In the same way and for the same reasons that fighter jets and Cray computers are so utterly fascinating – for their superlative engineering, astounding stress tolerances, and sharply limited production figures – so too do ultra-high-end sports cars,i breathe the same rarefied air. This isn’t space shuttle air, granted, but supercars are no doubt an intoxicating result of highly centralised manufacturing processes of the sort that readily evolve into cultural meta-expressions of the thousands of militarily focused people who design and assemble them.
With this in mind, the following is a selection of a few such examples and some of the anthropological – though sometimes entemological – stories they tell, all featuring the NatGeo documentaries that served as inspiration.
Bugatti Veyron : Das Ubernazisled
With the Veyron,ii the Germansiii did the same thing they’d done since well before Hitler started the “zero tolerance” trend,iv since before Goethe clarified our thinking on colourv and probably since even before Alaric beat the shit out of the decadent late Romans : they single-mindedly pursued quantitative supremacy like only a barbarian can even at the cost of complexity ad absurdum.
As you can see from this documentary, the Gaulic surrender monkeys are barely allowed to slot ze prezisely engineyad zeksions together, each of which was designed and tested far away from their frequently imaginative if short-sighted hands.vi The result is 1`001 hp, 10 radiators, a top speed nearly a third the speed of sound, a million Euro pricetag, and a raft of similarly mind-bottling accomplishments that further serve to furnish this feather in VW‘s cap. It’s a marvel, this.
Rolls Royce Phantom : Sir’s Cyber Steed
The Anglo butcher, baker, and candlestick makers herein leverage the advanced engineering capacities of the Brandenberg’svii to craft the most classically sculpted means of transport on this list. The only issue I might humbly raise about the product is that it still fails to bound the tails of failure inherent in projects of such complexity. Neither the Brits nor the Germans have the legacy of resourcefulness that might facilitate their manufacturing a product of more serviceable character. The dignified haughtiness inherent in any Rolls Royce only seals the deal in killing the comprehensibility required of any machine that one could truly be said to own, rather than the reverse.
The Phantom might be a $400k made-to-measure Saville Row suit, but if you catch a tear in the cuff, god help your wife in mending it.
Dodge Viper : Two-Buck Chuck
Perhaps the oddest duck in the safe,viii this transmayo-assembled mammoth of motoring is evidently built in little more than a large shed, one with as much refinement as Cheez Whiz and as much craftsmanship as a Tweet. If you’re able to stomach more than a few minutes of this documentary, you’ve a stronger constitution for entemology than I ; though as far as American muscle cars go, the Viper remains the epitome of cool, with more braggadocio than you can shake your Great Nation’s Spear at.ix It’s perhaps no great revelation that the Viper is a quarter the cost of the next most-expensive supercar on this list.
Lambo Aventador : Die Unterorkenmaschine
The brashest of the Italian marques, Lamborghini has no reservations about hiring brodudenewhaircuts and hollowhuswives to assemble their $450k supercars. While this is readily spun as “passion” and “gusto“, compared to the upcoming next and final car on this list, the Aventador assembly process comes across as the undisciplined half-assedness of washed-up jocks and not-quite-hot-enough sluts that would otherwise clog the gutters and litter the streets of the Modena countryside. A more shapeless, depressing, and unworthy foundation upon which to stake a country’s reputation one could scarcely imagine.
