silver paint to the accentuation line running down the middle of the car. “The centre line accentuation comes from Bugatti history, and it also integrates nicely with the other aluminium accents we have on the EB badges and the wheels,” Jascha said.

With the exterior fully specified, Jascha and I turned our attention to the cabin, which took far less time and deliberation to complete, despite the breadth of options available. The specification was relatively conservative, matching the silver exterior accents with polished aluminium interior trim against black leather with silver stitching. 

My favourite part of the interior design was undoubtedly the leather and glass gear selector, which contains the motif of an elephant as if frozen in amber. “The little elephant sculpture references the Bugatti Royale, and you can even change the colours of the glass,” Jascha explained.

After an hour-and-a-half and Jascha’s expert guidance, my very own Mistral was complete, and I anxiously waited to see the results and the full build sheet. It’s fair to say I was thrilled with the results, although I probably wouldn’t be able to resist making some tweaks and alterations if I truly was customer 100.

Which leaves one lingering question: How much does it all cost? Jascha assured me that my relatively restrained commission would keep costs “close to the base price” of £4.25m. But then again: “Nothing is too beautiful, and nothing is too expensive.”

Find out more about Bugatti’s Sur Mesure bespoke programme here.

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