I think I’ve made my position on those expensive gleaming suppositories of automotive excess we generally call ‘supercars’ quite clear: they’re stupid. But that doesn’t mean I think they always have to be stupid. In fact, I think their path out of the caves of stupidity is, ironically, with an injection of more pure, weaponized stupid.
What I mean by that is massively-sized engines with as few cylinders as possible. No more V12s, V10s and W16s; it’s time for the one-cylinder supercar era to begin.
My issue with supercars like the Bugatti Veyron mostly has to do with the ratio between the engineering and the actual use of that engineering. It’s wasted. With a car like the Veyron, you have a staggering technical achievement: 16 cylinders, 1200 horsepower, well over 250 MPH top speed, all in a comfortable, drivable car. Yes, it’s an amazing achievement. But it doesn’t mean shit.
Aside from knowing these numbers and occasionally saying them as you rub away some invisible speck of dust from your Veyron’s hood, what do these numbers matter? Nobody is racing their Veyrons — they’re too damn expensive. Most sit in climate-controlled garages, and at best get paraded around fancy parts of cities at low speeds. All that engineering is wasted.
Plus, speed and power just aren’t the great markers of wealth and elitism they once were. You can get a modified Hellcat with Veyron-scale HP for a price several mansions cheaper than a Veyron, and I suspect on a track a Focus RS with the right driver could spank a Veyron’s gilded ass. It just doesn’t matter anymore.
But you know what still matters? Drama. Spectacle. The main reasons people bought Veyrons in the first place, if we’re honest. Hyper-sophisticated engines have ruled supercars long enough. We get that the VW Group can make a W16 engine with a billion radiators and produce enough power to give the Hulk a colonic. Fine.
What we need for a new generation of supercars is to treat the engineering with the same gleeful exuberance as, say, the body is treated in a Pagani Huayra. Less science and more drama.
That’s why my specific engineering proposal is this: the next generation of supercars need to have massive-displacement engines with as few cylinders as possible.
Will these be good engines? No, not technically. Will they be dramatic engines? Oh hell yes.
Imagine something like a 7.0-liter V-twin used in something like, say, the next generation Viper. A pair of huge, wastebasket-sized cylinders sticking out of that long hood, lurching and thumping. Or a massive, 8.0-liter flat-twin mounted right behind your back in a Lamborghini, the car powerfully shaking its ass back and forth with every revolution of the crank.
Or, maybe best of all, think of a Koenigsegg One:1 that really lives up to its name, with a lone beer keg-sized cylinder displacing 12.0-liters, laying longitudinally and horizontally in the back of a sleek body, rhythmically thrusting along at a hypnotic 150 RPM idle, almost luridly.
Sure, they’d be almost undriveable, but who gives a shit? When they’re stopped in front of a Dubai resort, think of the crowds that would gather to hear the unholy rumble made by these engines when you stomped the gas?
For getting around more easily, I figure these would all be hybrids, with electric drivetrains helping to make these cars usable at low speeds and in town. Those engines would still be running, charging the batteries, hypnotizing everyone around with their powerful rhythms. They’d be primitive, powerful, intoxicating.
When you opened them up on the highway, I have no idea just yet what the driving experience would be like. Probably similar to a big-ass Harley Davidson V-twin, or something, just lots, lots more. I’ve driven several single-cylinder cars, but they’ve all been 500cc or less. How those would scale up to massive dimensions sounds like a fascinating experiment to me.
Now, I know what many of you are likely thinking: Jason, you idiot, these are like full-sized Hot Wheels. These cars are the most crass, unsophisticated things you can imagine. Also, would it kill you to lose a few pounds?
Well, critical anonymous voice, you’re not wrong. But here’s the thing: it doesn’t matter. Of course these are ridiculous ideas. But supercars are supposed to be ridiculous. These aren’t serious performance cars, they’re attention-hungry status signifiers and attention magnets. There will still be a place for more rationally engineered cars, but this is a niche that needs filling as well.
It’s time to build these supercars so they actually perform the jobs they’re intended to do, without having to rely on tedious explanations of horsepower and thermal management to a crowd of people rapidly losing interest.
Supercars need to be really treated as rolling sculpture, inside and out, mechanically and aesthetically, with the full potential of their engineering targeted to meet the goal that will actually happen.
No designing and clever ideas will be wasted here. Every decision made to develop a 10-liter inline twin will pay off, in noise, in motion, in vibrations, in feel, in look. No longer will brilliant supercar engineers lament the waste of their work. If people are going to buy absurd supercars for inane reasons, at least make them the best in the world at achieving those inane goals.
So, to recap: supercars need huge engines with, at most, three cylinders. They need these engines visible, striking, loud, and dramatic.
If any major supercar manufacturer has any questions, you know where to find me, sleeping in a dumpster.
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