Bugatti Veyron, Elio And My Wheel Life

I read an interesting article today about the Bugatti Veyron, the most expensive production car, that had any significant volume. Don’t tell me about the $4 million Lambo they made 3 of, they’ve made hundreds of Veyrons. That a lot for a hypercar. It ended with this sentence. “The Bentley customer on average owns 8 cars. The average Bugatti customer has about 84 cars, 3 jets and one yacht.” Along with a book I’ve been reading, this sentence got me thinking.

Bugatti Veyron Thanks to Axion23 (Flickr Creative Commons)

Bugatti Veyron
Thanks to Axion23 (Flickr Creative Commons)

What is the purpose of a supercar (or 84). I’ve lusted after supercars, muscle cars, dirt bikes, Harley’s, rat rods and muscle cars since I was young. My father was a “car guy”, and really he was a race car driver, which is a special kind of car guy who loves to spend even more of his his money than the average car guy on his car and a car guy who actually drives his car hard 99% of the time (except when idling around the pits.)

Dad racing picture

Anyway, between that and the time I saw a guy who was about 5 years older than me driving his Firebird around with some attractive girls, I’ve always been attracted to cars (and girls).

I am pretty lucky and blessed as peoples lives go. I currently own a total of 5 licensed vehicles, including a Honda bobber I built mostly myself and a GSXR 600, a Monte Carlo SS Aerocoupe, a Mustang a winter beater truck, and a dirt bike, just for fun, and even some projects sitting at my parents home to be completed…. sometime. I recently had a realization of sorts that it just might be financially feasible for me to purchase some of the vehicles I had lusted after as a child. 2012 Boss Mustang? Dodge Viper? Corvette? Ferrari?

I ran into a few problems once I started down this line of thinking. One problem was the insurance, registration and maintenance on the cars I had already was a pretty significant annual cost. Another was, as I’m a big fan of “giving back” I started to contemplate if it was reasonable for me to have so much while some has so little.

Which brings me back to the question, why do we keep building more and more vehicles for ourselves? Are we trying to buy happiness? This has lead me to ask myself “What will really make me happy?” A sentence from “Deep Economy” by Bill McKibben states “volunteer work of all kinds generated ‘high levels of joy, exceeded only by dancing’. Why? The most common answers included ‘I meet people and make friends through it.’”

So are we really getting all this satisfaction from more and more cars? My personal answer seems to be a no. Which is a difficult thing to say. I have loved cars since I can remember. I even went school to design them (I’m working on diesel engines, a bit of a compromise, but still designing and engines, I’ll count it as a win).

I’ve been attending a financial club which has been telling me some things that are not novel by any means but might sound that way just because of the stories we’re fed by the media. One is “Don’t buy a car with a loan, pay cash.” What a crazy idea? I’ve bought 3 vehicles with loans since I graduated college, granted they have each been under $10000 so total, they are about equal to one $20,000 car a “normal” person would have bought, but being a car guy, I have had the urge for quantity over quality at times.

Recently I reevaluated my finances. I determined my recurring monthly and told a friend about it. After she told me my monthly recurring expenses was greater than her salary, I thought I could make a change. I’ve been living in a single apartment for 2 years. I’m hoping to move in with a roommate and cut some that expense about in half (I have already talked to a few people and believe I have plans made, but it’s not been executed yet so I have to count it as in progress still). I have also had to re-evaluate my eating habits. No doubt, the normal person would take one look at my eating habits and say “WTF”. I often eat out for lunch 5x a week and usually 2+ times a  week for diner, and not counting weekends in that even, those are free right? Wrongo-Bongo. I’ve tried to be a bit more reasonable in that and purchase food at the beginning of the week and make a lunch. That cuts the expenses in half at least. Couple that with eating out less overall and I feel I’m on a good path.

I have had a hard time giving up the cars. I still have them all, although I have threatened to sell the Mustang (to myself) a few times. I just haven’t pulled the trigger yet. It sounds nice and makes me smile. I’m not advocating for complete immaterialism, although minimalism has made a lot of folks happy. I’ve been considering a quote from a priest friend “I live simply so others can simply live.” That really makes you stop and think.

So to bring it back to cars, what car is living simply? What is the complete opposite of a Bugatti Veryron? How about an Elio? This is a car that’s not designed to be a “look at me car”. It’s built on practicality. On preserving the earth. On getting 84 MPG instead of 2.3MPG for the Veyron (at 253 mph). To be fair, it likely won’t be driven that fast, or likely at all, considering the 84 other cars, and 3 jets and a yacht it’s average owner has to spend time driving. Lets be honest, if you make that much money, you likely don’t need to drive yourself around, and probably you don’t! Your body guards probably won’t let you. What if instead of measuring our success by the number of cars we have we measured it by the number of people we’ve helped? Or what if businesses didn’t measure success by how much money they made but by how much they let the people buying their products keep? Crazy?

elio

Here’s my proposal (because I still like cars, a LOT!). Someone who’s rocking one of these 84 cars (Jay Leno maybe?), please let me borrow one, just for a year (and pay my insurance please 🙂  (or maybe about 8 months) and let me use it to find myself and influence people in a positive way. That’s My Wheel Life today. Hope you enjoyed it. And if you know someone who’s own 84 cars, please forward this to them.

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