The last Pill of 2021 is worth nearly as much as the rest put together
By Mike Duff / Saturday, December 18, 2021 / Loading comments
You don’t need to have attended a Downing Street Christmas party, hastily rebranded as a Powerpoint lecture with snacks, to know that rules often get bent at this time of the year. So it is with Brave Pill, with our final offering before the team enters eggnog induced hibernation chosen without the normal careful consideration for VFM.
With that in mind, meet our priciest, fastest and almost certainly most purple Pill of all time. Yes, it’s the cheapest Bugatti Veyron in the classifieds – indeed the country – yet it is still being offered for a figure that would buy a lovely house in many parts of the UK, or a whole postcode in other areas. For reference, it is just over seven times as expensive as 2021’s second costliest Pill, the Mercedes 600 Grosser that featured back in August.
Yet here’s the mad thing – if you do have the thick end of a million quid in readily accessible readies then ploughing it into a Veyron might be an almost sensible thing to do. Our Pill was originally sold in Saudi Arabia according to the dealer selling it, but had it been delivered in the UK it would have cost its first buyer £839,000 before options. Yet nearly a decade and a half later it is now being offered for £859,995. You are looking at what is, nominally, a depreciation-free hypercar.
Of course, the running costs of any Veyron are closer to those of a private jet or a Premiership football team than a normal car, and keeping this one maintained will have cost its previous owners bales of cash. Yet that doesn’t mean a well-chosen example couldn’t be a canny buy. Let’s all pretend together…
The Veyron wasn’t a car ahead of its time so much as a car removed from the dull temporal reality the motor industry lives in. Most new models are inspired by existing ones, carefully benchmarked to beat them in key areas. But the Veyron arrived like an avalanche at a snowball fight, designed to be without peers or rivals – the fastest and most powerful car of its era by a truly ridiculous margin.
Much of its reason for being came straight from the fertile mind of Ferdinand Piech. Having risen to lead the Volkswagen Group in the 1990s Piech was soon indulging in his twin passions of acquiring new brands and ordering the creation of ludicrous engines. Over the last three years Brave Pill has picked up something close to a full set of Ferdie’s powerplant follies, the list including W8 and W12 petrols as well as V10 and even V12 diesels. But the maddest of the lot was meant to be an 18-cylinder engine that started life as a sketch on the back of an envelope, scribbled as Piech and VW’s head of engine development speared across Japan on a bullet train.
There were a couple of teeny issues. The first was that Volkswagen didn’t possess what Piech regarded as a brand worthy of such a motor. He was thinking about Rolls-Royce when he came up with the idea, but after VW missed out on acquiring the ultra-lux British maker from Vickers, Piech turned his attention to Bugatti instead – acquiring rights after the bankruptcy caused by the commercial disaster that was the EB110.
The second problem became apparent as Piech’s minions started toiling on the new motor: there was no way to make his naturally aspirated 18-cylinder produce sufficient power to satisfy the boss’s outlandish performance demands. Development was switched to a quad-turbocharged W16 instead, one that essentially joined two W8s on a common crank, with Piech announcing in 2000 that this would power a car with 1,000hp and a top speed of over 400km/h.
Huge amounts were spent on bringing the Veyron to market, a process that took five years and which was driven by corporate pride more than commercial considerations: Bugatti is said to have lost $6m on each of the 450 cars produced. The car itself was truly special, massively fast but also – as I was lucky enough to rediscover in the Gran Sport Vitesse last year – more agile and exciting than anything weighing nearly two tonnes has any right to be. (Although even faster the Chiron seems positively sensible by comparison.)
But Veyron buyers didn’t need to just be rich enough to front the initial purchase price, they also needed to swallow what were pretty much unprecedented running costs. Forget such trivialities as the 12mpg fuel economy and five-figure insurance bills, just keeping a Veyron in fresh, factory-approved oil would cost as much as a new hatchback each year, around £20,000 for the full annual fluid swap. Costs beyond basic maintenance can escalate alarmingly quickly – doing anything to the tightly packaged mechanical components often involves dozens of hours of labour. Many early Veyrons suffered from a dodgy fuel sender; replacement required the entire rear end to be disassembled so the tank can be removed.
But it was the cost of keeping a Veyron shod that really highlighted its otherworldliness. I know a bloke who once owned a Ferrari 575 with alignment issues which he later worked out had cost him £1/ mile in rubber. That would constitute getting off very lightly by Bugatti standards. Put simply, the Veyron was well ahead of tyre technology when launched, specifically boots able to withstand the huge forces of travelling at more than four miles a minute. The specially designed Michelin PAX tyres are meant to be replaced every two years or 2,500 miles, whichever comes first. A new set is around £25,000 – but that is based on gentle, everyday use. At 248mph Bugatti admitted the tyres had a life expectancy of just 37 miles.
That wasn’t even where spending on the round bits stopped. The tyres were glued to the original bespoke OZ wheels, meaning that the rims needed to be replaced after every fourth set of new tyres. That’s another £30,000. Even if you’re rich enough to be heating your swimming pool by burning £50 notes, that’s going to sting.
The Veyron copped a fair amount of criticism when new from those offended by both its size and amorphous shape; rival hypercar designers often cited it as the car they didn’t want to make. But although there was depreciation early on, this reversed around five years ago and prices have been climbing since.
These days there is a big spread to the figures being asked, but our Pill seems to be the only car currently being offered in the UK for less than seven figures, and also the only one with an odometer that’s started to use its fourth digit. So while it is entirely ludicrous to view a 14 year-old car that has covered less than 12,000 miles as being a bit leggy, that’s how the market seems to be viewing this Veyron. For context there is another 2007 car in the classifieds that has covered just 838 miles.
While Enzo the hamster hasn’t been able to turn up an MOT history for this one, the fact it lived much of its life in the Middle East shouldn’t be a major issue; all Veyrons are left-hand drive and there are not any major spec changes for cars sent to different territories – and many of the cars delivered in Saudi and the Emirates were sold by Bugatti’s very successful London salesman, John Morrison. The advert’s listed service history shows the car acquired most of its mileage in the Gulf – having covered at least 17,965 of its current 18,919km by the time it was brought to the UK in 2017. But the stated record also shows a couple of gaps in what should have been an annual wallet wringing, hopping from 2011 to 2013 to 2016.
More reassuringly the British servicing seems to have been done on time rather than mileage, with just 18km between the last two visits to Bugatti Manchester – although with another one now due. The text says that the tyres date from 2017 meaning that, even though they have covered less than 300km in that time, they are due for replacement again. Given it is more than £300,000 less than the next most expensive Veyron in the classifieds, there should be some spare budget for putting everything right.
While you’d be utterly mad to look at a car like this and think “investment opportunity”, that is the seductively dangerous conclusion of the steady rise in values and the lack of capital gains tax on cars in the UK – it’s not like Bugatti is making any more of them. It would be a lot more fun to own than a typical pension fund, too – if also easier to crash or accidentally park in a lake. Anyone want to go sixty-fourths with me?
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