7 June 2018

Press conference for 42083 Bugatti Chiron

Last week, on the final day of the LEGO® Fan Media Days in Billund, a special press conference was held for the release of LEGO Technic set 42083 Bugatti Chiron with designers from both Bugatti and the LEGO Technic teams.


On the podium, from left to right, are:
  • Jachin Schwalbe (JS), Head of Chassis Development, Bugatti
  • Achim Anscheidt (AA), Bugatti Design Director

  • Aurélien Rouffiange (AR), LEGO Designer

  • Andrew Woodman (AW), LEGO Technic Senior Design Manager

AFOLs used this unique opportunity to ask some interesting questions about the design of both the car and the set, and Are J. Heiseldal has transcribed the most interesting responses for you here.


What was the most difficult part of the design process?
AR: Having so many functions that you need to pack into this small model. We really had a good challenge there. But also the shapes; the car is very curvy, so using LEGO Technic elements was a challenge. We had to find the right pieces. I guess the rear of the car was the most difficult.


What would you say is the most important thing to get right, is it the form or the function?

AR: Everything has to be right. It’s a Bugatti. Everything has to reach the top level, both when it comes to authenticity and functionality. Nothing is left to chance.

How do you actually start the design process? Do you start with the general shape and form, and then functionality?

AR: When we decided to do the Bugatti Chiron, we know that it was going to be an extremely difficult car to recreate. So we started with the exterior of the car first, to see if we could actually create a LEGO Technic version of it. I then spent six months doing the outside, and after that six months doing the inside … and finally six months putting everything together.

Obviously, from LEGO’s point of view, you’ll be selling the product. But what are Bugatti’s plans for the LEGO model?

AA: I’m not sure if I am in a place to say what the next steps for Bugatti are, concerning our partnership with LEGO. But what I personally have in mind is, first of all, to buy one of these models for my father for Christmas. It will keep him busy until summer. And then to bring it home to the team and to my design team, to thank them. I lost one of my most valuable designers to the project for a while, so to say, and it was a pleasure to do so, but it’s also a designer who is quite brilliant when it comes to thinking between technique and design, and that’s what you really need as a good, qualified Bugatti designer. You need to be able to create a win/win situation with engineering. As a designer, you may want to create a specific line that you like, but if the engineering chiefs don’t agree, there’s no chance. So you need to come up with something that serves the performance of the car, something that serves the purpose from an engineering point of view, and their intentions and their ambitions, but at the same time also satisfies our needs from design, so that it becomes a very timeless, typical Bugatti product. My intention as a next step with this model, is to bring this home to the team and thank a couple of key people in my team for their efforts and their brain capacity and the collaborations that they had with the LEGO team.

The marriage process, when the chassis and the body of the car is merged to form the final product, is a very significant and important part of the Chiron and the way you build the car. How did that translate to LEGO Technic?

AR: We wanted to make this model as good as possible, so we looked at how this process was, how the real car was developed. They have this marriage process, and so we want the people who will build the model to experience this. It was crucial for us to make this a part of the build experience.



How difficult was that for you to implement?

AR: Extremely difficult. A big challenge. At the end we always want to deliver a good quality product, so when you put the things together, the two parts, the two sections, then it has to be stable and deliver, and the functions still have to work. So that gave us a lot of headaches. But it was exciting to try to implement in the final model as many functions and as many features as possible, such as the marriage process.

Is that something that you took into account from the beginning, or did you design the model and then afterwards try to figure out how to get the marriage to work?

AR: When I started designing the model, I did the exterior first and therefore didn’t bother with the marriage process. This came later when I actually visited the factory in France. We saw that that was an important part of the process and realised we had to replicate that. And we made it work. But it came later, it was not the first thing that we had in mind.


Do you think there are parallels between designing the real car and designing the LEGO model?

AW: Lots of parallels. We have a team of people that are putting our sets together, so each of them has their own speciality, and it’s just the same as you see with the styling and the chassis development – they’re just two of the parts of the real car. It’s also very much about combining the exterior of the car with all the functions that we want to put in it. You always run out of space. You always get to that point where you get stuck, and then you either find another way of doing it, or you work around it. I can imagine that’s exactly the same kind of discussions that you guys have as well.

