I AM ABOUT to custom-design a new Bugatti Chiron. It is known as the Molsheim Experience and is the road to ownership of the most expensive and, likely, fastest production car in the world; one that will start being shipped to a fortunate few in the new year.
The Chiron is the overachieving child of the Veyron, a car so colossally gifted that it was propelled from the rank of supercar to hypercar when it launched in 2005. Having driven the 1,200bhp Veyron Super Sport, and sampled power that must be the closest to rocket propulsion that a civilian can achieve, I can only imagine what another 300 horsepower brings to the game.
My day starts not with a Bugatti, but with a Bentley (Mulsanne Speed, 6.75L V8, silver) driven by Claude, who takes me to the Chateau St Jean in Molsheim, France. This is an automotive Willy Wonka factory and was birthplace of the brand in 1909. After the death of founder Ettore Bugatti in 1947 and the subsequent decline in car production, the place fell into disrepair until the 1998 acquisition by Volkswagen Group rejuvenated the marque and the buildings for the Veyron launch. Just 500 Chirons will be handbuilt at these modern facilities.
More than 50% of Veyron owners have already signed on the dotted line for the new model, with most holding on to their old car. At a €2.4m (£2.08m) base price, this is car-buying for the rarefied few. It’s about buying a dream. Today is not a case of picking from a palette of six colours and choosing a music system; a plethora of choices and configurations calls for a whole day’s consultation.
First, a history lesson with the resident Bugatti expert, Julius Kruta. For people like me — Bugatti aficionados — this is a true treat, as is an unexpected ride in a 1926 Type 35; roaring around the Alsace countryside in a 90-year-old grand prix car really gets my blood flowing.
The internet is littered with pictures of exotic cars ruined by purchasers who have clearly got overexcited at the colour and trim stage of the process
The design lounge is in a restored barn and it is here I will “create” my Chiron with the help of designer Laurent Chevalier, aided by a huge video wall made up of 16 LED screens, as well as swathes of fabric, colour swatches, samples of carbon and metalwork and other inspiration, such as small-scale replicas and pictures of past models.
I resist the temptation to go too crazy or bling.
After all, the internet is littered with pictures of exotic cars ruined by purchasers who have clearly got overexcited at the colour and trim stage of the process. You can see how it happens: here at Bugatti there are 55,000 colour options for the exterior alone. All the panels on this car are of an exquisite carbon-fibre weave and many opt for leaving this on show. The cost for full carbon exposure is €250,000; it’s €180,000 for just one half of the car. I cautiously go for the half-car choice and opt for the rear in black (more than 60% of owners go for a classic two-toned Bugatti). It would be easy to match this car’s pedigree with a racier colour, but the car already looks fast, so I plump for cast grey on the front.
Wheels can make or break the look. The Bugatti’s Classique wheels are included in the price, whereas the Caractère ones are a €50,000 option, plus €7,500 if you want to paint them, and €10,000 if you diamond-cut the edges. I colour match the wheels with the body paint, diamond-cut the edges, sign off the exterior and move on to the inside. I land on the truffle leather for the interior, and finish it off with a flourish of carbon accents, casually dismissing the extra costs.
The final surprise of the day is the former Le Mans winner and Bugatti development driver, Andy Wallace, emerging from the shadows holding the keys to a pre-production Chiron. We peel out of the atelier (factory is way too common a description for this place) and onto an empty dual carriageway. I think Andy starts explaining something about using all of the 1600 Newton metres (1,180 lb ft) of torque, but I am no longer listening, just laughing manically at the absurd acceleration.
We return to the design barn to see my finished creation come alive on the video wall. If I were buying a Bugatti for real, and alas not just here to write about it, this would be the point where my shaking hand would be hovering over the purchase contract. Instead, my leaving pack consists of the computer renders of my car and the news that I have spent a notional €2,642,500. At the risk of offending my daughter, I believe this to be the second best thing I have produced in my life.
As Claude drives me out of the gates and back to reality, I clutch the pictures of my Bugatti Chiron. One day, my precious, you will be mine.
Bugatti Chiron specifications
- Top speed 261mph (limited for road use)
- 0-62mph less than 2.5 seconds
- Engine 8 litre W16
- Power 1,500PS
- Price from £2.08m (bugatti.com)
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