Idiots with too much money

I don’t normally mind people their hobbies and obsessions, even when I don’t share any interest in their object of desire at all, but I did feel some intense schadenfreude at this story about people smashing their over-priced, over-powered sports cars. There is just something excessive about spending $1.5 million on a car. The other troubling part of the article, though, is the mention that more and more people are buying these extravagant luxuries — the number has tripled since 2003 — which is why we’re seeing more of them involved in accidents. It’s another example of how the rich-poor divide is widening in this country. So, yeah, rich pampered scumbags, wreck those cars.

And then you read stories like this one: expensive sports car goes out of control at a charity event, bodies are flying through the air, and 6 spectators end up dead and a score are in the hospital. The driver, of course, is mostly uninjured.

(via Hillary Rettig)


  1. Scott says

    Sorry PZ, you missed it this time.

    This isn’t a ‘sportcars’ owned by some ‘rich guy’ that killed people in Nashville. This was a full-on track-only race car. It was there for a racing event. The parade was a sideline of the racing. A race car driver, driving a race car, in a race event parade, did a display burnout (almost surely planned), and screwed it up.

    This was certainly unfortunate. There might even be something to get morally outraged about. But, this story shares literally nothing with the 2 previous linked stories other than 4 wheel vehicles were damaged.

  2. says

    Just saw the video of the Selmer accident, and something struck me as kind of odd. The driver of this dragster was supposed to just smoke the tires without really going anywhere like they do at the track when to warm the tires. However, if you listen, the driver’s not only letting the car move forward, but he also shifts gears.

    I get the feeling he wanted to surprise the crowd by showing off and actually racing. And, if that’s the case, I hope they lock the driver up for a very long time.

  3. Caledonian says

    If you don’t have time to read the article properly, you don’t have time to be offended.

  4. says

    Shutup, Cal. Whether this was a race event or not doesn’t mean it’s not upsetting– the fact of the matter is that this was a completely avoidable accident– there’s really never any need to race cars around in a circle, burn out, or treat powerful fast-moving machines like amusement toys.

  5. Caledonian says

    The unwillingness to wait and fully understand a situation before launching a response to it is one of the greatest perennial problems of humankind both in RL and the Net. People who jump the gun ought to be called on it.

    There are lots and lots of stupid things people waste time, resources, and risk on – but people rarely complain about them until something ‘dramatic’ takes place. It’s a weakness of human cognition that you evaluate risks with recent large activation more than constant, even risks.

  6. says

    You’re right Cal. Perhaps I should spend more time outraged that the article states that the car “lost traction” when it seems the opposite happened and the car subsequently lost control.

  7. Cappy says

    Whether sports cars or car “sports”, I don’t get either one (I ride my bicycle to work and store). When they built the nearby NASCAR track I suggested they install a weather-tight dome to keep out the rain and keep in all the carbon monoxide.

  8. Jeebus says

    So, yeah, rich pampered scumbags, wreck those cars.

    Oh, please, Dr. Myers. You’re just still upset that you spent your mid-life crisis money on a giant squid statue for your back yard instead of a really sweet car. But, I guess the statue is less likely to kill somebody, unless of course it were to come to life and ravage all of Morris.

  9. Mod says

    Six Enzos have been trashed? That’s no good at all! I remember seeing the footage of the guy that killed his Veyron – his insurance company probably fainted.

    If I had the money I’d probably end up buying one – I think having that amount of money is conducive towards you losing perspective on its true value. Still – I agree with the pang of schadenfreude.

  10. RoaldFalcon says

    It’s another example of how the rich-poor divide is widening in this country.

    Or even more likely, it’s a sign of increasing wealth at all levels of society.

  11. says

    Well, if I had the money and, in a moment of lunacy, bought a car such as those, I’d probably just sit in the driveway and look at the big numbers on the speedometer and wonder why I didn’t buy a boat.

  12. Bill Dauphin says

    Just a note on one item in the first linked story: Those Ferrari Enzos mentioned in the intro to the story are (IIRC) essentially purpose-built racecars that are only ever run on tracks. Even though individuals “own” the cars, they stay in the custody of Ferrari between events, and AFAIK are never driven on public roads. These folks aren’t buying cars, in the sense that we mortals understand it; they’re buying into a sport: auto racing.

