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The fastest road car ever

All hail the Bugatti Veyron, the world’s most expensive car that you can drive on a road, as opposed to a circuit. From nothing to 250mph in less than a minute. The audio system alone costs $30,000. Have you got $350,000 to spare? Then go for it. That will cover the deposit if you want to place an order.

And all hail to Jeremy Clarkson for featuring this mighty vehicle on Top Gear. It is this evening’s repeat, of the show first shown on December 11th, which I am now listening to.

Clarkson also wrote in the Times – on November 27th, but I doubt (see below) if any faster car has appeared since then – about the Bugatti Veyron, and the struggle to make it go as fast as it does:

Somehow they had to find an extra 30kph, and there was no point in looking to the engine for answers because each extra 1kph increase in speed requires an extra 8bhp from the power plant. An extra 30kph then would need an extra 240bhp. That was not possible.

The extra speed had to come from changing small things on the body. They started by fitting smaller door mirrors, which upped the top speed a bit but at too high a price. It turned out that the bigger ones had been keeping the nose of the car on the ground. Without them the stability was gone.

In other words, the door mirrors were generating downforce. That gives you an idea of how much of a bastard the air can be at this speed.

Volkswagen, the parent company, decided to make this Bugatti wonder car as a mere “engineering exercise”, and they are apparently taking an enormous loss on each one that they sell. Clarkson reckons this is a car Concorde, and that what with “everyone twittering on about global warming”, they might never again make another such.

Having, almost three months ago now, tracked down the latest Rolls Royce, this is my current must-photo car.

20 comments to The fastest road car ever

  • I haven’t seen one in the wild, but there was one (or at least a bodywork mockup of one) in the VW showroom on Friedrichstrasse in Berlin in the summer. It looked very fine.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    I read an article about this in the Sunday Times about several months ago. Wow. This car is insane!

  • Senator K

    Of course, the socialists of this world are wringing their hands complaining: “Why is Bugatti wasting resources on entertaining the rich when they could be working on a $500 car that everyone can drive?”

  • Julian Taylor

    The car was built by VW’s engineers just to see if it could be done and apparently cost Volkswagen over £5,0000,000 to build. I’d like to see Ferrari/Maserati now do a comeback to that or even McLaren.

  • Considering how few are going to be built I reckon chances of spotting one in the wild will be minimal. That said, back in the summer I did see one of the 28 Ford GT40s that have been allocated to Britain. And no, it wasn’t Clarkson’s. It was in Surrey however which, along with Cheshire, is surely to be its most likely habitat.

  • rosignol

    Our role in life is not to amuse George Monbiot, but to be amused by George Monbiot.

  • Verity

    This vividly illustrates the gap between testosterone and oestrogen. The shot of the Rolls-Royce driving through the brick wall reduced me to tears of laughter. Seriously – – if you can use that word through tears of laughter.

    Johnathan says of the Bugatti Veyron, “This car is insane!” with evident approval.

    Brian says, “All hail the Bugatti Veyron!”

    Julian Taylor reports with relish that it cost $500,000,000 to build.

    Yet through my tears of laughter at anyone thinking it was a worthwhile idea to drive a Rolls-Royce through a brick wall is the overriding thought that it is the venturesome nature of men, not women, that has brought us to this place in time. It wasn’t a Viking woman who thought, “gosh, if only we could make it to Greenland, I’ll bet there would be some other lumps of freezing, ice-laden, inhospitable islands with no dependable food supply that might take us to a new country.” It was the guys who thought, “Hey, why not give it a crack! It may work!”

    This is why I think David Cameron’s submissive notion that 50% of MPs ought to be women (besides that quotas are disgusting) is wrong, wrong, wrong. If there is a strong woman with leadership material, she’ll get in without quotas and most welcome she will be. But otherwise, let’s stick with that testosterone that has served humanity so well (and ill, with wars blah blah blah, but you have to admit, we’ve advanced from macramé in caves).

  • Considering how few are going to be built I reckon chances of spotting one in the wild will be minimal.

    Not if you are waiting with your camera in a wealthy Gulf State like Dubai or Kuwait. I’ve spotted a Ferrari Enzo, a Porsche Carrera GT, a Mercedes McLaren and two Koeniseggs to name but four supercars. If you’re gonna find a Bugatti anywhere, it’ll be here. I also spotted the car’s predecessor, the EB110 in an exhibition here, and there are not too many of them in the world.

