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Category: Racing Vehicles

Check out the classics that the Bugatti Tourbillon traces its roots to

MOLSHEIM, France — Bugatti unveiled the new, 1,800-horsepower Tourbillon at its historic headquarters in Molsheim, France. While the Chiron’s successor was the uncontested star of the show, the brand displayed an impressive selection of classics to give attendees a glimpse into every facet of its past. The roster included grand prix-winning race cars, ultra-luxurious sedans, elegant coupes, and even a small, city-friendly electric car.

Enthusiasts tend to associate the Bugatti name with hypercars, but there’s more to the brand than four-digit horsepower figures and speed records. In the late 1920s and early 1930s, the company made one of the most luxurious cars in the world: the Type 41, which is also known as the Royale. It stretched 252 inches from bumper to bumper in its longest configuration (several body styles were available) and its wheelbase measured nearly 170 inches; I’ve owned cars that were shorter than that. Power came from a 12.8-liter straight-eight engine.

Pictured in our gallery above, the example Bugatti displayed at the Tourbillon unveiling features 24-inch wheels, the famous “Dancing Elephant” hood ornament, and a closed rear cabin with windows made of reinforced glass. The front compartment is always open, and the rear passengers could talk to the driver using an intercom system called a Motor Dictograph. The behemoth of an engine made about 300 horsepower at 1,800 rpm, which was enough to unlock a top speed of about 124 mph — that was a supercar-worthy figure a century ago.

Bugatti has explored the more family-friendly side of its heritage on several occasions over the past few decades, though none of its projects have reached production. In the 1990s, when the brand was owned by Romano Artioli and based in Italy, it experimented with a Giorgetto Giugiaro-designed super-sedan called EB112 and powered by a 6.0-liter V12. In 1999, after joining the Volkswagen Group, Bugatti showed a four-door, W18-powered concept called EB218. Ten years later, the 16C Galibier made its debut as a potential follow-up to the Veyron.

Racing has been part of Bugatti’s DNA for over 100 years; it has won major events like the Targa Florio and the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Four vintage race cars illustrated this part of its heritage at the unveiling, including a surprisingly futuristic model from 1923 called Type 23 and nicknamed Tank. Take a look at its bodywork and you’ll immediately understand why. In an era when open-wheel cars dominated the racing scene, the Tank featured a streamlined body that consisted mostly of flat metal panels held together with rivets. It could reach over 110 mph thanks to a 90-horsepower 1.8-liter straight-eight. It wasn’t as successful as Bugatti hoped, but it illustrated an approach to design that was innovative, daring, and unusual. Its successor, the Type 35, became the company’s most successful race car by a significant margin.

Bugatti also displayed more modern cars including the EB110, the Centodieci, the Mistral, and the one-of-a-kind Chiron Profilée that sold for over $10 million at an auction in February 2023. But while most of Bugatti’s past and present models put a big focus on performance, there’s one exception to the rule: the Type 56 that I drove in 2018. It’s electric, it has a tiller instead of a steering wheel, and it maxes out at 20 mph.

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What is the most expensive car in the world?

Highlighting one single vehicle as the most expensive car in the world isn’t as straightforward as you might think. To get a solid answer, we’re going to have to break the question into a couple of parts. First, we’ll discuss the most expensive new car in the world, and second, the most expensive collector car in the world. And by the end of the article, you’ll be armed with the information you’re looking for: What is the most expensive car in the world?

Before we get into the stratospheric numbers, let’s take a step back and put things in perspective. For the last year or so, the average transaction price for a new car has hovered right around $48,000. That’s almost 10 grand more than new cars cost in 2019, before the pandemic. What will that buy you today? Well, you can get a midrange Ford F-150, a Kia Telluride, or a Ford Mustang GT with a few options. Not bad when you consider that these choices are among the best in their respective classes.

At the very bottom of the spectrum is the Nissan Versa, which is available brand new for well under $20,000. Sure, there are a few anomalies such as the Changli Nemica (it’s kinda a car, though not exactly street legal here in America) that can be ordered from Alibaba for about $1,000 to start, but there are a bunch of hidden costs, including shipping.

Most expensive car in 2024: Rolls-Royce Droptail

Price: $30 million

Outside of the classic car market, the most expensive new vehicle in the world is the Rolls-Royce Droptail. So far, three Droptail models have been built, one called the Arcadia Droptail, one in ruby tones called La Rose Noire Droptail and one called the Amethyst Droptail. The latest example, the Arcadia, is painted in a white shade that is infused with aluminum and glass particles for a pearl-like effect that adds depth. Past that, the overall design of all three Droptails remains largely unchanged with an upright grille, thin rear lights, and a rounded back end.

