''I always wanted to race, and the easiest and cheapest way to start racing in Croatia was to buy an old car with rear-wheel drive and a bunch of spare tires to just use until they blew up drifting,” 33-year-old Mate Rimac tells me over an early morning Zoom. “So as soon as I turned 18 I bought an old BMW 3-Series”–whose engine exploded soon after, eventually leading him to convert the car to electric power. Sitting in his offices just outside Zagreb, the bearded entrepreneur and EV visionary behind Rimac Automobili is recounting the beginning of a journey that has now led him to not only build his own hypercars but co-create a new company called Rimac Bugatti—joining forces with the most prestigious luxury marque in the world—with Rimac Group holding a 55% stake in the new venture.
That 3-Series—a 1984 E30—is where it all began. “I thought, I’ll make an electric one and maybe there is a business I can build out of it,” Rimac recalls. “It’s not like I did market research or analysis, and an Excel spreadsheet spit out that it makes sense to make electric cars; I did it out of passion. But I wanted to make something big, not just a hobby project.” Sourcing an electric fork-lift motor and some batteries, Mate quickly realized buying and modifying a battery management system would not suffice: he would have to design his own. It took only a year to get the initial electric BMW running, but that early iteration required numerous updates and engineering experimentations to perfect—a Herculean endeavor that would bear fruit when his revolutionary homemade EV would go on to notch five FIA and Guinness World Speed Records.
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