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October 2023

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Do You Really Need To Buy A Bugatti?
How expensive our hobby doesn't need to be.
Article By Roger Skoff


Do You Really Need To Buy A Bugatti? How expensive our hobby doesn't need to be. Article By Roger Skoff


  As I understand it, Bugatti's latest-model car costs something like $4,500,000, goes well over 200 miles (320kM) per hour, and costs at least the earlier Veyron model did about $23,000 just for one of its regularly scheduled oil changes.

I might be wrong, though; I haven't done any serious Bugatti shopping lately, and I don't ever intend to.

I did, once have a super exotic car, though a 1953 Siata factory team race car that had been built for that year's Targa Florio road race. I was just a kid, then, no more than about nineteen years old, and, frankly, although something more practical would certainly have been a far better choice, I didn't know any better. The car was extremely beautiful, very fast, and VERY prestigious: Everywhere I drove it, it was the center of attention, and I could enjoy the hope that, as its driver, I must be something special, too.

Unfortunately, as a race car, weight had been a major concern in its design, so its designers had given it an all-aluminum body very light, but also very fragile and very difficult and expensive to repair if it ever got damaged. That meant that even something simple, like having someone sit on one of its fenders while it was parked, could cause significant, hugely expensive, and possibly (because aluminum stretches when it's deformed) never completely repairable damage, and I lived in mortal fear of the day that might happen.



It also was hard to drive. Because the Targa Florio has lots of twisties and requires lots of gear shifting to get through it, that race had become known as a transmission breaker. Siata had compensated for that by using what was then called a "crash" box a non-synchromesh transmission, that was stronger for its size and weight and harder to break, but required "double clutching" for every shift. Because it was a race car with FIA-limited displacement, the Siata also had a high-revving engine with a very narrow power band and, to make it usable, the transmission had six speeds, requiring nearly constant shifting.

Imagine driving a Bugatti in city traffic.



Although it was great fun while it lasted, it lasted only a little more than a month. My parents found out what I had paid for it, freaked, took me and the car back to the dealer (A.J. Risley Sports Cars, in Encino, California) pointed out to the dealer that I was underage to commit to a purchase contract, demanded my money back, got it, and "stuck me" with a used 1954 Austin-Healey 100/4, which proved, in the end, to be a far more practical (and enjoyable) car to actually drive daily.



So what does a Bugatti, a Siata, fountain pens, handcrafted mechanical wristwatches, or even an Austin-Healey have to do with hi-fi? Easy: they're all necessary luxury goods. That sounds like an oxymoron, but it isn't. Transportation is necessary to our daily life, and the Bugatti, the Siata, and the 'Healey all provide it; they just do so in a luxurious, rather than minimalist way. Similarly, music is another essential element of our daily life and we now, in every aspect of providing it, have luxury options.

There are loudspeakers selling for a million dollars or more a pair, amplifiers in the multi-hundred-thousand-dollar range, turntable, tonearm, and cartridge combinations just as expensive, preamps at nearly a hundred thousand dollars, cables at up to several tens of thousands of dollars each, and so on.

Given the cost of building an acoustically perfect music room, it may already be possible to spend the cost of a Bugatti on a system and the room to play it in and, I don't know for sure, but one of Theo Kalomirakis' amazing art deco home theaters may already have done so.

Let's get back to the Austin-Healey, though. It was, when first designed and built, intended to be good looking, good fun, good performing, and affordable by the average motivated person. I doubt if the model I had would truly break the 100mph, mark, and certainly a modern Bugatti, at 200, plus would streak by it "as if it were painted on a fence", but who cares? The Healey went as fast as I wanted to go, got good looks from the girls, and was fun to throw around the corners of Mulholland Drive in the Hollywood hills and of Topanga and Malibu Canyon. Most of all I could afford it or the best handcrafted timepieces or fountain pens.



As with cars, high-end audio seems to be bifurcating at this point along price lines, too. This is, possibly, because of the aftereffects of the past two years and the global response to it. To me, it seems most of the new products coming out are either viciously even sometimes laughably expensive. Yes, there really is a $77,000 loudspeaker cable out there, or with little activity in the middle, to be parts of a whole new crop of products that are modestly priced and far better than you would guess from looking at their price tags. 

These are appearing in every category speakers, electronics, source gear, cables, and accessories and make realistic and thoroughly enjoyable sound at prices that practically anybody even the audio newcomers our hobby and industry need to attract can afford to pay.

In short, we're getting lots of Bugatti cars and lots of Austin-Healeys, too!

I think that's great! Music is a necessary part of our lives and our culture. And good-sounding music music that really gives you a hint of the sound of being right there to hear it made is, to me and to a great many others, one of life's great joys!



If you can afford a Bugatti, limited edition Nike sneakers, handcrafted mechanical timepieces, rare fountain pens, or the hi-fi audio gear equivalent, good for you! Buy it and enjoy it! But it's nice to know that even those of us with a love of music and the equivalent of an Austin-Healey budget, or even less, can get great sound, too.

Whatever your system is, and whatever kind of music turns you on, put on some tunes, sit back, close your eyes, and...


Enjoy the music!















































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