You May Never Need the New Bugatti’s 1500 Horsepower, but Why Risk It?

by Matthew Bedard

Our correspondent makes a pilgrimage to the gearhead's holy of holies for an encounter with distilled automotive excess.
There is something decisively Californian about the storied identity of super sports car specialist: Bugatti. Hold on. Bear with me. You see, France-located, German-owned, Italian-named, the world’s most prestigiously sexy auto manufacturer has—if not a similar proclivity to polyamory—an “assembled from many” cultural makeup like the Sunshine State (consider: SoCal’s own vegan pizza burrito).

Yet, as we listen to Bugatti tales from Julius Kruta—Head of Tradition—between bites of tails (lobster, not lore) and sips of Sauvignon Blanc (the wine, sensibly, doesn’t stray Italo-German), it’s apparent what’s gone on here, within the walls of founder Ettore Buggati’s fabulous Chateau St. Jean is—aside from this sassy fashion mag’s September issue theme uniting LA and France—cooly without comparison.

Let’s then, enjoy the handsome specs of the brand new Bugatti Chiron, the reason we’ve voyaged to Alsace in the remote Northwest of France to Snapchat and chat snappy around this beautiful beast—commencing with a walk ‘round its chic atelier, a stone’s throw from Chateau St. Jean, whereby uber-wealthy clientele spend the day matching dashboard leather tones with mommy’s favorite rhinestones.

The Chiron, a decisive 300HP foot forward from its 2005, 1200HP predecessor—The Veyron—boasts a cool 300mph speedometer inside its curvaceous, naughty body. Five driving speeds, inclusive of “Autobahn,” duh, also features the maximum, Top Speed mode, which requires a special key, and, well, a death drive that would have left Mr. Freud slipping over himself. Eight liter, 16 cylinder engine. Then there’s the veritable carbon wizardry used throughout, of which we’re told would stretch nine times the distance between planet Earth and the moon were its fiber strands laid out end to end. To boot, it’s weight defiant, handles like Baryshnikov, costs a slim $2.6 million wiggling.

Kruta remarks of Bugatti’s unusual course of provenance and ownership [dormant mostly from the ‘50s until an Italian purchase in the ‘90s, and eventual ownership by Volkswagon] through a World War and other such nuisances, “Between 1871 and 1914, this was part of Germany,” he says, thumbing a slide show at the end of our beautiful banquet. “Mr. Bugatti created his cars first in Germany because this was a part of the German Reich. Yet, Alsace belongs to France—where it should be and where it really belongs—if you consider the River Rhine [which borders the current France and Germany]. And I am German so this is quite a big statement.”

The wine continues and Kruta arrives in the slideshow at a snap of the handsome, artistic Bugatti men. He continues, “In those days [the 1930s], people were actually wearing hats. And you will see Mr. Bugatti in the light suit in the middle there, pointing at something. Probably a pigeon. They were doing a shoot in the gardens of his chateau and he was preparing to shoot. And Jean Bugatti [son of Etorre, and also an engineer and designer]—who was sometimes a little bit rude to clients and journalists—he simply picked up a hat off somebody, threw it in the air, and actually just shot through it, to the amazement of most of the crowd; not to the owner of the hat, certainly.”

A round of laughs. Today’s small crowd indeed remains amazed, but more so for the sizes of the brains beneath their respective hats here in Molsheim, and what they’ve managed to create. Head of Design, Achim Anscheidt, earlier, described the rigorous ideation that went into the re-thunk Chiron, inclusive of an “immense competition between some 30 to 40 designers.” Task: envision the exterior of the would-be fastest consumer car on the planet, bearing in mind of course aerodynamics and a brash embrace of its signature “C-curve” along the door frame. This was won by Sasha Selipanov, a young Russian sporting a beard and an Iron Maiden t-shirt (I spared the carbon lover a heavy metal joke). Selipanov guided our hands in attempting a Bugatti pencil sketch after his speech on what the competition asked of him. Mine looked like a droopy brick of raisin bread.

But so it goes with expertise: by the few, and very often for the few. See, the glamorous arrival of the new Chiron, of which only 500 will be produced—from the fair in Geneva to the manicured driveways of existing Bugatti clientele—is a bit like those once in a lifetime astrological affairs in our far-flung skies: magical. Take heed, though. For whilst enchanted with the spectacle above, you might find your hat tossed skyward and pummeled with gunshot. For the prankster isn’t fixated on what’s o’er head; he’s somehow responsible for making these pretty stars tumble.

After the curd and lime dessert, I share with Anscheidt my bold, blue-on-brown color scheme for a would-be Bugatti I’d conceived of earlier in the atelier while experiencing the customer paint-picking stage. He looks at it—over a loud polka-dot-bow-tie, mind you—and firmly remarks: “hideous.” I thank Anscheidt for his polite, but thorough assessment of my fictional color choices, and sneakily pocket my proverbial hat, a glossy photo of a car that never will.

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