Posted on 16 April 2012 by Chris
Photo’s and Story: Chris Runge
I’m a numbers geek, a bean counter. I pride myself on having supported an automotive addiction with my automotive addiction. My dream of having a self-funded rotating collection has actually worked. Finding a desirable car, whether it be a classic or modern vehicle, buying it right, learning it, loving it and making it better than how I found it for the next owner. This has been a passion of mine since I was 13 years old. Now at 32 years old I’ve owned over 70 cars and have done so without going into the red. Most importantly making great friends along the way who love the cars just as much as I do.
So when I was asked to determine if the Volkswagen designed, French built Bugatti Veyron 16.4 Grand Sport Supercar could be considered a collectible several thoughts came to mind.
- Can a car that costs $1.9 Million USD – – – NEW, Right now, In the current world market, be considered “collectible”?
- At what point does your estimated, $1.9M investment earn a return.
- Could it be worth $2.5M in ten years?
- How much will it cost to own in those ten years?
- What is the true cost of ownership?
- Where would I get the car serviced?
- Does the Veyron possess what it takes to win me over? So far, very few “modern” cars have it.
- How can I answer any of these questions without getting behind the wheel?
I struggle with the term “Modern Collectibles”. Shouldn’t a truly collectible item stand the test of time? And as for the test of time, could it be true that somewhere around the mid 70’s auto manufacturers, smitten by safety regulations and smog control, began to lose the characteristics collector cars posess? Sure there are post ’74 cars that might be desirable due to low mileage, limited production, engineering quality or racing history but the majority of these, with a few exceptions, I think most pre-date 1975.
And speaking of Character… Having driven cars all the way from Pre-war to modern exotics. It seems to me that somewhere along the way a certain character that really great cars, even family cars possessed, has been lost. In losing the character many cars became blah, boring, and unfortunately most feel similar to each other in the way they drive. This is why you won’t find many “reviews” on new cars on The Motoring Journal. I do drive them, but I was always told “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all”.
For me, it takes a lot of hard driving and maneuvers to make today’s refined cars really stand out. So many feel so much alike. In comparison, a SWB 911 put up against the 246 GT Dino can be differentiated with very little drive time and ridiculous “tests”. When you do get these cars into the maneuvers and shakedown they really come to life, both with their own pizazz! Follow me?
So what makes a car collectible?
- Production #’s- The lower volume of any built car, the greater the rarity. Rare is collectible.
- Racing History- Winning races always adds to a vehicles value to some extent. The more significant the race, typically the more value. Multiple races with the same car, even more value.
- Documentation- A paper trail documenting the cars history, services, ownership etc. Always adds value.
- Engineering Feats- If the automobile utilized technology or engineering marvels it makes the car more collectible. If the manufacturer did this with success, it adds even more value. However not all engineering “feats” were successful…
- Cult Following- If the vehicle has a faithful following you typically have added value.
- Film/Print/Movie- People collect movie cars. The star factor can add a few bucks.
- Manufacturer Provenance- Perhaps just the name “Bugatti” will make hearts melt (so far I’ve found this true). If the manufacturer is known for exquisite design, engineering, power, rarity and so-on, it can make their cars collectible.
The Bugatti Veyron
So the date was set for Friday, March 9th, 2012 at 11AM. Factory Pilot Butch Leitzinger, The Metallic Sprint Blue – Bugatti Veyron Grand Sport and yours truly were determined to find out what makes this Supercar so special. Butch gave me a quick run down and walk-around with the Veyron before we set off. On first inspection I like the cars size. So many “sports cars” and “exotics” are getting big and bogged down with a lot of nonsense that they’ve lost the “sports” or “exotic” part of their name. Not the Veyron. The sexy, tightly skinned body is a form that has been shrink-wrapped around function, around perfection. In performance weight is everything. It’s the common secret behind every performance car. The Bugatti wears and throws its weight around with such agility you would never know you’re are driving 4,938 lbs of machine. I guess when most of your weight is made up by your power-plant and the components to transmit that power to the ground, you’re going to perform just fine.
The interior is thoughtfully laid out, simple to understand and use. Entering and exiting the car is easy unlike many other exotics. It’s user friendly. Even the seat-back has a spot to hang your jacket. The seat adjustment sliders are manual, again a no-nonsense approach. Of course you can have your Veyron built with power seats and just about anything else you like. Telescoping and tilt for the steering wheel are simple to get dialed in. Rear view sight from your side mirrors is great. The interior rear view mirror has a built in reverse camera which might be the one gadget that I found difficult to use in the glaring Florida sunlight when the targa top is off.
