Top Speed Chicken: Will Goliath Blink First?
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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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?
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.