By on November 23, 2010

Volkswagen, a top-tier player in the global auto business, is locked in an epic struggle. Represented by the most prestigious and legendary car in its expansive stable, the Bugatti Veyron, Volkswagen has spared no expense to vanquish… a little sportscar outfit out of West Richland, WA.

Shelby Super Cars’s Ultimate Aero, beat VW’s champion for the title of world’s fastest street-legal car, prompting Wolfsburg to “significantly re-engineer” the Veyron in a fit of pique (and at a staggering cost, no doubt). Bugatti reclaimed the crown with the $2.58m Veyron Super Sport, Top Gear went nuts, and the money was probably considered well spent. Until SSC, apparently unaware that it is tangling with a global industrial juggernaut, announced a new generation of Ultimate Aero aimed at “upping the ante on ALL levels.” And with styling provided by Jason Castriota of Pininfarina, Bertone and Saab, at least the next-gen Veyron-slayer won’t look quite so much like a Diablo replica. Having tangled with SSC already, how can VW not prepare a response?

Trouble is, the Veyron will be put down after 300 units… most of which have probably been ordered by now. If (and it’s a big “if”) SSC’s next-gen car beats the Veyron Super Sport 431 km/h (267 MPH)  VW isn’t left with many choices. They can either make another special edition for the very last model(s), or replace the Veyron with something faster. Or, they can listen to the critics, as exemplified by McLaren F1 designer Gordon Murray who said

The most pointless exercise on the planet has got to be this four-wheel-drive thousand-horsepower Bugatti. I think it’s incredibly childish this thing people have about just one element—top speed or standing kilometre or 0–60. It’s about as narrow minded as you can get as a car designer to pick on one element. It’s like saying we’re going to beat the original Mini because we’re going to make a car 10mph faster on its top speed—but it’s two foot longer and 200 kilos heavier. That’s not car designing—that just reeks of a company who are paranoid

Going back-and-forth with a company from somewhere off the Columbia Gorge reeks of precisely the paranoia Murray warns against. After all, nobody really cares who builds the world’s fastest street legal car… right? On the other hand, what would Bugatti be without all the pointless uperlatives? The only real winners to be found here are the lucky bastards who can afford to keep their $2.58m Veyron Super Sport in $42k sets of tires.

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18 Comments on “Top Speed Chicken: Will Goliath Blink First?...”

  • avatar

    That’s VW’s albatross, the Bugatti. Keeping it The Fastest is still cheaper than running an F1 team, right? At least VW is not competing against itself anymore, like when it made Bentley win Le Mans over Audi in 2003?

  • avatar

    This is a wonderful moment for car nuts.  Thanks to the bail outs, there are enough rich hedge fund managers and Goldman Sachs VPs around to fund this speed war for years.  I’ll bet someone hits 300 MPH next year.  Unless the SEC can confiscate these speedsters for insider trading.

  • avatar

    I’ve seen this Gordon Murray quote a lot. He said this before he even drove the Veyron, while it was still in development. So it holds no water for me. When he actually road tested it, he liked it. When anybody road tests it, they like it. Because it’s unlike any other vehicle on the planet. It is an amazing technological achievement, and the Super Sport is even better. SSC’s new Aero is striking in design, and I’m rooting for them all the way, but they have their work cut out for them.

    • 0 avatar

      Right, I remember that too, that the Murray quote was before the Veyron has been produced. He also loses cred because the car that the Veyron was trying to best in top speed was his own McLaren F1, so he was ridiculously vested in the outcome.
      And once he drove the Veyron, he was remarkably impressed.

  • avatar

    I think the Bugatti is a great achievement even if someone else beats it to higher top speed.  Its horsepower rating was special, and it’s a full-blown luxury car despite being so fast.  Not my style, but it’s still cool.

    The SCC Ultimate Aero looks it was designed with one thing in mind, and that’s just not as challenging.

  • avatar

    Murray is correct in his opinion on the Veyron– it’s a glamor car built exclusively for glitterati bragging rights, and in making it idiot proof to go very fast in a straight line, they’ve made it about as interesting as a Lexus.

    What SSC does right is build a car for drivers without all of the electronic BS, that just happens to be very, very, very fast. Styling aside, the things I like most about the SSC are the fact that it does what it does better than the Veyron, with half as many everything, on relatively normal running gear.