So we set off for some road time but we thought it best to stop and fuel up. The 26.4 Gallon fuel supply requires premium grade dispenser gasoline. In “easy” driving conditions the W16 Mid-Chassis Engine configuration is capable of an estimated 14 MPG. Not bad for 16 Cylinders and 4 Turbos that make 1001 Brake Horse Power. But when you put your foot into it, and we did, you drop down to the 5MPG consumption level. Something that’s not so super about a super car. But I can think of far worse things to spend money on than fueling a Bugatti Veyron….
Upon exiting the fueling station we were limited to a busy 40mph traffic zone. I thought this may make the car difficult to drive. However, this was far from true. What struck me with the Veyron is that it delivers, all the time, on all levels it connects to the human senses, at any speed. It never lets you forget that you’re in the cockpit of the pinnacle of styling, engineering and power.
Let me explain. From an artistic design perspective you can spend hours looking at this car parked. The Veyron is a work of art in every respect. A drivable sculpture. At city speeds with the top off, the growling engine is constantly inhaling and exhaling, combine this with the 4 Turbochargers and you have one of the most magnificent engine tones I have ever heard. I am convinced the acoustical elements flowing into the cockpit are enhanced due to the design of the rear engine enclosure and intake ports.
The intake ports are positioned just behind the driver and passengers headrest. They double as aerodynamic cowls similar to the streamliners of the Avus track days. You can see they are like bullhorns sending sweet overtones from the engine, subliminally whispering into your ear at lower throttle. It’s as though you are taunting this beast with your foot on the accelerator pedal and it’s sending audible love notes back to you on demand. At one point I actually told Butch to listen closely as the turbos spooled and wastegate blow-off said my name “Chrrrrrisssssss”! He heard it too!
As we head South from Amelia Island down First Coast Highway the road opens up and traffic thins out. I have a healthy fear of this car although I am quickly getting the idea we have a mutual respect for one another. Something that all healthy relationships should have… Now that we’re out of the 40mph zone I can finally get it beyond the first of seven gears. Don’t get me wrong, first gear is easy driving. The paddle shifting with the DSG type dual clutch system is effortless. While in 1st gear, with the dual clutch, 2nd gear is already engaged. When the time comes (which is mind boggling at 6,000RPM) to shift there is no clunk or jarring as felt with certain other exotic cars paddle shifting. The Bugatti Veyron shifting is fluid and the power surge is incredible. As expected the engine clearly changes tones from gear to gear but the feeling is like nothing I’ve experienced in any other transmission design. The other point I should make is that you really cannot screw up in shifting this car. You can’t over rev because the car will shift for you at redline. When in manual mode, you’re in control all they way to red. The only mistake one might make, if you’re accustomed to other forms of paddle shift, is letting off the accelerator in “between” gear shifts. With the Bugatti, you keep your foot in it, as much as you dare…
This type of power and velocity is simply narcotic. For a junkie like me, it’s addictive. Imagine standing in front of an “idling” jet engine. The whistling turbine power. This is the sound of the 4 turbo’s singing at lower RPM’s. They’re always harmonizing and at around 3,000 RPM they ever-so slightly over-ride the engine tone. As you lay your foot into the accelerator pedal, the engines growl turns into a roar. The turbo’s, with minimal lag are right on boost and catch up to the engine harmony. All while the car is rocketing from your previous speed, whether it’s 30MPH or 130MPH. This is the point where most would say your “Pinned to your seat”. I beg to differ. You’re on the verge of getting sucked into a 16 cylinder monster! The seat feels like the only thing saving you from being devoured! It’s a roaring lion. Under full load, the Veyron is pulling something like 1.7G’s of force. Addictive.
The windows automatically rolling up at 97mph minimize the cockpit wind noise. With the top off the car, the cabin wind was hardly noticeable until upwards of 120MPH. Top on, the driving experience was never overpowered by wind noise, even in excess of 150mph.
As you would expect with the all wheel drive system, the Veyron is stable at any speed, connected to the driving surface. The rear spoiler protrudes upward to assist with downforce. Entering, driving through and exiting turns at any speed is exciting in this car. Many cars do so much of the driving for you, they cause you to feel disconnected from the machine. The Bugatti is different. It is constantly working to bring you into a more intimate driving relationship with the car and the road. At times I felt the car knew exactly what I enjoy and look for in motoring, sometimes more than I knew myself. This connection will deepen your passion for driving. Imagine taking the best of every possible aspect in automobile engineering and driver experience in one automobile. This is the Veyron.
