Nine years. That is a long time in the automotive industry. Bush was in the White House. No one had heard of Lady Gaga or Katy Perry. That is a long time for the fast food, instant coffee, Facebook and Twitter real-time update generation to forget you. Yet, here we are in 2014, and people are still raving about the Bugatti Veyron, essentially unchanged since 2005.
What is it about this car that has made it a legend while it is still in production? It’s not the price, even though $3 million-ish is quite high. Other new cars have sold for more. The Lamborghini Veneno, for example, is $4 million. It cannot be Bugatti’s legacy, as outside Europe the name was unknown due to the company going bankrupt in the 1960s. The only name recognition that might flicker through a potential buyer’s mind would be the poorly attempted revival in the 1990s with the hideous EB110. It also cannot rest on the “World Record Holder” status as the fastest car on Earth. The SSC Ultimate Aero broke that record and was the fastest car for 3 years. Ever heard of it? The Bugatti is also not in huge demand due to exclusivity, as there are currently around 400 produced so far. The previously mentioned Veneno? Three. Yet, the Veneno is unfamiliar even in some enthusiast circles, but the Veyron pervades car culture and sinks into the awareness of even those generally uninterested in cars.
The mystery of this vehicle’s status is unsolvable. Until you experience it. It looks like nothing else on the road. Some say that is a good thing, as the styling in questionable. But it is the size that gets you. The Veyron is smaller than expected in person. A W-16 engine with 4 turbos, 3 intercoolers and 3 radiators should be a monster of a car. Instead, the Veyron is roughly the size of a Mitsubishi Eclipse, just 8 inches lower. Also, the sound gets you. There is the usual burble of high end exotic distinctiveness, but there is something beneath it. There is a kind of jet turbine whine, as if the engine is on loan from the German Air Force. That is when it hits you: this is not a car.
It is an engineering feat. The Veyron is the equivalent of a Rolex Oyster Perpetual Cosmograph. This is the Hoover Dam and the Panama Canal. This is the Titanic without the icebergs. This is the Saturn V rocket launching Apollo 11. Formula 1 race cars are slower than this production car, so that race series is not where the envelope is pushed. That mythical place is inside the Molsheim Bugatti factory. The Bugatti Veyron and its successive variations are not about the getting from place to place quickly, or even looking stylish while doing it.
The Veyron is an experience that pushes everyone into the future, by showing us the very best that we can achieve.