For those who just have to drive a work of art
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.