Finally I pluck up the courage, that inner steel, and bury the throttle in almost $3 million of automobile. There's a moment's pause as four turbochargers find their feet, like the burning of the fuse on a firework, and then the world explodes.
My eyes slam back in their sockets, the skin on my face tightens and my stomach is yanked to the back of the plush leather as acceleration is redefined. This is the fastest accelerating car I've ever driven. It's the Mansory Linea Vincero-the Bugatti Veyron plus.
Cynics scoffed at the very idea when Khourosh Mansory took the spanners to the greatest car that ever lived, and Bugatti itself isn't a big fan. But give the man credit; it takes real balls to mess with perfection, and he was the first to lay it on the line and take on the Veyron.
"You can only lose with the Bugatti," he admits, but with a long line of monumental Aston Martin, Bentley, Rolls-Royce, and even a Ferrari 599 conversion behind him, the forbidden fruit dangled seductively before his face. Then his Middle Eastern importer demanded three complete overhauls and the game was on.
With a new air intake, sport exhaust and massaged ECU, the 8-liter Vincero comes with 1,109 hp. Which is simply stupid. And being given the keys to the most desirable car in the world, and one that's more powerful than even Bugatti intended, well it isn't the rush I was hoping for.
As I thumb the starter button and the engine explodes into life, I am privately terrified. I'm the only guy to drive this thing and the smallest scratch would cost more than my apartment, the merest stone chip would mean a life flipping burgers as I looked back fondly on life before the court case. To enjoy a car you have to be able to crash it. So this isn't even a lottery win car. This is a special machine reserved for men that could buy and sell men like me and, most likely you.
But under the dramatic skin this is still a Veyron, which has confounded the world with its talent at low speeds. It's easy, soft, mellow, relaxing even, and just for a second I can live the gazillionaire lifestyle and kick back in the finest car known to man. Then I notice the power meter, the infinitely cool Bugatti creation to the side of the speedo, barely registering a pulse. With 1,109 hp at my disposal I'm only using about 12; something has to change. And then the straight presents, and everything changes.
Driven hard, this car feels like it's kicking you in the stomach, face and ass at the same time as vast tracts of land separating it from the horizon simply disappear. Mansory doesn't claim any improvement on the 2.5-second dash to 62 mph, or the top-end speed of 253 mph quoted by Bugatti, but it feels quicker and it's loud enough to blow out windows.
Mansory could have gotten more power if he wanted to take over the warranty, but he rightly argues there's just no point. His added touch gives bragging rights in the pony club car park, but there's no place on this Earth where a Veyron feels short of power. Messing with the suspension would have been equally problematic, and how do you improve on 400mm ceramic brakes with eight-piston calipers? The Veyron was fitted with the best of the best at the outset. So the changes, then, are mainly cosmetic.
Of course, even that takes epic skill when it comes to changing the aerodynamics on a car that can travel at 250 mph. "We knew if we got it wrong, the car would fly," Mansory explains.
So more than six months of planning went into changes so minor that only the connoisseur will know he's looking at something different. New wheels are the obvious one, although Mansory curses at the thought of having to develop just a few sets to fit the high-speed tires. He's happier with the fangs that follow the grille that have been chopped to make way for Audi-style daytime running lights and the strip that runs across the front into a convenient "V" in the middle of the "no longer a Veyron's" front grille.