  • Pete

    Gets through a whole tank of petrol in 12 minutes at full speed.


  • Julian Taylor

    err, £5,000,000 to build … need new glasses I’m afraid 🙁

  • A_t

    Wow, madness. Thanks for that link. Insane, insane car.

  • So it will outdo that one twin-turbo big-block Camaro on the salt flats. Big whoop. Will it beat one of these (US equivalent of a Hayabusa Locost, price under 15,000 USD) around a parking lot full of pylons? A Viper can’t.

  • JSAllison

    There are 3 early model P38s and a couple of B17Es sitting about 280′ below a glacier in Greenland, soon to be scraped out to sea. If you have the money for one of these blitzenthumper cars, how about preserving a bit of history? One P38 has been recovered and restored from this group. Google up “glacier girl” and you can see it.

  • Verity, women had much to do with where we are at this place in time. All those male explorers were just trying to get away from their wives.

  • Robert Schwartz

    The January, 2006 issue of Road & Track Magazine contains an article by Gordon Murray, designer of the McLaren F1 and the Mercedes/McLaren SLR which sets forth a Technical Analysis of the Veyron. (No URL yet, article available on newsstand but not yet at roadandtrack.com) Although he is careful to say nice things about the car, he was clearly not impressed by the design process or the result.

    The Veyron design process apparently began with a body shape and the power and Vmax specifications. Trying to make it all work was very difficult. The Veyron does not have a good areodynamic shape. As a result, the car is only 12 mph faster than the F1 which had 627hp and which could equal the Veyron’s Vmax with only 740 hp.

    You might also be interested in: “Bugatti Veyron 16.4: The fastest and most expensive production car ever, by Csaba Csere, Car and Driver Magazine, November 2005:

    But 230 mph is about as fast as the Veyron will go until you put the car into top-speed mode. This involves coming to a stop and, while the car is idling, turning a key in a lock on the floor to the left of the driver’s seat. When you do that, the car sinks down even lower on its suspension, until ground clearance has been reduced to a mere 2.6 inches in front and 2.8 in the rear. This setup also causes the front underbody flaps to close and the rear spoiler and wing to retract, although the wing remains tilted out of the body at a slight two-degree angle. These changes reduce the car’s drag coefficient from 0.41 to 0.36, and they reduce the peak downforce from 770 to 120 pounds.

    Before proceeding further, the driver is urged to verify visually that all these aerodynamic changes have taken place, as well as to check the pressure in the special Michelin PAX System Pilot Sport tires and inspect them for any damage. Developing tires that could withstand 250-plus mph while supporting up to 4800 pounds of car, occupants, and downforce was one of the major technical challenges of the Veyron, and judging by the comparative lack of concern about the tires during my run, I’d say this problem has been solved.

    Beyond this suggested checklist, there are a few catches in the procedure that will make it hard to perform a top-speed run on public roads. Once the Veyron exceeds 35 mph, if you turn the steering wheel more than 90 degrees, or so much as touch the brakes, the car’s configuration reverts to the handling mode.

    The reasons for this became clear during my first top-speed lap. With downforce reduced, the Veyron no longer cut through the air like some hyperkinetic fastball. Instead, it meandered slightly, something akin to a swift knuckle ball.

    I barely touched the car’s top-speed governor that was set at 253 mph (407.5 kilometers per hour) on that first lap, but on the second I held the car there for at least three of the back straight’s five miles. The combination of driveline noise, tire noise, and hurricane-force winds rushing over the car must have been deafening, but I don’t remember it, as I concentrated on keeping the gently meandering car within the center of the track’s three lanes.

  • Luke

    The fastest road car is IN FACT, the Weineck Cobra 780CUI it is made in Bad Gandersheim, Germany by Weineck Engineering. There us no road car more powerful, with faster acceleration, or top speed.

  • Andrew

    a caterham R500 would thrash the pants of a bugati veryon

  • Andrew

    a caterham R500 would thrash the pants of a bugati veryon round a tracck and it can get up to 60 in 2.6 secs

  • neil abbott

    bristol fighter is faster, better looking, hand built and BRITISH. bugatti is just another name reincarnated by the big boys to make test platform for all the tech stuff they haven’t got the balls to put in their own brand cars, just like maybach