Image: Bugatti Veyron 16.4
AP file
The Bugatti Veyron 16.4 is priced at $1,192,057, according to Forbes.
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updated 3/10/2006 7:59:36 PM ET 2006-03-11T00:59:36

The super-rich are responsible for firing the imaginations of car lovers everywhere.

The world's ten most expensive automobiles, which you can see in the slide show that follows this piece, include such dreams-come-true as a street-legal, ten-cylinder Porsche race car (the Carrera GT); an electric car with a 300-hp motor ( Venturi's Fetish sports car, which just went on sale) and cars with over 1,000 hp each ( Bugatti's Veyron 16.4 and SSC's Ultimate Aero).

These kinds of cars make Ferraris and Aston Martins look like relative bargains; despite their fame, they are much cheaper than the cars on our list. Of the ten most expensive cars, only two are made by brands with household names — Porsche and Mercedes-Benz — although I guess it depends on what your household is like.

But the ten most expensive cars aren't just rare. They are beautiful, but in daring, sometimes avant-garde ways that mainstream cars can't follow. Their top speeds set records. Their technology is pioneering, and attainable only by the wealthiest of car buyers — and that's a blessing even for the non-wealthy.

"If rich people didn't buy these things," wrote a leading car blog in response to our piece last year, "they'd never get made, and the world would be a poorer place for all pistonheads."

Just how rich a world is the world in which the ten most expensive cars live? For one thing, no Ferrari, Aston, Bentley, Lamborghini or Rolls-Royce made the list. Only one Maybachmade it. For a while, as we were tallying the results of our research, Maybach's "entry-level" 57 sedan was in tenth place, and we thought, "Wow. This is the first time a Maybach has ever been the least expensive car on a top ten list." The vehicle didn't even make the final cut.

That final cut was determined through extensive research and stringent methodology.

For one thing, the list only concerns vehicles of which multiple copies exist. Special prototypes were not included.

In addition, some hot-rod shops can build, to a customer's specification, cars that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. These custom jobs are not the sort of thing we considered for this story. Nor did we consider kit cars, under the logic that things you build in your garage don't count. We also only considered original-issue cars, and not modifications of other manufacturers' vehicles.

For each nameplate that we evaluated, we only looked at its most expensive model. For example, Italian automaker Pagani makes several different editions of its Zonda supercar, but we only included the most expensive one — the $667,000 Clubsport version of the Zonda Roadster F C12S 7.3.

Pagani recommends all of its global dealers offer the Zonda for the same base price. However, other companies' cars can change prices for different countries — and we're not just talking about the inclusion of region-specific charges, such as duties and transportation fees.

For example, Saleen's S7 Twin Turbo supercar costs $83,000 more in Europe than in the U.S. — a price hike of 15%. This is because Saleen originally designed the car for the American market and must modify it to make it street legal in other regions.

But each of the ten cars in the slide show — the ten most expensive street-legal cars in production in the world at press time — is not available in all markets. Although some cars on the list are not available in the U.S., we converted all base prices to U.S. dollars to determine each vehicle's place in the rankings. We based all conversions on current exchange rates.

In order to properly position such cars as the S7, which have different base prices in different areas, we fit each car into the rankings based on its highest base price in the world. Other cars have one base price that applies throughout the world.

We contacted all of the manufacturers represented in the slide show for verification of the statistics presented there. Moreover, to make sure we did not miss any vehicles that had a chance of qualifying for the list, we sent multiple e-mails or made multiple phone calls to each manufacturer — of whom we were aware — of original, exotic sports cars; not everybody responded. Since the only other kinds of vehicles we felt had a chance of making the list were the ultra high-end cars of Maybach, Rolls-Royce and Bentley, we contacted those manufacturers and asked if they knew of any other similarly pricey luxury cars. All three said "no."

In searching for companies to contact, we encountered certain obstacles. Some automakers had what appeared to be either defunct contact information or no contact information listed on their Web sites. Some had Web sites that were not available in English. Some had no Web sites. And in a few cases, we had heard of some manufacturers but were unable to track them down.

Most automakers are reachable via e-mail, and we excluded from consideration automakers without published e-mail addresses.

However, we are confident that we spoke with the automakers that had the possibility of making this list.

Another technicality in terms of contacting companies is that we were able to obtain American and/or European prices from some companies, but not global prices. When a manufacturer would not provide us with global prices, we fit its models into the rankings based on the highest base prices of which we were aware.

As a rule for this story, we used the most current information available.

The slide show that follows is a step into a world that few people ever see — a world that would appear rich even to rich people.

© 2012 Forbes.com

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