Like other extremely luxurious and expensive nautical-themed cars from Rolls-Royce — see the 2017 Sweptail and the 2021 Boat Tail — the Droptail is a very rare machine. There’s a solid chance the lone remaining version will cost even more than the $30 million-plus cost of the La Rose Noire.

For those keeping track, the Rolls-Royce Boat Tail, which was previously the most expensive car in the world at $28 million, was the first model to emerge from the company’s Coachbuild department that caters to the profanely wealthy. Case in point, the first Boat Tail commission is for a pearl magnate. To put the price in perspective, The Boat Tail’s asking price was equivalent to 1,797 Nissan Sentras.

Other notable cars that cost more than a million dollars in 2024:

  1. McLaren Elva: $1.7 million
  2. Hennessey Venom GT: $1.8 million
  3. Bentley Bacalar: $1.9 million
  4. SSC Tuatara: $2.0 million
  5. Pininfarina Battista: $2.2 Million
  6. Lotus Evija: $2.3 million
  7. Rimac Nevera: $2.4 Million
  8. Lamborghini Sian: $3.7 million
  9. Bugatti Bolide: $4.3 million
  10. Pagani Codalunga: $7.4 million

The most expensive car sold at auction: 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300

Price: $142 million

Let’s start at the top, with the most expensive car ever sold at auction. The 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR Uhlenhaut Coupe Prototype sold for $142 million in 2022. RM Sotheby’s sold it on behalf of Mercedes-Benz at a private auction held at the carmaker’s museum in Stuttgart, Germany. It’s one of two prototypes made, with the other remaining in Mercedes’ keeping. The new owner remains unnamed for the moment, but we do know what Mercedes did with some of the money. Some funds went to establish a scholarship for students in the environmental science and decarbonization fields.

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Indy 500 pace cars: Wouldn’t you really rather have a Viper?

This year’s Indy 500 pace car, the Chevrolet Corvette E-Ray. (Penske Entertainment: Joe Skibinski)


Before Rick Mears won his fourth Indianapolis 500 in 1991, he already had his eye one sweet prize.

Mears had become smitten during the month with the Dodge Viper that would pace the race, knowing that besides money and glory for an Indy victory, the winning driver traditionally wins a pace car. To Mears, the Viper would be a trophy as much as a cool car.

The pace cars from Mears’ first three Indy victories didn’t exactly move his needle – 1979 Fox body Ford Mustang, 1984 mid-engine Pontiac Fiero and 1988 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme. The Viper, conceived as a modern-day Cobra with a snarling V-10, was a true hot rod.

“I win the race and I’m thinking I’m going to get a Viper,” Mears said.

Instead, he got a Dodge Stealth. Same color as the Viper but clearly not the same, and it began a quest by Mears to obtain a car that became Indy 500 pace car lore.

(Penske Entertainment: Joe Skibinski)

Pace cars are keepsakes for various reasons, whether they’re owned by Indy 500-winning drivers, replicas desired by collectors, or vehicles so rare that they can only be seen in museums. Each has a story, some glorious and some not.

A Stoddard-Dayton roadster in 1911 not only paced the first Indy 500, it was the first pace car in auto racing history. A Dodge Challenger crashed on pit road just after leading the start of the 1971 race, a 2001 Olds Bravada was the first (and only) SUV, and a Chevy SSR two years later was the only pickup truck. This year’s pace car, a Corvette E-Ray 3LZ, is the first hybrid. Mustang, Camaro and Corvette pace cars are among the most popular for collectors.

“You look at the roster of pace cars, and there’s some really heavy-hitting cars that have paced this race,” said Jason Vansickle, vice president of curation and education at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum.

About that Viper

The Viper was cutting-edge when it came to the speedway in 1991, although it wasn’t supposed to be the pace car. That honor went to the Stealth, which Dodge promoted heavily as its performance model while the Viper was still in its early days as a prototype that wouldn’t be available to the public until 1992.

The Stealth, though, was a re-badged version of the Japanese Mitsubishi 3000GT, and that caused an outcry from many, particularly the United Auto Workers, after it was announced as the 1991 pace car.

“They claimed it wasn’t American and there should be an American car to pace this American race,” Vansickle said. “At the last minute, they pulled the car and put into commission the Dodge Viper.”

It was one of the first pre-production Vipers built, and Dodge rushed it to the speedway even though it contained inconsistent panel gaps and other flaws typical of prototypes if you took a close look.

“Seeing this car 33 years later, you can tell it was made in haste to get it ready,” Vansickle said. “Once you hear the story and the fact that it’s one of the first, if not the first, pre-production Vipers made, it’s a really neat car even with its issues. The thing is fast as all get-out.”

Mears wanted it so badly after he won the 500, he contacted officials with Dodge hoping he could swap the Stealth for a Viper. All he got was a hard “No!”

