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Dustin LindenSmith

father | musician | writer

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bad john

1,000 HP Bugatti Veyron

Jeremy Clarkson of the London Times
on Bugatti's new supercar

This is arguably the world's coolest car. The most expensive, too, at 810,000 British pounds, $1.65M Canadian dollars, or $1.4M US dollars. It was conceived by VW's former boss Ferdinand Piëch after he bought Bugatti (whoa -- how much did that cost?). He wanted to create the world's first 1,000 HP, 400 kph (248 mph) supercar, and even though the most well-known supercar, the 627 HP McLaren F1, can reach a top speed of 385 kph (240 mph), it's well-known that cars have functionally very little control at those speeds. Basically enough wind slips underneath the front end to lift the front wheels up off the ground, either making you lose steering control or else sending the car  spinning through the air. (FYI, 200 mph is fast enough to lift a jet plane or level a city.)

Anyway, these nutbars at Bugatti started by building an engine out of two twin-turbo Audi V8s mated side by side to create a monster 8-litre W16 engine with four turbochargers and 10 radiators. Then they had an F1 company build a special gearbox (i.e. transmission) to harness the power, which was a feat in itself that required five years and 50 engineers to perfect (in F1 racing, the gearboxes are usually discarded after each race because they're chewed up so bad, but this design was supposed to last for years).

Their next challenge was in aerodynamics, because even though they'd built an engine that could theoretically go 400 kph, the car body's wind resistance was preventing them from going over about 360 kph, which, incidentally, is the highest effective speed in F1 racing. So they mucked around with a few things in the wind tunnel to bring the drag down and the speed up, and eventually they got it right. But the end result is a car with so little downforce that if you tried to turn a corner at speed, you'd pretty much just keep going straight. From the article:
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.
Jeremy Clarkson, a well-known British auto journalist, actually got a chance to drive this hairy beast, and it sounds like it was a superlative experience. At speed, the car covers 370 feet per second, and takes the length of five football fields to come to a complete stop. Clarkson's description:
I didn’t care. On a recent drive across Europe I desperately wanted to reach the top speed but I ran out of road when the needle hit 240mph. Where, astonishingly, it felt planted. Totally and utterly rock steady. It felt sublime.

Not quiet, though. The engine sounds like Victorian plumbing — it looks like Victorian plumbing as well, to be honest — and the roar from the tyres was biblical. But it still felt brilliant. Utterly, stunningly, mind blowingly, jaw droppingly brilliant.

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skygypsy December 22nd, 2005

awesboss December 30th, 2005
I notice that Israel has their own version of the Bugatti Veyron: the oy-veyron.

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