THE INCURABLE ENTHUSIAST
‘We’ve already progressed from super to hyper – but what comes a er hyper?’
I LIKE TO PLAN ahead, which is why I’m working on a new word for something that doesn’t exist yet. You see, nothing stands still in this world. Right now we’re in a clearly identifiable phase – let’s call it the hypercar era – but its very existence as a distinct chapter, means it will inevitably come to an end. And it is a chapter. Everyone’s building hypercars now – McLaren and Ferrari are the benchmarks of course; and you’ve got the Mercedes-AMG Project One coming soon, and the Aston Martin skateboard, the Valkyrie. Then there are the oddballs, like the 1300bhp electric Nio EP9 (eh?) which was in the news recently, breaking the lap record at the Nürburgring while sounding like a demented Hoover with a piece of Lego stuck in the pipe. There’s the Dendrobium (wha?), another electric hypercar, engineered by Williams and named after a word puzzle game. And the Boreas (uh?), some Spanish thing… er, probably electric, probably 250mph, probably never going to happen.
Back in 1968 we went through a similarly recognisable phase, the ‘wedge’ era, triggered by the outlandish Miura a couple of years earlier. Then in the 1980s we reached ‘peak supercar’, that intense period when the F40, 959 and (in 1992) McLaren F1 were all launched.
And when was the hypercar born? I don’t actually remember the Bugatti Veyron being described as a hypercar back in 2005; the word only gained traction with the launch of the hybrid P1 and LaFerrari around 2013. Since then we’ve gone hypercar crazy. These eras are all distinct tree rings in the history of the automobile. The study of tree rings is called dendrochronology, which sounds a bit like an electric supercar engineered by Williams. Coincidence?
What interests me is the next phase. Because, as I said, things never stand still: in 20 years’ time there’ll be a new phase, a new era, a new tree ring – and what will we call it? We’ve already progressed from super to hyper… but what comes after hyper?
You might be thinking ‘who cares?’ but the reason I want to get in there early is because I want to be immortalised in the Oxford English Dictionary as the etymological source of this new word. Etymology is the study of the origin of words, but it could equally be the name of a new Bulgarian hypercar. Just a thought.
And CAR has a history of coining words. Legend has it that CAR writer of yore LJK Setright was the first to use the word ‘supercar’ in 1966, after driving the Miura; I say ‘legend’ because I’ve never actually read that article, so he might have referred to it as a ‘cramped, troublesome pile of old Italian poop’ for all I know. Never let the truth get in the way of a good legend.
So I’m going to follow in Setright’s ‘legendary’ footsteps and name the next breed of superduper-hypercars, then I can go down in history – and this time it really will be true because I’ve written this page as a record of THE FACT. Which just leaves the question: what should the next level be called?
At first I thought ‘Uber-car’ but that name has lawsuit written all over it in red marker pen. Then I wondered about ‘megacar’ or nd ‘gigacar’, but mega actually means a million and giga a billion, and a billion horsepower wouldn’t just be the next tree ring, it would be a weapon of mass destruction.
Which leads us to the next question: how would you define this next level anyway? The Bugatti Chiron has already reached 1500 horsepower, despite the fact that everyone thought the 618bhp McLaren F1 would never be beaten. So I’m defining the next level as 3000bhp, some form of hybrid power and probably some incredible autonomous mode that allows you to do 0-60mph in 0.3 seconds with your eyes shut tight.
What would you call that? How about ‘ultracar’ – that has a nice ring to it.
So let’s get this absolutely straight – when the first 3000bhp car comes along, we christen it the ultracar, yes? Then everyone starts using that word. Then someone remembers, back in 2017, Mark Walton brilliantly predicted this would happen, and he coined the word, like some omnipotent, all-seeing future-word god. Then the Oxford English Dictionary comes knocking, and – boom! – everything I’ve ever written will be forgotten, except that one word: ultracar.
Jeez. There’s a lot riding on the column this month.
Editor-at-large Mark has driven all the key supercars and hypercars in his near-20 years with CAR. And now he’d like it to be known that he’s irst in the queue to drive the ultracars