AA: I see similarities in terms of enthusiasm and passion, and there are lots of car nuts in Andy’s team. But to be honest, I also see a lot of differences in our daily job. We are, for example, so trained to work with reflections on the car. If you think of surfacing in car design, we are reading quality from reflections. We do that subconsciously, but when you look at the reflection on a car, take the rear fender of a Bugatti Chiron, for example, or a Porsche 911 – there’s not a single line on those elements. The reflection does all the talking. Your eye subconsciously judges the quality of those surfaces, and the car as a whole, by those reflections. And it’s our job to tune those reflections into place, to make them more tensioned, more exhilarating, exactly how we want the character of the car to be.  This is something that is very essential to develop in classic car design, and in earlier days this was done a lot with Plastilin and clay, materials that I don’t think LEGO work so much with – but that’s part of our trade, and that’s where we are worlds apart in terms of surface creation.


Did the car designers have to work to understand the limitations of the LEGO System? And if so, how did you deal with that? You can of course not reproduce everything exactly the way you would like.


AA: The Chiron is a very organic car, and there are some obvious limitations to the LEGO System. But the challenge of this project was to work in those limitations, and then tickle out the maximum of it. There are certain areas on the car – take, for example, the Bugatti line that follows the curve of the doors – there’s no LEGO part that can replicate that exactly. We were not allowed, and rightly so, to create new moulded parts; that’s the whole idea. And therefore, the LEGO team started to bend tubes into place to create those lines, and fix those tubes in certain spots to find the characteristic DNA lines of Bugatti that work very nicely on the model; the horseshoe grille on the front of the car and the Bugatti line. This was a game of ping-pong between the two teams. It was also important to give the car the right stance – it needs to sit right on the surface, the wheels need to be as far out as possible. And everything that the car designer uses in his daily toolbox to make the car look sexy, also applies to the LEGO Technic designers, in our experience.

AW: I can add something to that. Achim mentioned the ping-pong between the teams, and that’s really critical for us when we go into creating a model like this. We sit down at the very beginning and show a very rough sketch model, or as good as we can get it at that time, and then we talk with them, we try to understand what the key details are, the key features of the real car, in this case the Chiron; which things we really must try to focus on and work hard to get into the model. We won’t be able to do everything we want, and if we do one thing, that may stop us from doing something else. So it’s very important to get that dialogue early to understand what those critical things are. The guys on Achim’s team gave us the most amazing feedback, very detailed, very precise, and that allowed us to move forward, to the next step, and then the next step and the next step, so that each time we showed a model there was a progression. I think that just like with the real car, Aurélien pushed the limits for what was possible to do in this model. Things like the rear light – it’s very important that it looks be correct, and it needs to be a single line. We understand the amount of time and legislation that the Bugatti people had to navigate to get that line onto their, so of course they want to see that line in the LEGO Technic model.

AA:It’s also a fact that in car design, and on our car, things that are perceived to be a certain way, but are not. I had to collaborate with the LEGO team to fill them in on a couple of… let’s call them secrets of car design, secrets on our design. For example, when you look at the front of the car, the lines of the headlamp appear to be horizontal, no? But they’re not. If you saw the data, they’re actually quite angled. If you left them just straight, the car would get a fairly sad face, with drooping eyes. You have to make them look as if they are straight, but angle them up quite a bit. The same thing goes for straight lines, which you very often have with LEGO Technic parts: A straight line on a car, and especially on a full-size model, will always look like it is hanging. That’s why you have to give it a certain crown; then it looks straight. With LEGO Technic parts, we had to try to compromise, and use a couple of car designer tricks on it, so that it would replicate the look of the actual car.


For the Bugatti representatives: In your opinion, when you look at the final model what, for you, is the most impressive aspect of the final LEGO model?

AA: The part that you don’t really see from here: The inside. This I really appreciate the most. The real quality comes out when you look at the drivetrain and the development of the drivetrain, and the gearbox, and the shifting mechanism, and the sixteen-cylinder engine. When you’re rolling this car, you see the sixteen pistons going up and down. When I saw that for the first time, I had a tear in my eye.

JS: Same here, the chassis details and the steering, everything that’s on the inside – I was amazed to see this level of detail inside this 1:8 car. Amazing.

With such an amazingly complicated inside, that probably doesn’t scale perfectly to the Bugatti since you’re having to use LEGO elements. Did you decide the scale by starting with the inside and say, “OK, it has to be this big,” and then build a frame around it, or did you start with the Porsche and say, “We want it to be roughly this same scale”?

AW: That was quite easy, I think you just answered it yourself a little bit. We wanted this car to be the same scale as the Porsche, and of course, the Porsche is that scale because the LEGO elements allow it to be in that scale. It’s the same Technic elements that we’re using again, and so of course the scale becomes very similar, because of the way the elements can sit with each other. Then we have to look at the different elements that we have, to make sure that they create the feel and design aspects of the real car. The headlamps, for example, were just a really cool coincidence: Aurélien discovered that a 1x1 brick, inside out, would fit perfectly for the scale of the lamps. We want all of the cars to be the same scale, so that you can collect them. That’s the easiest answer.

