Veyron Grand Sport: Final French Fling?

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The Bugatti Veyron Grand Sport, a roadster version of the epoch-making hypercar, launches this month. With only 100 up for grabs, even a €1.4 million base price won’t stop the global elite from grabbing the ultimate in alfresco driving.

Like the Lamborghini Countach, McLaren F1 and Ferrari Enzo before it, the closed top Veyron has already redefined the supercar genre – standing as a monument to power, consumption, speed and not a little bit of greed. When VW revived the dormant Bugatti name in 2000 then Chairman Ferdinand Piech promised the fastest production car in history.

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Now, as the Bugatti brand celebrates its 100th anniversary with a year-long celebration, the open topped Veyron Grand Sport stands unchallenged as the most outrageous convertible ever built.

There are strong German overtones, with chief designer Hartmut Warkuss and Jozef Kaban taking responsibility for the bluff Germanic looks. But the Bugatti remains fiercely French. It is even named after Pierre Veyron, who won the 1939 Le Mans 24 Hours in one a Bugatti.. A space age factory to build them was created next to Ettore Bugatti’s chateau in Molsheim, France, and clients visit the quaint Atelier – that is part meeting room, part museum – to select their chosen two-tone colour scheme with the aid of polished stones stored in a bespoke cupboard. No online car configurator necessary.

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Totemic fashion brand of the super rich Hermes is also on hand, providing an optional interior upgrade for Veyron customers who want that little bit extra exclusivity. other special editions include the Pur Sang, Sang Noir, and the one-off Bleu Centenaire which bears the all-blue racing livery of the original French GP cars.

Bugatti’s customers, including designer Ralph Lauren, are drawn to this distinctly Gallic flair, combined with the resonant and romantic image of Ettore Bugatti, who built an empire with racing cars driven by gentlemen racers that dominated the early days of Grand Prix. The Type 10, Type 25 and more were the cutting edge supercars of their day and though the technological times have changed, Bugatti is still out in front.

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The styling of the Veyron, however, is more about impact and aerodynamics than traditional supercar beauty. The bullshark front end, the muscularity of those sloping flanks and the monstrous square exhaust, which looks like it should be firing grenades, create a cohesive vision of brutal power applied with finesse and exactitude. Its true elegance lies in its simplicity, and the way that the designers managed to wrap a drivetrain as powerful as a freight train in a car the size of a Ferrari 430.

An eight-litre W16 engine with four turbochargers and 10 radiators is overkill on a grand scale, but then it does send almost two tonnes of car to 60mph in just 2.5s, which is superbike fast, and, of course, to that near mythic top speed of 253mph.

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The Grand Sport allows for 217mph wind in the hair motoring after the removal of the Veyron’s roof. And as the overjoyed owners speed off into the sunset this might just mark the end of a wondrous motoring adventure. The tide is turning against such extravagant machines and now even the supercar manufacturers are looking at reduced emissions and fuel consumption. And in the current economic climate a €1 million supercar that costs €40,000 a year to run, before the insurance, is not a simple sell.

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So the Veyron Grand Sport could be the end of an era, and it will almost certainly be the most spectacular, most powerful petrol-powered car the world will ever see. And though it’s heavily influenced by Germanic neighbours, this car will fly the French flag for the rest of motoring history.