Buying a Bugatti Veyron
It’s no wonder HR Owen is such a successful dealership; not content with selling me two Lamborghinis and a Carrera GT in the last year and a half, more recently they decided I was a prime target for an even bigger fish. It was not long after I had taken delivery of the CGT when another phone call came through from them.
Dominic Lancaster, the head of Jack Barclay Bugatti in London, arranged for a private jet to take my wife and I over to the factory at Molsheim, in the top right hand corner of France.
The closest airport to my house is Stansted, but we had to travel to Luton for this particular flight, which is still close enough to be a short trip. When we arrived glasses of champagne were waiting, and who am I to complain at that? As the plane sat refuelling on the apron, we sat inside and refueled ourselves on some seriously delicious sandwiches. Also in attendance were the two pilots; a couple of young chaps who were more than happy to explain to us all the fancy goings on in the cockpit. For a techno-junkie like myself, it was fascinating. But the best bit about private jet travel is not having to mess around with passport control, or stand in line as your shoes are checked for threatening toothpicks or explosive nail files. Less than a minute after leaving the terminal building we are safely on board, and preparing to taxi onto the runway.
At the other end there is an alcantara lined VW people carrier waiting with a Bugatti henchman, who whisks us swiftly off to the chateaux. Yet more champagne awaits us at the castle, along with a phalanx of Bugattis top brass. A bit of small talk later we start the factory tour. It looks as if there are only about twenty or so people who work in the factory, which is a good job as we are introduced to each and everyone one of them during our walk around. Surprisingly Julius, my chaperone for the day, doesn’t mind me snapping away with the digital camera; I guess all the secret prototypes are hidden away in a different part of the building at the moment. Julius is a patient man, and he puts up a brave face as I ask question after question I bet he has heard them all before. As I wander through the factory, I can see almost every stage of the cars build.
The most fascinating has to be the marriage of the engine & gearbox. As I stand in awe, drinking in the awesome engineering details, I notice the titanium bolts holding the two main components together. After what I had thought was a pretty innocuous comment about them, I am handed a set to take home as a present. That doesn’t happen in any other factory I’ve ever looked around! After a quick look at the power testing rig, where each of the cars 1001 horses is verified to be in rude health, it is off to the final stage, where one specimen is just being completed. Here for once I am not allowed to touch this car has undergone its ultimate 1238 point check, and is covered in angels film, ready for transportation to its new home.
Of course, all this factory stuff is interesting enough, but when there is a fresh looking Veyron sitting outside in the stable-cum-showroom, just waiting to be driven, it all seems to drag just a tiny bit. The torture is extended for just a while longer as we sit down for a bite of lunch, rounded off with superb chocolates. Eventually a new man is introduced to me Pierre-Henri Rafanelli. Mr Rafenelli was a boyhood hero of mine, when he raced in both F1 and Le Mans, and so having him as my chauffeur and instructor for the rest of the day is an incredible experience. After settling in the car, Pierre-Henri explains what he feels the machine is all about. In a heartfelt Gallic way, he tells me about the unlimited development budget, the lack of true competition from other supercars, and what he refers to as The Beauty & The Beast. The Beauty is the exterior of the car, which is admittedly striking, although possible not classically beautiful, and The Beast is that massive engine sitting just over our shoulders.
No matter what you say about the cars handling, which turns out to be superb, it is the engine which really defines the experience. With 16 cylinders, 4 turbochargers and two intercoolers, the minimum of 1001bhp is easily produced. When you combine that with an incredibly sophisticated and smooth 7 speed DSG gearbox, the result is a turn of speed that left me speechless the first time I experienced it, and every time after that it was only swear words that came to mind.
Soon enough it was my turn, and, wanting to experience the full performance, I had to ask Pierre-Henri how likely the local police were to throw me in jail. They know we are here, but we are careful and respectful. That was good enough for me, and soon enough I am being goaded into some serious speeds I dare not look down at the dials for a second. Back at the factory we prepare for a 0-100mph run. Five seconds later it is all over. In this car going fast is so easy it is almost ridiculous, and in such luxury too; it boggles the mind. Stopping is no trouble either, and I love the huge wing on the back, which flips up like the flaps on a 747 to help with hauling us back down to a sane velocity.
On the plane home all I can think of is whether it is worth the money, and what else can I eBay to get together a 200k deposit needed to confirm an order. The first question is answered on my second visit to the factory. I am there in the CGT, a friend has his Enzo, and a Pagani Zonda is also tagging along for good measure. The way the Bugatti blows past us all on the autoroute left me in no doubt the bank manager was getting a call as soon as I was back home. Strangely enough I was in the queue at a McDonalds drive-thru when I actually placed my order. I doubt if a Bugatti sales manager has ever had to wait for confirmation as the customer picked up their Happy Meal before
As it stands now, I think the car will be turning up in the middle of next year, and I am trying not to think about the staggeringly huge balance payment that will then be due. In comparison to that, the 24k it costs to insure pales into insignificance. All the same, I went through similar feelings with the CGT, and I have loved every minute of that car. Some people call me crazy I think the only real answer to that is Thank you.