For those who just have to drive a work of art

The Hamilton Spectator - - FRONT PAGE - JON WELLS jwells@thes­ 905-526-3515 | @jon­jwells

They are “sur­real ob­jects of f an­tasy,” “rolling art pieces,” and come stan­dard with ad­jec­tives such as su­per, high­end, ex­otic, ex­or­bi­tant — as in prices that range from hun­dreds of thou­sands to mil­lions of dol­lars.

They go from 0 to 100 kilo­me­tres an hour f aster than it takes to read this sen­tence.

The Euro-flavoured su­per­car names roll off the tongue: the Bu­gatti Ch­i­ron, Lam­borgh­ini Cen­te­nario, or re­quire a pro­nun­ci­a­tion guide: the Koenigsegg Regera ( Kou-nig-seg.)

When they ap­pear in movies, or news­pa­per sto­ries, they of­ten serve as sym­bols of ex­cess, some­times crim­i­nal ex­cess, or be­cause driv­ers rammed them through build­ings or out of air­planes.

(I didn’t know if “The Fast and the Fu­ri­ous” car chase movie fran­chise fea­tured an air­plane scene, but Googling, sure enough there it is.)

Sto­ries i n the Spec­ta­tor about a 23-year-old An­caster man, who is an al­leged cy­ber crim­i­nal, noted that he has owned a Lambo, Aston Martin and Porsche.

He also owned BMWs and a Mercedes and an Audi, but th­ese brands are not typ­i­cally con­sid­ered ex­otic, al­though the terms are fluid: “su­per­car” is most com­monly used for lim­it­ededi­tion, race­track fast, blow-the-bank cars; also some­times “hy­per­car” or “megacar.”

With speeds su­per­cars are en­gi­neered for — that do not re­ally fit con­ven­tional road­ways or even the 401 — there is also the im­plicit el­e­ment of dan­ger.

Car re­view­ers gush that the McLaren 675LT is “slightly more ex­cit­ing than aerial com­bat,” and the Lam­borgh­ini Ve­neno (“venom”) “looks pos­i­tively deadly.”

The Spec ran a pic­ture re­cently of a McLaren that was re­ported to have cost $300,000 to­talled on a Burling­ton street, also driven by a 23-year-old.

A pas­sen­ger was se­ri­ously in­jured but the story drew on­line com­ment ridicule: “More money than sense,” “Wealthy Burling­ton peo­ple with too much money and too much time on their hands; shame!”; “What is a 23 year old do­ing with a ve­hi­cle like this?”

Why does any­one buy a car that, as one re­viewer wrote ap­prov­ingly, de­fies prac­ti­cal­ity and logic?

The short an­swer is, be­cause they can. Ex­cept that many who can, do not.

The evo­lu­tion­ary drive for sta­tus has been cited as one rea­son peo­ple buy un­nec­es­sary l ux­ury goods such as su­per­cars.

The McLaren 675LT, at $350,000, is lower priced than some, but still high­end enough for those who “don’t want to be stuck with one of the same entrylevel su­per­cars that their lawyers and chi­ro­prac­tors drive.”

But the sta­tus ex­pla­na­tion doesn’t ex­plain those who choose to keep their prized hot wheels locked away, rather than drive around trolling for rub­ber­neck­ers.

“The more ex­pen­sive the car, the less they drive them,” said An­drew Tay­lor, the gen­eral sales man­ager at McLaren Toronto — one of only two deal­er­ships in the coun­try that sell the Bri­tish­made auto.

“Some­one who pays over a mil­lion af­ter tax for a Porsche 918 and knows it can be sold for two (mil­lion), are afraid if they drive it the value will de­crease.”

Su­per­cars are like art, he said: “The paint­ing is worth what some­one is will­ing to pay for it.”

Th­ese col­lec­tors are ap­par­ently not flam­boy­ant burn-the-can­dle-at-both­end speed demons, but cautious (if wealthy) in­vestors squir­relling away their ap­pre­ci­at­ing as­sets.

The high­est-end of the su­per­cars, like rare art, can­not even be read­ily pur­chased, be­cause they are man­u­fac­tured in limited runs.