Lexus LFA : V10 Masamune
It should come as no surprise that I’ve left the best for last, my long-standing crush on Japanese culture and cars being recently renewed. It is, after all, the nation that’s built more of my cars than the rest of the countries combined,xi but this LFA factory tour lays bare the cultural chasm between the Japan’s shame-driven culture, the mega-dedicated takumi craftsman that result, and the spear-chucking neanderthals that have the gall to claim equality with actual human beings forged by actual cultures ; much like a cargo ship’s barnacles claiming that it helped transport oil around the horn of Africa, thereby helping to soak up excess cargo capacity amid a glut in global oil. So green of those barnacles to turn the lights off after they’ve left the room! Not poor! Greeeeen!!1 Ultimately, the LFA is the supreme weapon on this list, the only one that knows when to kill and when not to.xii
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- Such automotive wonders are sometimes referred to as supercars, and superceding that, usually in the $1 mn+ range, hypercars. [↩]
- And obviously its sharp-faced successor, the Chiron, as well, but the factory tour videos aren’t out for that one just yet. [↩]
- At this point in the firm’s storied history, despite bearing Ettore’s distinctively French surname, they’re about as francaise as the beret (Greek) or as Jewish as matza (also Greek). Sure, there’s some embedded genetic heritage but it’s mostly an artefact of popular culture as a stand-in for actual culture. The new cylindrical Mac Pro *spit* is about as American. [↩]
- You can’t tell me that the parallels between “zero tolerance for bullying” and the Final Solution aren’t more than a bit striking ; in light of which, feminazis couldn’t very well disagree with this soda bottle, could they ? He just wanted to…!!! 1 [↩]
- From his 1810 treatise Zur Farbenlehre (Theory of Colors) :
- Read up on Andre Lefevre sometime if you’re interested in seeing the ingenuity of the French mind in action. Lefevre gave humanity considerably more than storming the Bastille ever did. [↩]
- RR is owned by the Quandt-led BMW Group. [↩]
- A “safe” is not only where you keep your last will and testament (no, not your gun, that goes next to your bed, dummy), but also the term for a group of ducks on land. A group of ducks on water is called a paddling and a group of ducks in flight is called a team. [↩]
- While I’ve never been behind the wheel of a Viper, I’ve spent a decent amount of time steering a Challenger SRT8 first in the Quebec countryside and then in the Bay Area. With those two experiences gratefully etched in my memory, I can whole-heartedly attest to the firm’s ability to pump out grin-getting hoonmobiles with aplomb positively unmatched by absolutely anyone else in that federated morass. It’s all relative, but Dodge makes the best shit sandwich in the world. [↩]
- In the late 80s and early 90s, Lamborghini helped develop the very first 8.0L (!) V10 engines for Chrysler, which owned the Italian firm at the time. The Americans sent the Mediterranean orcs 800 lbs. worth of pick-up truck engine, and were sent back a trimmer, coffee-and-cigarettes-dieted mill, one more than capable of providing the venomous bite befitting a Viper. [↩]
- The current tally stands at Japan : 5, Germany : 1, Mexico/Italy : 1, USA : 1. [↩]
- Even though it’s a bit lengthy, the following gives some much needed context :
One legend about Masamune relates to a competition he had with his rival, Sengo Muramasa. Both men crafted swords and suspended them over a stream to test their quality. Muramasa’s blade cut everything that touched it, notably fish and leaves; by contrast Masamune’s sword cut only the leaves and repelled the fish. Muramasa took this as a sign that his sword was better and began to gloat. However, a wandering monk had been watching them and explained that Masamune’s sword was superior as it did not cut unnecessarily (i.e. living things). In cutting everything that touched it Muramasa’s sword showed its blood-thirsty and evil nature. As such this led to a tradition that a Muramasa blade must taste blood before being sheathed, even to the point of its owner having to harm himself to do so, in order to slake its evil thirst.
The other element of Honjo Masamune’s name comes from one of the men who owned it. Honjo Shigenaga (1540-1614 AD) was a general for the Uesugi clan in northern Japan. Honjo came to possess the Honjo Masamune at the fourth battle of Kawanakajima (1561), one of the greatest battles of the era. Honjo was attacked by an enemy officer who wielded the Honjo Masamune. During this duel the sword cleaved Honjo’s helmet in half, yet the great samurai survived to win the duel and claimed the sword which now bears his name. However, Honjo was not as good with money and he was with swordsmanship and by 1595 he was bankrupt. In order to raise more funds Honjo sold the sword to the Toyotomi family which, at that time, ruled Japan. 5 years later and the the Toyotomi family had fallen to a new Shogun, Tokugawa Ieyasu.