    Yes, you could spend $42,000 for a set of Michelins, which Bugatti/VW helpfully had made in some silly oddball size specifically so that they could charge those not quite ripe in the head 40 grand for a set of PS2s. But why in the heck would you, when other cars do it better for a fraction of the cost? It’s the sort of marque arrogance that would make Ferrari blush. If for nothing else, that’s why the Aero does it for me.

  • avatar

    2.5 million and some change will buy you a 6/7 passenger 414 mph PiperJet. That’s 414 mph that you can legally use anywhere to get where you want to go. The cost of the tires are more than what Commuter Airlines are paying pilots these days if you don’t want to fly it yourself.

    • 0 avatar

      If you want to compare the Bugatti Veyron SS to a plane, it would be the Concorde, if you must compare it to a private jet, the then Cessana Citation X is the way to go

  • avatar

    Does VW really want to play the power war games? Do they think Mclaren and Ferrari are going to sit idly by twiddling their thumbs whilst Bugatti take all the glory?

  • avatar

    I think it’s lovely that we still have this competirion going on, I was really afraid it would stop when the Koenigsegg failed to beat the Bugatti, but it look slike Bugatti has taken the ‘challenge’ from SSC. The Bugatti is really an impressive engineering achievement in that it is possible to drive it like a ‘normal’ car, and in that it is really luxurious and weighs the same as Titanic. Th eonly big problem with it is that it was obviously designed by the same guy who drew the second latest Passat, so it’s technically a 90’s design. Which I can’t understand if anyone thinks look even remotely good. (allthough I guess quite impressive up close, with it’s tall rear and wide fenders.)

    • 0 avatar

      Agreed. It’s a nice time to be a spectator.
      Besides, it gets Jason to kick out a really cool design that looks much better than the Bug.
      -The interior will probably still have all the polish and user-friendliness of the seedier parts of Athens, Greece, though.
      Watching the videos on Top Gear and hearing the Bug’s engine note alone are reason enough to love this race. That QTW16 sounds like Cerberus and Satan’s girlfriend in a threeway with a Pulse-Jet.

  • avatar

    The fastest car ever on the autobahn was a Mercedes Benz W125 at 268.8 MPH in

    ….wait for it…..


    This stuff was done 73 years ago! Nothing to see here… move on.

    • 0 avatar

      Indeed, very true, not to mention the Callaway Sledgehammer Corvette which did 255 mph in 1988, with only 880 wild turbo’d ponies in what is essentially a revised 55 chevy smallblock engine  :)

    • 0 avatar

      The 8-bit digital speedo in the sledgehammer counted backwards above 256mph, it was driven and the engine was built by john lingenfelter.

  • avatar

    Richland Washington is also the where a bunch of Pontiac Fiero drivers meet every year for Fiero Northwest.  I was thinking these might slightly pressed and folded and modified Fieros.   (lol).

  • avatar

    So much about the Veyron puts me off that even though its technical wonder is well beyond impressive, the car and company ultimately leave me cold.
    To begin with, it’s an ersatz Bugatti, even it’s built in Molsheim. VW simply bought the rights to the name and the Bugatti estate there that they use as business offices for Bugatti.
    It’s also ugly. Looks more like a bug than a Bugatti.
    Plus they screwed Barry Zekelman, a nice man. Took his money and wouldn’t build what he ordered, then it took a lawsuit to get his money back, and still wanted him to pay the dealer commission.
    Few things represent Piech’s arrogance  better than Bugatti.

  • avatar

    I grew up in Richland in the 70s, and West Richland was the tiny town just west of us in which it appeared mandatory for one to live in an old trailer and have a half-dozen heaps in the yard (city now trying to change that image, slowly).

    Imagine my shock and surprise when I learned only months ago that it was the source of the world’s fastest production car!  The founder of SSC is a (younger) classmate of one of my good friends.  So how can some young kid in some podunk town pull this off?

    I’m still scratching my head.  Why didn’t I do this myself?  But shoot, I never imagined that people would pay $4 for a cup of coffee either, or $3 for a bottle of tap water . . . stupid stupid stupid!

    Oh, and I don’t think the reference to the Columbia Gorge helps nail down the location any, or was that intentional?

  • avatar

    I don’t really care about the top speed of a car that likely none of the owners will never reach.  What makes it worse is how truly ugly the Bugatti is too.  If I could afford any car I wanted, this would not be on my list.

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