Mark Walton


CAR (UK) - - First Drives -

‘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

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