Big Wheels

Spending $250,000 on a car may not make you happy. But among Denver's rich and famous, it's one way of keeping score.

We cruise and coast, dawdle and soar. Mostly we float, with nary a bump or clunk to suggest a possible physical relationship between the big silver car and the road below. It's a bit unnerving, almost as if my grandmother's 1951 Cadillac had been rejuvenated, bred with a hovercraft, and spawned a very fancy, very mobile living room set. It's also immensely satisfying, like piloting your own very quiet, spacious and responsive 747 through a cloudless, untroubled sky.

Whether the Arnage is $120,000 more satisfying than a top-of-the-line Mercedes, or $225,000 more satisfying than a Toyota Camry -- or $242,000 more satisfying than the decaying hulk of my '93 Sable, for that matter -- is another thing. The experts can duke it out, along with questions about elevated seratonin and gas-guzzling excess, squandered resources and the destruction of the environment. For those who seek victory by collecting the best toys, this is the toy of the moment.

But only of the moment. Volkswagen has announced plans to introduce a line of more modestly priced "baby" Bentleys, for millionaires on a budget. The new models will still run into six figures, but at the lower end -- Aston Martin territory, basically. The heftier Bentleys such as the Arnage will continue to be available, but they may be overshadowed by VW's other new luxury line. The company has bought the rights to the Bugatti name and will start offering "the car of kings" for sale in three years.

What would make an otherwise sane person sink a quarter of a million dollars into a car?
John Johnston
What would make an otherwise sane person sink a quarter of a million dollars into a car?

The 1929 Bugatti Royale Type 41 is the largest sedan in automobile history. Marketed to Europe's dwindling ranks of royalty, only six of the monsters were ever built. Volkswagen will manufacture its own version of the car at a chateau in France, where wealthy buyers may visit to follow the manufacturing process. Fifty will be made each year. Expected list price: $1.125 million each.

Mr. Deep Pockets can hardly wait. "I don't know if I'd want one," he says, "but I'd sure like to take one for a drive."

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