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Did Vietnamese youths build a replica Bugatti Chiron car using clay as claimed in viral video: A fact-check

While the youths made a full-functional Bugatti Chiron supercar replica using fibreglass, steel and other materials and used clay to make the mould for the body, it is being claimed that the car is made of clay

A video clip was shared by several social media users yesterday, claiming that it shows some Vietnamese youths building a replica Bugatti car using clay. However, the video has been shared with misleading claim, because the final replica car is not made using clay, and the short video has been prepared by editing a 45-minute-long original video which was widely reported two months ago.

The 2:20 min long video shows the youths picking up clay from a field, placing it on a frame of steel pipes and plastic sheets, shaping and chiselling the clay to give it the shape of a Bugatti Chiron supercar. The video also shows the youths driving around a steel frame with an engine mounted on it, giving the car a proper paint job, and finally driving the Bugatti Chiron replica in its traditional blue and black livery on the streets.

The video was posted by a verified Twitter handle named fgnszen, with the text, “A one-year study of Vietnamese youth who built their own Bugatti out of clay mud”. The Tweet has got almost 74000 retweets, over 8000 quote tweets, and over 384000 likes.

The Tweet also received thousands of replies, with many wondering how long a ‘clay car’ will last. Many commented that the car won’t be able to sustain even a road bump, and it will be shattered into pieces after a crash. Others commented that it will be very heavy and therefore will consume a lot of fuel etc.

The same video was also shared by several other Twitter users with same or similar claim, that the youths made the car using clay.

The fact of the ‘clay Bugatti car’

However, the claim that the replica car is made of clay is completely wrong and misleading, because, the final car was made using steel and fibreglass, which actually makes it a very strong car. The short video does show some bits of fibreglass work, and the steel frame, but due to the accompanying text, many people blindly believed that the final car was also made of clay. Many other netizens fact-checked the video, saying it was not made of clay.

The short video has been made from the original video posted by the youths themselves who built the car. The Vietnamese youths have a YouTube channel named NHẾT TV dedicated to their efforts of building replica car, and the video posted on Twitter was edited from a 46-minute-long video of the entire process of making the car they had posted on February 1 this year, with the title Full 365 days to homemade a million dollar Bugatti supercar. This video, and other videos of the car posted by the youths, were widely reported by media all across the world.

The video shows the youths starting with a steel frame and wrapping plastic, roughly the shape of the car body, forming the base to hold a mould. They then apply loads of clay on it, and painstakingly shape it to look like a Bugatti Chiron, in a process that must have taken weeks or months, the entire car was ready in a year. After they polish the clay car to give it a very smooth surface, the clay model is ready, however, it is not the final car, but only the model to form a mould, to be used to make the final car’s body.

After the clay model is ready, they apply plaster to it. The youths secure the plaster with metal rods, and after the plaster hardens, the clay is removed from under the plaster mould. Now the car enthusiasts are left with an exact negative copy of the car made of plaster.

After the mould is ready, the youths apply fibreglass on the entire inner surface of the mould using resin. After the fibreglass is cured and hardened, the plaster mould is removed, exposing the fibreglass panel body of the car, which is exact replica of the original clay model.

The youths also built a chassis for the car using steel pipes, and even made discs for the brakes and an A-arm suspension system. The car gets a small four-cylinder Toyota engine, far cry from the turbocharged 8 litre 16 cylinder engine that comes with the original, one of the most powerful engines on a commercially produced car. However, the engine is installed in the middle, like a proper sports car.

The video shows that the youths then install the fibreglass body on the steel frame, attach wheels, and give it a proper paint job. Some parts were bought, like the windshields, windows, LED lights etc, but the tail light unit was made from resin. The interior of the car including the dashboard is also made using fibreglass using the same clay modelling techniques. For some parts, they just used cardboard instead of clay.

Therefore, the original video posted by the youths who made the car makes it clear that the car was actually made using steel, fibreglass and other material used in cars, and it was not made using clay. The clay was only used for making the model of the car to shape the fibreglass, which is a standard practice.

While the 365 days video shows the entire process of making the car, it does not include everything. The NHẾT TV channel has posted several other videos, showing how they made and installed several other parts of the car. They are also continuously modifying and improving the car, and have posted several videos of the same as well.

In other videos, we can see them making seats, wing, steering wheel etc, and installing windshields, power windows, rear-view mirrors, electrical and electronic systems etc, and other videos show the detailed works done in various phases, parts of which were shown in the 365 days video.

Clay modelling in automobile sector

While many people expressed shock that the car was made using clay, actually most car models we see on the road starts as clay models only, just like the ones made by the youths. After car designers finalise a design for a new car model, a clay model is made based on it, which is a 3D representation of the new car. It lets designers see what the car will actually look like. A clay model also lets the designers identify changes needed to be done to the design, which may not be identified in paper or computer drawings.

Even though nowadays computerised modelling and 3D printing are used to make models of a new car design, many car makers still use clay models. While some automakers no longer use it for mass-produced cars, high-end luxury car makers still use this process. For example, this video shows Porsche using clay modelling to design its new 911 car.  

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Raju Das
Raju Das
Corporate Dropout, Freelance Translator

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