    And almost all forms of auto racing involves crashes, because the sport is based on driving these machines right to the edge of their performance limits. At some level, these cars were designed to be crashed (including loads of safety equipment you wouldn’t need in a car designed for mere transportation). Now, you may still think it’s a ridiculous way to spend that much money, but this particular piece of the story doesn’t really support the “rich jerks are terrorizing the general public” theme of the overall story.

    As for the ridiculousness of buying/driving/racing hugely expensive cars as a hobby, I’m reluctant to throw stones: I fly model rockets as my hobby, and plenty of people (not excluding my wife!) think even the very modest amount I spend on that is “ridiculous.” Nevermind that these same people spend just as much or more their own hobbies (playing golf, flying, boating, playing poker, etc.), which don’t seem ridiculous at all to them.

    My sense is that everybody’s passion looks at least a bit ridiculous to those who don’t share it, and that people generally will spend some percentage of their disposable income on whatever blows their dress up, regardless of how silly it looks to others. What makes these rich folks’ hobbies look ridiculous is really not the hobbies themselves, but the ridiculous amount of disposable income they have to begin with.

  13. NC Paul says

    So long as people go to jail if they commit a crime (mowing down pedestrians, insider trading, DUI while on probation, perjury, to name a few random(ish) examples), I don’t care what they spend their money on or how much of it they have.
    It’s called the pursuit of happiness (which travels faster now than it used to, hence the need for sports cars).


  14. tony says

    In my idle moments, daydreaming and whatnot, I imagine I’d quite like to have some disposable income of my own…

    Fortunately I have a wife & two children to save me from that particular moral challenge!

  15. Fox1 says

    Even though individuals “own” the cars, they stay in the custody of Ferrari between events, and AFAIK are never driven on public roads.

    Not sure what you’re thinking of here, but it’s not an Enzo. An Enzo is a fully street-legal supercar that’s neither made for nor really used in any prominent racing circuits.

    Also, the link to the charity event incident is, frankly, off topic. It’s tragic, but it’s a tragic human miscalculation in either driver judgement or event planning, not some further example of the predatory evil of internal combustion. I’m distressed to see this drifting from some morally hazy but emotionally understandable schadenfreude over the careless rich to…. “all motorsports kill?”

  16. Fox1 says

    Oh, Bill, I probably could have checked this before my other post, but you’re thinking of a Ferrari FXX, which is based on the Enzo plaform.

  17. HPLC_Sean says

    Buying and wrecking exotic and performance cars boils down to an expression of sexual potency and desirability. You may be fat and middle-aged, but having a pretty sports car advertises the success you’ve earned in this materialist environment. It is the typically self-destructive human equivalent of the Cardinal that sings the truest and loudest song, the Rams that smash into each other, and the African Cichlid fishes that secure their sexual desirability by biting off the competition’s fins. Sexual competition is fraught with risks; especially for the stupid and the unattractive. The more impotent you are – or feel – the more risk you are willing to take.
    Some guys buy expensive guitars and express their sexual potency by making alot of noise. Some guys buy fine rifles and experss their potency by bringing home deer meat. Topping off the stupidity scale is the population of college guys that paradoxically express their sexual potency by drinking as many beers as they can before passing out. They may not remember which girl they screwed – or even if they were able to maintain a decent boner – but they will almost certainly remember hom many beers they chugged.

  18. kim says

    RoaldFalcon: “Or even more likely, it’s a sign of increasing wealth at all levels of society.”

    Mean and median wealth grew since 1983, but so has wealth inequality, especially in the 1980s. The top 1% received 33% of the 1983-2001 growth in net worth and 52% of the growth in financial wealth, of the sort that allows you to buy $1.5M cars. The mean wealth of the poorest 40% dropped by 44%, so that by 2001 it was less than $3K. Racial disparities widened as black households lost ground in relative terms and Hispanic households lost ground in both absolute and relative terms. (Edward Wolff, “Changes in Household Wealth in the 1980s and 1990s.”)

    You’ve got a funny definition of “all levels.”

