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.
Then there is the bodywork, all new carbon-fiber panels that have a chunky knit weave, like a comfy old sweater that's been lacquered and caressed into board-stiff sinew and muscle. That was because Bugatti's carbon just looks black from a distance, whereas this maintains the check pattern long after it's blown you off the road.
Mansory then decided on a dark chrome finish for the front fenders, which involved layer upon layer of paint, lacquer and more paint to get the mirrored effect. It looks a little like the Pur Sang, but in their own way they're very different according to Mansory. How is he so sure? A customer missed the boat and wanted one so badly he took his Veyron to the factory in Brand, in eastern Germany, where Mansory recreated it for him.
The interior is all new, and maybe a step too far for the discerning customer. The leather is so white it hurts the eyes on first acquaintance, and then there's more of that thick set carbon fiber throughout the cabin, topped off with a strip of lights along the dashboard. The velvet glove of the Veyron has been replaced with an iron fist of an interior that would take nerve to carry off-but then shrinking violets were unlikely to apply in the first place.
And there's no doubting the finish. On the quiet, Mansory provides interiors for half the tuning industry and has more grades of leather, ostrich and exotic animal skin than you can imagine. Want a car trimmed in finest Peruvian boa constrictor? This is the place you have to come to.
The name, incidentally, is the heartfelt last line in Nessun Dorma, which in turn is based on 1,001 Nights. That relates to Mansory's own Middle Eastern roots and the power of the base Veyron (1,001 PS), and it means: "I will win."
This is a car for the guy who simply has to have the biggest, baddest and most expensive of everything. It costs more than $1 million on top of the standard Veyron, and is for the special few who can't stand it when other men turn up at the yacht club gala in the same automotive dress. It's an obscene demonstration of wealth, then, which means that three of them just won't be enough.
Mansory Linea Vincero
Longitudinal mid-engine, all-wheel drive
8.0-liter W16, 64-valve, quad turbocharged. Mansory air intake, titanium sport exhaust, ECU remap
Eight-piston calipers with 400mm carbon-ceramic rotors (f), six-piston calipers with 380mm carbon-ceramic rotors (r)
Wheels and Tires
Mansory alloy, 10x20 (f), 14x21 (r) Michelin Pilot Sport Pax, 265-680 ZR 500A (f), 365-710 ZR 540A (r)
Mansory carbon-fiber panels, front splitter, daytime running lights
Peak Power: 1,109 hp @ 6000 rpm
Peak Torque: 966 lb-ft @ 2200 rpmv
0-62 mph: 2.5 sec.
Top Speed: 253 mph