The Bugatti Veyron is an offensive, overweight, inelegant supercar. But as a streamlined locomotive for the open road, it's a class of its own.
The Veyron’s fundamental deviance from supercars may have been normalized by its longevity—it’s been around for six years—but if you stop and think about it for a
second, the Bugatti Veyron is highly abnormal for its genre. Although the concept of a supercar is a bit fluid, the approach to designing them has rarely been sheer corporate ego and adherence to a set of arbitrary performance targets. A supercar’s performance is a function of its engineering and not the other way around.
The Veyron is a two-ton Turbopanzer, its engineering mind-boggling but the opposite of elegant. For years, I harbored an active dislike for everything it stood for. Its corporate vanity badging, its ugly looks, its wayward birth. Then I saw and heard one go and it suddenly made sense.
The Bugatti Veyron is nothing but a streamlined steam locomotive for the open road.
When you think about it this way, it makes complete sense. The sound its 8-liter W16 engine makes is not a mellifluent supercar sound: it’s the heavy, industrial sound of a locomotive. Its chunky looks and open piping are downright Victorian, the age of tea clippers and locomotives. Its engineering approach is alien to supercars but very much like how industrial equipment is designed, around specific and pre-set performance targets. And it may be ludicrously expensive compared to even a Pagani Zonda, but it’s quite a bargain compared to owning an actual locomotive, with the added boon of not requiring rail infrastructure.
Add it all up and you’ve got the mother of sales pitches to the plutocrat who’s got everything: your peers may be zigging about in Zondas this week and in Huayras the week after, but can they do a streamlined Hudson move on the Taconic?
So the Bugatti Veyron is not a mindless corporate power play at all. It’s just another example of Ferdinand Piëch beating everyone at the game by not even playing the same game, another take on eating Ferraris for breakfast and Vorsprung durch Badass.
Photo Credit: Simone Brunozzi, Peter Orosz, Southern Methodist University, Central University Libraries, DeGolyer Library