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The devaluation of power

4 weeks ago

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Writer:

Andrew Frankel | Ti co-founder

Date:

25 March 2024

Less than 20 years ago I found myself alone in Sicily in a Bugatti Veyron. I know, but someone had to do it. And there was just one thing on my mind: seeing the needle on the power meter reach the end of its arc of travel, at which point I’d have no fewer than one thousand horsepower propelling me towards the Mediterranean.

And yes, it really was 1000bhp, because while Bugatti claimed its output to be 1001PS (pferdstärke or metric horsepower) and therefore a trifling 986 brake horsepower, I had been assured by Bugatti top brass that their figures were always calculated in worst case scenarios and that, in reality, the engine absolutely developed 1000 ‘British horsepower’ as they liked to call it.

It was unlike any engine any of us had seen before. I expect the most powerful motor I’d encountered until then was the 627bhp unit used in the McLaren F1 and this one had over half as much again. And while the McLaren’s BMW motor had 12 cylinders and a 6.1-litre capacity, the Bugatti’s had 16 pistons, displacing eight litres, aided by no fewer than four turbochargers. When the needle finally reached the stop at the end of its travel, I was mesmerised. One thousand horsepower. It just didn’t seem possible. The only problem was the car cost a million Euros, or about £1.4 million in today’s money.

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