So You Crashed a $3 Million Bugatti. Now What?

The complicated, costly, world-crossing process of fixing a wrecked supercar

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But for the lucky few who do own such high-powered machines, the considerations that go into preserving their car from dings and dents are myriad. And they’re not, unfortunately, limited to perfecting their own driving skills. Just ask Kris Singh. In 2016 the Miami-based investor was hit while driving his $3 million Pagani Huayra down Collins Avenue. The culprit? An Uber driver.

“It sounded like a slap, and then I started spinning,” says Singh, whose 720,000 Instagram followers get eyefuls of his collection of million-dollar supercars from Koenigsegg, Lamborghini, Ferrari, and McLaren. “He ran a stoplight during rush hour, and I was the unlucky person he hit,” Singh says. “I thought I’d blown a tire, but when I looked back, the whole wheel was hanging off the car. If I’d got hit any harder and hopped the curb, people could have died.”

Singh’s first phone call, once he stepped gingerly out of the Huayra, was to Pagani’s publicist. “I gave him a heads-up that this was probably going to be in the news tomorrow,” he says. “Then I asked for a truck.”

People who own supercars tend to have all the money in the world, but getting the cars fixed after a serious accident is a thorny procedure even for them. A small handful of technicians tend to be authorized to work on these outrageously complex and sensitive vehicles. If an unqualified monkey wrench tinkers with a supercar, a brand will be reluctant to take on further responsibility fixing it up.

Fast-forward five months, and Singh was reunited with the car in Italy, where it had been transported by air for weeks of rebuilding and fresh calibrations. Pagani engineers conducted X-ray scans for hairline fractures in the chassis and made completely new components to replace those damaged in the wreck. Aestheticians matched the clear coating on the carbon fiber of the exterior and polished it to an impeccable sheen. (Singh’s insurance policy covered the cost of the repairs; he declines to specify the total amount but says the incident did not increase his monthly premium.) He’s since put thousands more miles on the Huayra, driving it in rallies in Europe, Asia, and South America. “I still drive that car literally every day,” he says. “It’s solid.”

Bugatti
Bugatti

As a small, family-owned automaker that produces about 30 cars a year, Pagani has a reputation for providing hands-on care and upkeep for its vehicles, many of them owned by close friends of its founder, Horacio, and his son, Christopher. But more prolific carmakers make big commitments to personal attention, too. The sales program for the sold-out $2.3 million Aston Martin Vulcan went so far as to include a repair and maintenance clause for all customers, promising that the original technicians and engineers who built the cars would conduct any necessary work. Aston Martin will either operate services at the special operations facility near its headquarters in Gaydon, England, flying cars back from where the incident took place, or provide a mobile fix-it service if the customer finds that more convenient. “Of course, each repair is dealt with on a case-by-case basis dependent on the level of damage,” a representative says.

“It sounded like a slap, and then I started spinning”

Brands are notoriously squeamish about divulging just how much repairs cost for something so rare and powerful, and the owner might not even report it to the insurance company.

The most dramatic vehicular disaster protocol may very well be Lamborghini’s. The Italian brand deploys a team of Boeing-trained specialists to rescue and redeem cars from VIP owners the world over. Known collectively as “the flying doctors,” they descend on any damaged Aventador, say, desecrated not to the point of total loss, and tend to it on-site. (China and the Middle East are frequent destinations.) If the disaster is in the U.S., Lamborghini can also transport the car to a dedicated repair center in Seattle, which the company has developed with research labs at the University of Washington.

While there, the doctors do things like strip the car down to its bare bones so they can graft new layers of carbon fiber to the monocoque tub underneath, building it up again from the inside out. To complete even a small patch takes hours and the precision of a fine art restorer. The process means sanding down the torn portion, layering on skeins of carbon fiber, and baking on the new components to make them blend imperceptibly with the existing body. It can take weeks, and the price can reach six figures.

McLaren employs a more proactive approach with the hautest of its haute couture cars. For its F1, made from 1992 to 1998, the company suggests sending the car by air or ship to its Woking, England, headquarters for routine annual maintenance. An oil change there costs $8,000; repairing the damage done by a single nail puncture in a tire runs $6,000, since to achieve the perfect rolling splendor of the F1 means replacing both tires on an axle. (Compare this with the tire plug, patch, and repair rates for the hoi polloi at a local garage like Les Schwab, which are free.)

Closer to home for some of the toniest F1 owners (Ralph Lauren, for one), McLaren opened a certified service center in Philadelphia in 2017, the only one outside the factory. Owners can send their F1 there for everything from minor maintenance to a large rebuild, but most choose the Woking option.

Bugatti
Bugatti

All told, annual running cost of an F1 is estimated at $30,000 per year, McLaren says—before any major collision. That level of TLC doesn’t apply to the $1 million Senna, or anything “below” that car, like the $285,000 720S, both of which get sent via truck to the nearest dealer in the event of a crash.

“The F1 is just a different animal,” the McLaren spokeswoman says, “because of the limited quantity and the price point.” Just 106 of them have ever been made, and insuring one can cost more than $20,000 per year, according to Hagerty Classic Insurance.

There’s not really such a thing as wrecking an F1 beyond salvaging anyway, since the value of this extraordinary car is rising so consistently. Witness Rowan Atkinson (aka Mr. Bean): He crashed his twice—then sold it for $12.2 million in 2015, or a rumored $8.5 million profit on what he paid for it in 1997. Even if it’s just matchsticks, it probably merits rebuilding.

“Up to $250,000, I probably wouldn’t even report the claim,” says one supercar owner, who prefers to remain discreet. It’s just not worth the insurance bump compared with the value of the car. Also, a wreck on a car’s public record can diminish its resale value, even if not reporting it may run afoul of local laws.

Then again, for the hypercar elite, it’s more about time lost driving than expense. No one has any fun when the car is in the shop. And if the damage isn’t too bad, it’s tempting to opt for a rather more mundane repair, such as fixing the car in your own shop, as Jay Leno did years ago when he backed one of his half-million-dollar Lamborghini Miuras into the other. (It’s not a common problem.)

The DIY method is usually what California collector Dan Kang does with his Swedish-built Koenigseggs. He has the knock-on-wood fortune of having sustained only minor cosmetic damage after occasional mishaps on the track, he says. And between the mechanics he keeps on his own payroll and the close working relationship he has with company founder Christian von Koenigsegg and his 220-person operation, he often just orders parts from the factory and has his guys install them stateside. Should anything more severe happen, Kang says, Koenigsegg would take back the entire car and rebuild it as necessary.

“If it goes back to the factory, then we know it’s going to come back in even better condition than before the accident,” he says, noting that any upgrades developed since that particular car hit the street would be integrated into the repairs. “Christian would never let a car just be buffed out.”

Some collectors even make the same call as the rest of us.

“I will usually just call AAA,” says David Lee, an L.A. businessman known to his 1.2 million Instagram followers for his large collection of modern and vintage Ferraris. “Their Plus service will do more than the car companies’ basic roadside service,” he reasons. “It’s easier.”

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