Last year, a $2-mil­lion Lambo was un­veiled in Switzer­land along with news that only 40 would be built and all had been sold.

In con­trast to reg­u­lar cars that rapidly de­pre­ci­ate in value, the real money in su­per­cars is in the “pre-owned” mar­ket.

Tay­lor said new McLarens sell in the $350,000-$400,000 range, but out-of­pro­duc­tion mod­els go for $500,000, and a McLaren P1 for $2 mil­lion to $3 mil­lion — of which there are just nine in Canada.

But of course there are those who de­light in ac­tu­ally driv­ing their four­wheeled ex­ot­ica.

Per­haps they en­joy the at­ten­tion, or how it sounds and rides; the power, even while us­ing just a frac­tion of it.

No doubt there is self-ex­pres­sion at play. If that’s true, isn’t some­one who can af­ford an ex­pen­sive car, but drives a con­ven­tional one, also ex­press­ing them­selves? Look at me, you an­nounce with your ve­hi­cle: I drive a rea­son­able car.

Su­per­cars stir the imag­i­na­tion, and dis­be­lief, and con­tempt, more than most other lux­ury goods. They are out- ra­geous, cer­tainly, but any more so than an $8,000 gran­ite kitchen coun­ter­top? Or a $2,000 Prada hand­bag or $500 wal­let? (I own the wal­let. It was a gift. It is a heck of a wal­let.)

But maybe I’m too close to the whole car thing to un­der­stand it, as some­one who drives an im­prac­ti­cal stick-shift V8 Dodge Chal­lenger — nowhere near the ex­otic car clas­si­fi­ca­tion, but still, it of­fers a pretty brash pro­file.

When I drove my first mus­cle car, a “le­gend lime” Mustang, peo­ple some­times looked, even called out “nice ride.”

I was taken aback by it. A friend said: what did you ex­pect? But that’s not why I bought it, I said. Or was it?

I had a dream last week: I’m driv­ing in a crowded park­ing lot in my Chal­lenger, buck naked. I’m stressed by this, but tak­ing so­lace in the no­tion that peo­ple won’t no­tice I am with­out clothes. Ex­cept ev­ery­one keeps look­ing my way, and I’m lament­ing in the dream: it’s be­cause of the damn car.

Re­cent head­lines ask if su­per­cars are a dy­ing breed, and the ver­dict is: hardly.

Tay­lor says the mar­ket has never been stronger. A third McLaren deal­er­ship, i n Montreal, will open on For­mula 1 race week­end in June.

“There are plenty of peo­ple who have the where­withal to play with cars like this, who want the best of the best … and where price is less and less of an is­sue.”

Less of an is­sue, in­deed; un­godly ex­pen­sive is clearly part of the at­trac­tion.

Mean­while, the race con­tin­ues to build the most out­landish ve­hi­cle imag­in­able.

One of the “Fast and Fu­ri­ous” movies de­buted — and smashed, of course — a $3.4-mil­lion US Lykan Hyper­sport, of which there is just a hand­ful in the world.

Built in Dubai, its seats are stitched with gold thread, head­lights en­crusted with 420 di­a­monds, and the concierge service of­fers en­gi­neers who fly around the globe in case you, I don’t know, blow a ruby-rimmed tire or some­thing.

Char­i­ots like th­ese, wrote one re­viewer, “en­cap­su­late the pri­or­i­ties of the one per cent.”

A newsroom col­league, who dis­dains con­sumer ex­cess and the widen­ing chasm be­tween rich and poor, quipped that it’s all head­ing to an endgame wor­thy of Robe­spierre, the French rev­o­lu­tion­ary associated with the guil­lo­tine-rav­aging Reign of Ter­ror.

Now that would make for a catchy if ironic name for a new megacar: The Robe­spierre RT. Ul­tra Limited Edi­tion. Col­lect all one of them. Or drive it. Naked.

Car re­view­ers gush that the McLaren 675LT is “slightly more ex­cit­ing than aerial com­bat,” and the Lam­borgh­ini Ve­neno (“venom”) “looks pos­i­tively deadly.” Pic­tured are var­i­ous Lam­borgh­ini and McLaren mod­els.

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