The bond the Bugatti Veyron creates between man and machine might have something to do with the developmental testing as Butch explained, “To properly program the cars computers, testing was done at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah. A driver would go out with a Bugatti technician and laptop in the passenger seat. The driver would perform sudden swerves and erratic driving maneuvers while the technician, often holding on for dear life, would watch the cars computer system on his laptop and program changes accordingly.” How would you like to be the 200MPH guinea pig on that R/D day? This attention to fine tuning has paid off in huge dividends to those fortunate enough to own or even get behind the wheel of the Veyron.
And speaking of 200MPH, you’ve probably heard of the “Speed Key”… Without the speed key you’re limited to a mere 230MPH. Yes, to reach the Bugatti’s top cruising speed you must use a key to unlock the full 253MPH driving mode. It reminds me of my childhood when dad finally took the baler twine (Redneck Governor) off the carb linkage on the go kart. Suddenly, there was a whole new world of speed!
With the Veyron’s speed key you’re not unlocking more horsepower. What you’re unlocking is a slightly lowered stance, a different pitch to the rear spoiler and the front air ducts close up. The speed key is strictly aerodynamic. I began to wonder if unlocking the speed key sends a beacon back to the Bugatti factory, letting them know someone is about to have the ride of their life? Either way this is engineering excellence.
Unfortunately on Amelia Island it was difficult to find space to truly stretch the Veyrons legs. I did however come up with a place where we could give the Veyron some room to play.
If you followed my coverage from Amelia Island 2011 you may have enjoyed the Hangar House story. I thought it might be best to use the airstrip as a safe place to see what the Veyron can really do. Hangar House and Airstrip owner Bill Amos thought it was a splendid idea under one provision, he got a ride.
At the airstrip, we safely reached 150MPH + cruising speed with room to brake. The runway itself isn’t particularly long but this was the best way to truly feel the refined, unending power this car has. At 150MPH where many cars begin to taper away, the Bugatti is just getting started. It is absolutely amazing. Under braking the rear spoiler turns into an air brake. It literally flips up to brake against the air. In my opinion, one of the many great design features of the car. From 150MPH the braking was effortless and as exhilarating as the acceleration. The car never gave an inch in extremely hard braking, even on the runway’s not-so well traveled surface. From a safety and usability viewpoint, this is a car you would be confident putting your wife, mother or other loved one into the drivers seat.
This French built Supercar assembled on the Bugatti family property known as Chateau Saint Jean possesses all of the character qualities that I would look for in a collectible car. If you buy a Veyron you’re in the “Top Brass” of the Supercar world. There are currently 325 Veyron, Grand Sport and Super Sport cars combined in the world. Throughout the US, there are 10 factory trained technicians to service your Veyron. And if you were wondering, as I was, the highest mileage privately owned Veyron checked in at just over 20,000 miles. Factory test cars have well over 100,000 miles and still going.
But what about the cost?
Bugatti Veyron Cost of Ownership
- Purchase Price: $1,400,000.00 EURO or at today’s exchange rate $1,866,619.37
- Approximately $130,00.00 in sales taxes depending on where you live and how good your accountant might be
- My car insurance quote for 1 year: $38,849.10 (With Discounts!)
- Estimated Annual Service (suggested every 3,000 miles or 12 months): $20,000.00
- Tires: 1 Front $6,500 and 1 Rear $8,700.00
- Misc Service and detailing: $7,000.00
- Annual Fuel Estimate for 3,000 Miles: $1185.00
- Initial Purchase w/tax est: $1,996,619.37
- Annual Total Cost (including tire usage) : $97,434.10
- Monthly Estimated Cost of Ownership: $8,119.51
- Daily Estimated Cost of Ownership: $266.94
- Hourly Cost of ownerhip (24 hours a day): $11.12
- Driving Cost Per Mile: $32.48
Note: Estimated Costs do not include annual State registration taxes which seem to be rather vague and inconsistent with my research…
It seems to me, when you reach a certain monetary threshold in automobile value there is a protective bubble from massive depreciation. Market value might fluctuate a little but I don’t think the collector car market has ever truly “crashed” and I don’t know that it ever will.
Additionally, It’s safe to guess that the majority of people who are buying Veyrons now are not affected by economic downturns. I’m sure those who are buying Veyrons in 15 years will not be affected by the “global financial crisis”. I would imagine buyers of this caliber do not use common excuses to haggle on price, like some of us would. They like it, they buy it. And I know they’ll like the Veyron.
After all things considered, to answer the question of the Veyron being worthy of “Collector” status. I would say without a doubt, yes. Aside from specific race history (because of the lack of a class/series for it to race in) the Veyron meets all of my criteria for a collectible vehicle. And as far as standing the test of time well… Look at what vintage Bugatti sales have done. Bugatti, even with an absence in the company’s timeline, has stood the test of time.
With the Veyron being so young, only time can answer the $1,900,000.00 question… What will my ROI look like?