Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Bugatti: The Last Grand Accomplishment of the Age of Oil


Those of us born in the 50's or 60's (maybe even later) are so thoroughly enraptured by the mystique of the automobile that—even though the reality of peak oil is as inescapable as a future visit from the grim reaper—we still can't totally escape the visceral admiration of machines that can propel bodies at fantastic speeds with unflappable precision.

WIRED reviewer Joe Brown did a nice job of straddling the line between fantasy and irony in his piece, Peak Oil: Bugatti Makes a Car for the Ages. This machine is at once a monument to excess and gluttony while at the same time being an example of the engineering expertise of a species that celebrates the sheer joy of making things, with nary a concern how those things will affect the planet as a whole. Nuclear bombs, genetically modified crops, nanotechnology, and a host of other engineering marvels fit under this umbrella. It creates a certain schizophrenic point of view—a perspective that makes it possible to see the Apollo moon landings with a sense of awe and simultaneously condemn the incredible amounts of money consumed while people around the world starve.

At the article's close, Brown adds a nice summation:

Maybe we'll idolize maglevs next. Maybe Tesla will have its day on a Trapper Keeper with a juice box that tops 250. But whatever we're drooling over next year, whatever makes its way onto the dorm-room walls and man-children's screen-savers, it won't run on petrol. Unless it's still a Veyron: the last king of the gas-guzzlers, forever the greatest. All hail.

It gets 10 miles per gallon, but it sure is something.