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15th Anniversary of the Veyron

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What does the car above have to do with an online magazine covering wine, food and craft beers?  Plenty, we say.

Our title, Taste California Travel, reflects our mission of bringing you entertaining editorial about touring with a culinary flair. Yes, travel to—and within—California can be done by air and rail, but most of it happens on the road.  When we began this digital version of our magazine, we made sure we included a section on cars, because that’s how most travel is accomplished. Articles for this section appear on an occasional basis. We publish wine and beer reviews, but we don’t review cars. Others do a much better job of that than we could, anyway.

Driving a practical car makes sense.  However, while a Toyota Camry is reliable transportation, it isn’t likely to stir any passions. But who doesn’t want to dream? That’s why so many of us enjoy televised car auctions. We take pleasure in sharing our good experiences with readers (site visitors), whatever the subject. Such was the time when we attended a Barrett-Jackson event some years ago. It gave us the opportunity to write about the auction—the centerpiece of the weekend—but also share our visits with owners of an on-the city-streets car show and even reminisce about a weekend driving a Chevy 409 convertible.

Unfortunately, that’s the only time we’ve been able to attend an auction in person, but we’re regular viewers of the Barrett-Jackson Auctions several times each year. The next one will take place from May 8 through 17 on an online basis only. We enjoy getting periodic communication from the company and, on occasion, have reprinted an article from their newsletter (with permission, of course). Their latest missive contained the following Eric Becker article. We thought it a well-written piece about a car few of us will ever get to test drive, let alone own.

                                --Dan Clarke, Editor


How Bugatti Built the Hypercar Segment

by Eric Becker

Ask anyone ‒ anyone with even the slightest dash of gasoline in their veins ‒ and they’ll know the Bugatti Veyron. The Veyron so assertively reestablished the definition of speed it could be cast as a generational event. Ask any gearhead from Tokyo to London to Buenos Aires: The Veyron warranted an entirely new class of performance – the hypercar.

Designed as the ultimate exercise in engineering prowess, the Bugatti Veyron 16.4 shook the automotive world in 2005 when the first model rolled out of the Molsheim factory. The Veyron was automotive engineering taken to the max and then some. Some might call it pathological in its level of detail. It had enough muscle to turn miles to inches and enough stopping power to detach retinas and relocate organs. The Veyron wasn’t so much a car as it was Bugatti’s answer to the Gulfstream jet ‒ taking road-going performance to the edge of what was technically feasible and turning it civilized; normalized even. The on-road mannerisms were little more than that of a VW Golf. The renowned British motoring presenter Jeremy Clarkson likened the performance to that of a “category 6 hurricane,” but with the driving ease of little more than a summer’s rain.

Ferdinand Karl Piece Bugatti photoFerdinand Karl Piëch (Photo courtesy of Bugatti)

April 2020 marks 15 years since the Veyron’s launch, and we at Barrett-Jackson could surely be considered ardent admirers. There have been a number of the defacto hypercar kings cross the block over the years, and we thought it only fitting to honor the Veyron’s anniversary by taking a dive into the model’s history, which surprisingly started rather humbly.

The idea for the Veyron began back in 1997 as little more than a rough sketch on an envelope. The sketch was done by none other than Ferdinand Karl Piëch, the then CEO and chairman of the Volkswagen Group and father of two of what are often considered as the racing world’s greatest-ever cars, the Porsche 917 – arguably the greatest racing car of all time – and Audi’s Group B hero, the Quattro.

As told in official history, while in transit aboard the “Shinkansen” bullet train in Japan, Piëch was in discussion with the former head of powertrain development at Volkswagen, Karl-Heinz Neumann. The pair’s discussion resulted in Piëch drawing out plans for an 18-cylinder engine: Essentially three VR6 engines, each set at 60 degrees combining to form a 6.25-liter W18. Not your usual train-traveling banter.

With the engine in play, all that was missing was the right brand to carry the beast. What happened next Piëch would later describe in his autobiography as “an amusing stroke of fate.” While on family holiday in 1998, his son Gregor came across a scale model of the Bugatti Type 57 SC Atlantic at a souvenir shop in Mallorca, Spain. This was the “Aha!” moment.

Inspired by the discovery, Piëch purchased a second model car and presented it to Volkswagen’s Executive Board immediately after returning from vacation.

Volkswagen would then secure the brand rights for the 111-year-old French marque that same year from Italian entrepreneur Romano Artioli, who was responsible for Bugatti’s renaissance in the early 1990s and leading force behind the creation of the EB110. Piëch’s premise was simple: The storied brand was to rise again, rekindling the legacy of a two-time Le Mans champion and winner of the maiden Monaco Grand Prix in 1929. Piëch placed a point of reference on Ettore Bugatti’s mantra: “If it’s comparable, it’s not a Bugatti.”

The new model was named for the French racing driver and Bugatti works driver Pierre Veyron, who would bring Bugatti’s second overall victory at the 1939 24 Hours of Le Mans at the wheel of the Bugatti Type 57C “Tank.” Veyron’s legacy as a top-tier racing driver wouldn’t end there. He would later join the French Resistance during World War II earning the French Legion of Honor award.

The Veyron’s impressive 16-cylinder engine with four turbochargers produces 1,001 horsepower and 922 ft/lbs of torque.

Bugatti Veyron engine PicmonkeyThe Veyron’s impressive 16-cylinder engine with four turbochargers produces 1,001 horsepower and 922 ft/lbs of torque.

Though early concepts boasted a three-bank W18, the engineers opted for a lighter 8.0-liter quad-turbocharged W16. The engine featured what is essentially two narrow-angle V8s joined at the crank – or four banks of four cylinders producing an astounding 1,001hp and 922 ft/lbs of torque. A still astonishing feat even in today’s hyper-mad horsepower world.

The Veyron employed 10 radiators for thermal management and, with use of the secondary “speed key,” could reach a maximum speed of 253.81 mph. To put the performance in perspective, at V-max the Veyron is traveling 371 feet per second and will empty its 26.4-gallon tank in under 19 minutes. Adding to the simply ludicrous analogies, if given a 10-second head start, the 641hp McLaren F1 would reach 200 mph at the exact same time as the Veyron. The Veyron was unequivocally the winner in any schoolyard argument.

The 16 cylinders would route power through a Ricardo 7-speed dual-clutch gearbox able to cycle between gears in just 150 milliseconds. Power would be put to the road via a Haldex all-wheel-drive system and special Michelin PAX tires. Stopping power is provided by a set of 15.8-inch carbon ceramic rotors with 8-piston titanium calipers up front and 6-piston in the rear. Additionally, the rear wing rises and becomes an airbrake and can switch from a 15-degree angle of attack to 55 degrees in 0.4 of a second.

The Veyron is a feat of engineering beauty, the bodywork shaped by countless hours in a wind tunnel. The rounded haunches and various exposed intakes and winglets create a perfect combination of form and function. From a bird’s-eye perspective, the shape could be said to be reminiscent of a scarab beetle. But given the gobs of Herculean power at the right foot’s disposal, the Bugatti is the ultimate in Grand Touring.

It does away with the supercar trope of awkwardly contorting oneself to climb inside. The cabin envelopes the driver in unapparelled luxury more on par with a Bentley than a hollowed racer. The center console is milled from a single piece of aluminum, the switch gear made of magnesium – so it’s no wonder it takes five weeks to build each car.

It’s also no wonder the mighty Bugatti was christened Car of the Decade by the BBC motoring show “Top Gear” and, after 15 years, the title still fits.

Happy anniversary to the Bugatti Veyron!

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