Saturday, Central London. I was fortunate enough to stumble across a scene just across the road from the Berkeley Hotel, a popular supercar/luxury car spot. That scene was a green Aston Martin Zagato Shooting Brake, one of just 99 that the very lucky owner parted with over 500,000 of his pounds for the privilege of calling it his. It was a privilege to me and a group of photographers (most of which actually know what they're doing) to spot this exclusive beast in the wild and enjoy the rare photo opportunities such as the one above; featuring Viamontis' not-quite-as-rare-but-nearly one of 200 Aston Martin Vantage AMR (give him a follow on Instagram if you wish to see more, plus a very rare one of 333 Audi A1 Quattro).
What struck me however, is the sheer disruption this caused - people stood in the road to get a better shot, people coming out of their houses to see what the fuss was about, but mostly it was bemused local residents asking why this particular car was so special. In fact one particular resident was rather incredulous: 'Why on earth are you all fascinated with this bloody car?' she mused. Naturally, we leapt to the Aston's defence by saying that it's a very rare car; I commented on the sheer aesthetic beauty of it. She nonetheless was convinced; 'What's the point of it if you can only go 70mph in it?' she wondered. That set me off wondering too; what is the point of a supercar really?
On the face of it, supercars are stupid: they cost a fortune to buy, a fortune to run, spend their lives on a trickle charger or under a cover for the few days a year they're taken to a track day or driven past Harrods at 4mph. They are hopelessly impractical, expensive to maintain and you will develop several deep personality disorders at the sheer anxiety of maneuvering one of these near any form of traffic or obstacle, for fear of landing up with a repair bill for several thousand Sterling because you scratched the all carbon fiber front splitter. The noises they make are nothing of antisocial, you will go 0-court faster than you go 0-60 due to their immense power, the top speed you can only employ if you are in Germany or mental, and some (not all) depreciate faster than Greece - you only need look in the classifieds for evidence of this. So why on earth do people gawp and point at these preposterous machines as if they are God on wheels? Why would you even consider buying one?
Simple: if you have to ask, odds are you won't understand. Explaining it to the casual observer who doesn't get why we deify these machines is a difficult task, because of the aforementioned shortcomings. The reasons we adore these cars is different and unique to each person, however there is one thing we can all appreciate is this: beauty. Park an Aston or a Lambo or a Ferrari on a street corner and you will have people standing around taking pictures of the expertly crafted bodywork. Burble past in a Bentley or a Rolls and you will have heads turning nodding appreciatively; a Pagani will pull in the biggest crowd since Woodstock. A supercar will always, always cause a fuss; subtlety is not the order of the day. Supercars are dramatic; dramatic in performance, in looks, in sound, everything. That's what the human eye is delighted by: drama - you only have to look at the amount of people who will point and stare at any emergency service vehicle with its' lights on to prove that point.
But to the enthusiast, it's more than drama and beauty to us. We appreciate the engineering that's gone into it, the craftsmanship of it all, the heritage of the marque and the history that it has paved. To some it's the sound of a roaring engine that attracts us, to others it's the truly ridiculous aerodynamics on others (see the Aventador SVJ for both, for instance). To some of us it's the rarity, or the sheer numbers (or lack of) that attracts them. In any case, we all appreciate the drama and the sheer theatrics that vehicles of this ilk provide us with.
No person buys one of these cars for any rational purpose: they are precious metals bought from logic stirred up by the heart. And that perhaps, is why we love them so much. Yes you can only do 70mph in them (legally anyway), but given the choice of doing 70 in a bargain basement hatchback or a Bugatti? I certainly know which set of keys I'd be picking up.