At the Bugatti booth at the 2015 Geneva Motor Show, a Veyron sporting a deep red and black color scheme sat pretty under the lights that weren’t already being soaked up by the arrival of the Civic Type R, the Koenigsegg Regera, or the McLaren 675LT. It’s hard enough to standout at one of these shows, but it’s especially difficult to garner the same attention when you’re displaying a 10-year old design, Veyron or otherwise.
However, there was something special about this Veyron: It was the last model that Bugatti will build, number 450 of 450, spanning a production run that saw speed records fall and expectations of what a production car could accomplish soar. Dubbed the La Finale, this car was Bugatti closing the book on the Veyron as it moves forward with its next earth-shattering creation.
Sporting 1,001 horsepower and a price tag of over $1 million when it was released in 2005, the Veyron was a quantum leap in terms of what was possible from a street-legal, consumer-grade vehicle. It’s quad-turbocharged W16 engine was — and is — a custom-engineered marvel created from two Volkswagen-sourced, narrow-angle V8s bolted together to form one of the most defining powerplants in automotive history. Its tires were custom made by Michelin and can run as much as $30,000 for a set when they need replacing. Inside, the Bugatti was more on par with Bentley than other go-fast cars such as the Ferrari F40 or the like. It had a stereo. Air conditioning. Leather seats and actual door handles where others had fabric pulls to save weight.
The Veyron represents a sobering display of excess in every way, and for that reason, it has developed a reputation as the symbol of runaway expenditures and pointless pursuits of speeds and power that no owner will be able to use fully. It’s too expensive to be a daily, and serves as a cornerstone of many a rap mogul’s expansive collection. For this reason, it’s seen by many as a useless spearhead without a handle. But that’s exactly why you should love it.
NASA is perhaps one of the lesser-funded government programs (at least in comparison to military, educational, and healthcare spending), but it’s arguable that few other agencies have been as instrumental in moving technological advancement like the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. School buses are safer because of NASA know-how from 1991. The breathing apparatus used by firefighters was derived from the system used by astronauts. Modern GPS owes its existence to a C-language package developed by NASA in 2000. Lightweight, super-strong materials used in rockets and the shuttles have trickled down to the pedestrian, civilian level and it’s all thanks to the engineering prowess of NASA.
The Veyron — and others, like the Koenigsegg Regera, McLaren P1, Porsche 918, and even the Tesla Model S — are the NASAs of the auto industry. They might be toys for the rich, ones that few will ever see in person let alone own, but the consumer isn’t the full end-game. The real benefits come from the engineering lessons learned during the design and build process.
As the guys at XCar note in the video above, the process of simply building the Veyron meant problem solving. And with each new solution, more problems popped up as a result. When the engineers finally got the equation right, it’s probable that they knew more about what didn’t work than what did. This process of learning is beneficial for the industry and science as a whole, not just Bugatti.
It’s apparent that Bugatti wasn’t doing this for selfish, corporate strategy reasons. You don’t build just 450 hyper cars at a loss for bragging rights alone, even if you’re tethered to Volkswagen AG’s wallet. The Veyron was a result of a very real desire to push the automotive envelope, and push it they did. However, you can only push so much before needing to figure out your bankroll, and that’s what another VW-affiliated company has done. It’s why Porsche sells SUVs.
Purists screamed when Porsche introduced the Cayenne in the early 2000s, as they saw it as an affront to Porsche’s pure sports car heritage. However, though Porsches command hefty premiums, the margins on the 911, Cayman, and even the Boxster aren’t enough to support the level of research that goes into developing cars like the 911 and its 4 billion variants. The Cayenne — and now the Macan, and even the Panamera — offer the cashflow for Porsche to play around. It’s why we have the 918.
And so, if you’ve been looking at cars like the Tesla or the Veyron as toys made by the rich for the rich, try approaching it from a boarder angle. Look at the deeper impact, the lessons learned from their existence. NASA didn’t build the Shuttle because it expected a fiscal return on its investment, it did it for the pursuit of knowledge and the progress of humanity’s comprehension of space. Let’s give the Veyron the same benefit of understanding.
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