Classified of the week: Rowan Atkinson's sports saloons


Lancia Thema 8.32 and Merc 500E go to auction with no reserve. And no leather

Rowan Atkinson – aka Mr Bean – is a bona fide car nut. Chief among the many wonderful vehicles he’s owned is a McLaren F1, one he paid £910,000 (S$1.68 million) to fix after a little accident in it.

This pair is almost certain to cost less then repairing a ding on a three-seat British sports car. They’re two of Atkinson’s cars - being auctioned next month - and while they can’t quite compete with a howling V12 hypercar with gold in its engine bay, they’re pretty special in their own right.


First up is a Lancia Thema 8.32, a car that’s good for gauging a) how old you are and b) how nerdy you are. If you know its significance, you can probably answer ‘very’ to each. What appears to be a quite maroon old four-door is actually a Ferrari-tuned special. The Alfa Giulia Quadrifoglio of its day, perhaps.

The engine isn’t an 8.32-litre (sadly), but a 2.9-litre V8 with 32 valves, borrowed from the contemporary Ferrari 328, though running a fairly modest sounding 215bhp. Still enough for 240km/h, mind, which wasn’t as common in saloon cars then as it is now.

This one was registered in 1989 and has belonged to Atkinson for seven years. He favoured it for its velour trim, which the ad states the real-life Mr Bean “much prefers” to leather. Now you know.


Its service file shows he’s spent a ‘considerable sum’ keeping it maintained, which given the car is offered with no reserve, seems very generous. A niche Italian super saloon could be had for an absolute steal here.

Prefer your sports saloons to come from Germany? Also offered with no reserve is Atkinson’s Mercedes 500E.


It’s another car you may need age and nerdiness to identify, but what you’re looking at is perhaps the Mercedes E63 AMG of its day. It’s a 5.0-litre V8 four-door, with around 320bhp and a 250km/h top speed, allowing it to edge the Thema should you ever end up leaving an Autobahn slip road alongside one.


It has 80,000km on its clock, tons of history and is Atkinson’s second 500E. He bought one when they were new, and acquired this 1993 car a couple of years ago to rekindle his fondness. This one caught his eye because it has cloth seats. Yeah, he really doesn’t like leather.

Either of these could prove to be an absolute bargain at the Silverstone Auctions Race Retro sale at the end of February. Bid on them before we do. 


STORY Stephen Dobie

Bugatti has 3D-printed a brake caliper… from titanium


Yes! It’s the latest thing you didn’t know we could, or should, do!

Not content with being the go-to name for anything ruthlessly quick or obsessively over-engineered, Bugatti is now staking a claim for a third adjective: over-complex.

OK, so maybe they already had a pretty decent handle on that one – check out our deep dive on the Chiron here in case you’ve forgotten – but they seem to be hell-bent on driving that message home. How? By 3D printing a brake caliper from titanium. When this news landed on our desk (or, y’know, popped up in our email notifications), we thought that Bugatti had 3D-printed a caterpillar. And, as amazing as a 3D-printed Bugatti caterpillar would be, it was in fact a caliper. Also, we probably need to start getting more sleep.

Moving on. As you’ll know, 3D printing has been around for a good while now, but it usually relies on specific polymers or easily sintered metals (a complex term that means heat-forming without melting). And you might have to consult a very clever person for this next part, but titanium is apparently quite difficult to manipulate in a 3D printer. Because science.

Nevertheless, Bugatti, who should be the all-powerful and unbeatable antagonist in Cars 4 – “You can’t beat him, Lightning… he’s made from 3D-printed titanium, and you’re a stock car that sounds eerily like Owen Wilson” – has found a way to do much science and 3D print titanium. Well, it’s a titanium-aluminium-vanadium alloy. So, basically adamantium. And you could argue that’s even more impressive.

So, you’d imagine the new brake caliper is, in some way, better than what’s gone before. And you, sir, ma’am, or however you self-identify, are correct. A single square millimetre (i.e. not a lot) of this Titan-Alu-Vanadium alloy can support 125kg (quite a bit). Even so, the caliper – the biggest ever developed for a road car at 41cm long, 21cm wide and nearly 14cm high – only weighs 2.9 kilos. Just for comparison, the Chiron’s bespoke, forged-aluminium units weigh nearly five kilos each.

But couldn’t Bugatti just mill a block of billet titanium, like they do with aluminium? That’s a negative, good buddy – titanium is quite strong. So strong, in fact, that Bugatti developed a way to lay fine layers of its super-alloy dust, melting each of the 2200 layers with 400-watt lasers, in a process that takes 45 hours per caliper, because it’s easier than trying to mill billet titanium. So, now you know.

This is all well and good, but what does it all mean for you? Well, it’s a lot like the S-Class; to begin with, technology like ABS and curtain airbags were cutting-edge and only available in the most rarefied air. But, little by little, the technology was repeated, democratised and adopted, to the point where the technology we expect in a supermini would leave an Eighties S-Class in the dust. But we still remember the S-Class as a technological pioneer.

So, could that happen with Bugatti’s 3D-printed caterpillars… er, calipers? Erm… check back with us in 20 years, yeah? 

STORY Craig Jamieson

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