In the 911, there was some room for motorisation. In this one, there is no room, apparently, for motorisation. Was that intentional – to put more emphasis on some of the interior detail rather than motorisation?

AW: Both with this car and the Porsche, the intent was to focus on the design detail and to create a really cool, big, challenging build. But in an interview right after the Porsche came out, I said, “give it until the end of the week, and somebody will make a radio controlled version.” And I can repeat that: By the end of next week, there will probably be an RC version of the Bugatti on the Internet, and that’s great, because just like when people buy a real car, they want to personalise it, they want to make it their own. With LEGO models, you can add those Power Functions components and make it radio controlled if you want to. Bugatti also offers a tremendous amount of customisation to their customers, and that’s one of the things that’s comparable with our products: The ability to customise our models.

Why these colours? The Chiron comes in a variety of colours, so why did you choose dark blue and azure?

AW: I think Achim and I can probably answer this at the same time. These colours are just absolutely synonymous with Bugatti through the history. The two-tone blue, the two blue colours, they they just belong together and they just are Bugatti.

AA: Exactly. The colour descriptions say it all: French Racing Blue and Royale Bleu are the two tones. They are the bottom and soul of the colour identity of our brand, dating back to pre-war times.

As a car designer, you’ve obviously seen the Porsche that they did earlier, so you know what they can do with LEGO. But did you at any point look at your car and think, “there’s no way that they’re going to be able to make a satisfying product”?

AW: I don’t know about Achim, but we definitely did…

AA: To be honest, I called Michael Mauer from Porsche, who is the chief designer there, and said, “how in the world do I go about this?” He then gave me some advice and showed me where the potential and the limitations lie, so it was good that with Porsche, within the Volkswagen Group, we already had the first partnership to rely on. That meant that I could go into our working collaboration with a bit more background, thanks to Porsche.

What else did the LEGO team learn from the experience with the Porsche?

AW: In terms of the process, we pretty much did the same as we did with Porsche, with Bugatti. I think the main difference was that the level of involvement that Bugatti brought was even higher. Their feedback was very precise and really educational to us, and I think that really helped us pull out the details in the model. In terms of the process that we had to develop the car, it’s pretty much the same – still complicated, still difficult, still challenging, but on this occasion, the challenges were even higher, because we wanted to push ourselves and cram even more details into the model. But I have a question for Achim, actually! If we do another car like this, what advice would you give to that company’s design director?

AA: A warning! (laughs) However the product is, it is a joy to work together, but there’s also joy to be found in the culture. I have very good friends in a small Danish community in Berlin, where I live, so I knew one or two things about Denmark, about the design culture, to just encounter what LEGO means. I’d never been here, I’d never been to Billund, I’d never seen this small village that is a world empire within its expertise. I was never really aware of that, and I asked myself why I didn’t know this before. Every chief designer, I think, could get a sense of the respect that I came to have for a group like LEGO and the overall operation and the charm, and also the power that you have, and authenticity around the world. The experience of a world community that not only spurs the creativity in kids, but also gets adults excited. There is a reason why I’m saying I would like to give this to my dad: I know he would be fascinated by the process of putting this together. All this that surrounds the community of LEGO, I’ve started to understand slowly, but surely, and I would recommend to every other design team and chief designer that they take some time to discover what LEGO has achieved.


Next time, we go into detail about the Chiron set build!

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3 comments:

  1. I loved this part:
    "If you think of surfacing in car design, we are reading quality from reflections. We do that subconsciously, but when you look at the reflection on a car, take the rear fender of a Bugatti Chiron, for example, or a Porsche 911 – there’s not a single line on those elements. The reflection does all the talking. Your eye subconsciously judges the quality of those surfaces, and the car as a whole, by those reflections. And it’s our job to tune those reflections into place, to make them more tensioned, more exhilarating, exactly how we want the character of the car to be."

    That's a very cool way of design. How does the reflection make up the lines in the design.

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  2. Great job Are, thank you.

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  3. I can definitely relate on the outside-in design philosophy. Having focused a lot on cars in a LUG that's famous for giant skyscraper models, I find that most of the others design from the ground up, exactly the way you'd build from instructions. I work mostly on LDraw, designing the body first. Once I know how far apart the pieces need to be, it's _so_ much easier to figure out how to anchor them to the chasis vs. having to constantly tear the model down to the bare bones every time you want to make a tiny adjustment.

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