“I felt like they owed it to me,” Mears said. “Finally, I thought I would buy one. They told me there’s a dealer close to my home that has one, so I called and asked how much. The guy said, ‘Ten over. That’s what we’re charging everyone.’ I said thanks but no thanks. It wasn’t the 10 over that was the problem, it was the idea that I didn’t like.”

Congratulations, here’s your Avanti

So Mears moved on, minus a car he really wanted. He wasn’t the first Indy 500 winner to get a different car.

A Studebaker Lark Daytona convertible paced the 1962 race but Rodger Ward was presented a Studebaker Avanti.

“It was one of the first Avantis built, and I don’t think they were able to get it ready in time to pace the race,” Vansickle said. “But they still had one there to present to the winner.”

The 1969 Chevrolet Camaro pace car replica remains one of the most popular, and most collected, in history. 

“It’s such an iconic color scheme of Dover White and Hugger Orange, and ’69 Camaros in general are just popular,” Vansickle said.

Here’s a little-known story about the 1969 pace car: Because of a tire war that year, Chevrolet prepared two pace cars for the speedway, one shod with Goodyear tires and the other with Firestone. The Firestone Camaro led the field to start the race and the Goodyear car handled post-race duties, including the ceremonial lap around the track and photos with the winner.

That winner, Mario Andretti, had strong ties with Firestone. Not only was his race car fitted with Firestone tires, he owned a Firestone store near the speedway. But history shows him in the pace car with Goodyear rubber as he celebrated the victory.

Unlike the Corvettes of recent years that are high-performance machines out the showroom door, many pace cars needed performance mods to achieve the quick acceleration and speeds of 120 mph or more needed for on-track duties. 

“They would run some of those ’80s cars on methanol,” Vansickle said. “They would really go through them and hop them up.”

Besides performance changes, some were altered cosmetically to handle ceremonial duties or give them a special look by manufacturers.

The pace car version of the 1977 Oldsmobile Delta 88 had streamlined mirrors and a targa top with a removable sunroof. A close look at the car in the speedway museum collection shows slight imperfections where original mirrors had been mounted. Actor James Garner drove it to start the race, and it became one of the most-photographed of all pace cars after A.J. Foyt became the first four-time winner of the 500.

“That C pillar is what Foyt and (speedway owner) Tony Hulman rode on the back in those legendary photos,” Vansickle said. “The back window can come out, too, which was unique to that car.”

That pace car was the first project at General Motors of Ed Welburn, who became GM’s vice president of global design and developed the Olds Aerotech, Cadillac Ciel and Buick Avista concept vehicles.

The 1911 Stoddard-Dayton, left, and 1923 Duesenberg Model A


The 1911 Stoddard became the first car to pace a flying start in racing history. There were standing starts at Indy in 1909 and 1910, but speedway owner Carl Fisher realized that all the smoke they produced would make the start in the speedway’s first 500-mile race extremely dangerous in 1911.

“Having 40 cars in the first Indianapolis 500, not only would a standing start be a hazard for the drivers, it wouldn’t be that great for the fans,” Vansickle said. “Carl had this three-pronged thought in using a pace car: One, he was an auto dealer, so he could use it to sell cars. Two, it provided a safer start. Three, it started the tradition of one of the most unique things in sports, the three-wide start with 33 cars charging into Turn 1 in the 500. At the time it was four wide, but it all began with the pace car.”

Twelve years later, a Duesenberg Model A paced the 500 about a month after it made a 24-hour endurance run around the speedway that covered more than 3,000 miles.

“It was a big story,” Vansickle said. “They had to fill and service the car while it was running (nonstop for) 24 hours. They bolted two-by-fours down the running boards so they could get another Duesenberg Model A next to it while it was going around the track. It still had those on it (pacing the 500).”

Some pace cars may not have seemed like future collectors’ items at the time but became desirable because of unique features and, of course, the Indy connection. A brown/beige Buick Riviera convertible, with a 410-horsepower twin-turbo V6, paced the race in 1983.

“You would think a two-tone brown Buick V6 is not an attractive car, but being a convertible and being the pace car make it desirable compared to a standard model,” Vansickle said. “The 1980s cars are coming in vogue.”

Eventually a Viper

Mears, one of only four drivers to win the 500 four times, knew right away in 1991 that the Viper was a great car. Despite the initial disappointment in getting the Stealth, his quest for the Viper had a happy ending. Knowing how badly Mears wanted it, his race team owner, Roger Penske, bought one for him.

“I forget how long it was down the road, but I got a call from Roger, and he said, ‘Hey, I got our Vipers!” Mears said.

Mears doesn’t have the other three pace cars he won – the’79 Mustang, ’84 Fiero or ’88 Cutlass – but he cherishes that Viper.

“I’ve still got it,” he said, “and I play with it!”

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