It’s two years now since the last Veyron left Bugatti’s Molsheim factory in France. Since then, it’s been replaced by the Bugatti Chiron — a 1479 horsepower monster, with jaw-dropping looks and a £2.5 million price-tag.
But no matter how good its successor, for many, the Veyron simply cannot be eclipsed. Many commentators and industry experts see the Veyron as one of the most iconic — perhaps the most iconic — supercar of all time. And though it may have lost the VW Group money, as a prestige project, it couldn’t have been a greater success.
In this post, we fondly look back on perhaps the greatest supercar of all time, in 5 facts and an opinion:
1. The Veyron lost a mint for the VW Group
Most people know that the Veyron lost money for the VW Group. What’s amazing, though, is quite how much it cost them. According to analysts cited by Business Insider, every single Veyron that exited Molsheim may have lost VW a staggering $6.24 million. Now, Bugatti disputed that figure, and we’ll never know for sure — but given the R&D costs and how the Veyron was constructed (see below), it’s not so hard to believe.
2. The Veyron’s world record for ‘fastest production car’ lasted 7 years
It was July 2010 when the Veyron streaked into the record books, attaining the highest ever top speed of any street-legal production car. At the VW’s Ehra-Lessien proving ground, the Super Sport variant hit 431.072 km/h (267.856 mph). At that speed, the car covers nearly 120 metres every second. That record stood for seven long years until just last month, when the Koenigsegg Agera RS finally reached 447.19 km/h (277.87 mph). Guinness are still in the process of verifying that.
In an age of horsepower monsters, and dazzling new automotive technology, seven years is an age. It’s a testament to the vision behind the Veyron and its uncompromising design.
3. Not everyone admired Bugatti’s pursuit of top speed
Today, the Veyron is lauded as a landmark in what’s possible for a car. But that wasn’t always the case. Early in the design process, no less an expert than Gordon Murray, designer of the McLaren F1 commented:
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…That’s not car designing – that just reeks of a company who are paranoid…
However, even the sceptical Murray had to admit, “Where it absolutely succeeds is as a massive technical achievement.”
4. The man behind the Veyron was Ferdinand Porsche’s grandson
The driving force, so to speak, behind the Veyron project was Ferdinand Piëch. According to Wired.com:
In 1998, as chairman of VW’s board of management, Piëch spearheaded the acquisition of Bugatti. He also pushed the Veyron into development and essentially dictated its target metrics and styling.
It turns out that Piëch’s grandfather was none other than Ferdinand Porsche, designer of the Volkswagen Beetle. Can designing iconic cars be genetically transmitted? Looks like it.
5. The Veyron was beset by design problems
The finished article may be a miracle of engineering, but the Veyron didn’t start out that way. The design process involved a complete re-think of the engine layout, and an embarassing near-crash of their pre-production vehicle in front of journalists at Lacuna Seca. In addition, one of the managers hated how the ‘finished’ test-car drove, leading to a late-in-the-day replacement of the steering rack.
According to Jalopnik.com, the problems stemmed from working backwards: instead of starting with great design principles and seeing what numbers it could achieve, Bugatti started with the target top speed numbers, then had to figure out how to get them.
6. Building the Veyron was an exercise in patience
It’s pretty obvious that you can’t build the world’s fastest car without some time and precision. Business Insider has a fascinating article that details just how extreme this was. For example:
- It took 4-5 weeks to assemble one car
- Each engine took a week for technicians to hand-build
- The fuel tank had 250 separate components and took three days to complete
- Other hand-built components included the brakes and even the bolts
- Veyron tyres took one hour to produce — about 120 times longer than an average tyre.
No wonder production costs were astronomical!
We’ve seen that the Bugatti Veyron was a nightmare to design, cost the VW Group an arm and a leg, and that leading voices in the industry were sceptical about the project. Yet VW stuck to their guns, and the result was what maybe the high point of the petrol-powered car. Will we ever see its like again?
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