  19. spartanrider says

    A 16 year old with 11,000.00 dollars or less can buy at least a dozed different motorcycles that would beat any of these cars except the Bugatti.The bikes will beat any of these cars in acceleration up to a quarter-mile.They cannot compete in top speed because of the motorcycles terrible aerodynamics.As a poor boy all my life it has always give me a good feeling to beat a rich boy in his hundred thousand dollar car with a seven thousand dollar vehicle.It’s even better if his girlfriend is in the car.

  20. Bill Dauphin says

    Fox1, thanks for the correction. I’m pretty sure the TV feature I saw (on ESPN?) about the FXX program referred to the cars as “Enzos,” but it’s entirely possible they said “based on Enzos” and I misremembered it. In any case…

    1. To the extent that people drive recklessly and endanger the general public, they should be censured and punished… but the moral badness of endangering people with your car is totally independent of the amount you’ve spent on the car.

    2. Motorsports are dangerous… and so are many other sports and recreational activities… but so what? When grownups knowingly assume personal risk in order to participate in activities that they value, that’s a perfectly reasonable transaction. Spectators, BTW, are at some level of risk in many sports, not just motorsports. Do we call for the end of baseball when somebody suffers a concussion from a foul ball? We ask that reasonable safety precautions be taken, of course, but if we’re going to start banning everything risky, I’m buying Nintendo stock!

    I don’t mean to seem like I’m arguing with you, BTW; I get the sense that we’re pretty much oh the same page on this.

  21. RoaldFalcon says

    You’ve got a funny definition of “all levels.”

    I was defining wealth according to quality of life standards including possessions, not according to the willingness to store dollars in bank accounts. America’s poor (not talking about the very lowest rungs necessarily) are fairly well off if you take the historical and global perspective, even if they don’t like to hang on to their money.

    But my main point was that the rich-people-with-fast-cars-index is not, in isolation, a good indicator of anything.

  22. Fox1 says

    Yeah, Bill, we’re fully in agreement.

    The one thing I do feel some amount of guilt for is the environmental impact of some motorsports. Even though Formula One runs far fewer events with far fewer cars than, say, NASCAR (Fellow Americans! Forsake NASCAR! Stop confirming all those nasty things Europeans say about us!), I’d love to see them come up with some sort of carbon-balancing program to offset the race+transport of the cars and crew, etc.

    I’ve done my best to do that with my own infrequent, sub-60mph outings, but I find it’s a lot more expensive to balance out my $6000 audi than it was to buy it.

  23. valhar2000 says

    Can we stop with the cheap psychobabble and feel-good armchair theorizing? Are you guys done making fools of yourselves?

  24. rrt says

    If you REALLY want a dose of the surreal, Google “Gizmondo’s Spectacular Crack-up” and enjoy (yeah, Wired, but it’s actually a good summary.)

    Short version: Stefan Eriksson, ex-Swedish-Mafia-Wannabe and fraud-happy CEO of spectacularly ruined portable videogaming console company Gizmondo, wrecked an Enzo he probably didn’t own (his creditors laid claim) and probably had illegally imported, in California. Also appearing in the tale are a mysterious driver named “Dietrich,” an anti-terrorist police force for a tiny local bus service that interfered at the crash scene (and of which Eriksson was the deputy comissioner), and of course, guns.

    This story was incredibly fun to watch unfold…every day brought some new, even-more-insane wrinkle. Being a gamer, I’d already known about the Gizmondo mess, so the moment I heard Eriksson’s name, I knew this was gonna be good.

  25. gex says

    Not to mention that NASCAR, for one, still uses leaded fuels. Now we know why their fans don’t seem to be getting any smarter.

  26. Bill Dauphin says


    The one thing I do feel some amount of guilt for is the environmental impact of some motorsports.

    Yah, but you’ve got to keep these things in perspective. My guess (and it’s admittedly only a guess) is that a whole year’s worth of emissions from all motorsports worldwide probably doesn’t equal a bad week on the freeways of LA (or Houston or New York Metro or…). Plus which, while racecars (for example) may be egregiously bad in terms of fuel mileage, advanced technologies refined, if not developed, for racing (e.g., lightweight structures, advanced aerodynamics, high-fidelity computer modeling, etc.) can contribute to better economy and lower emissions when applied to “regular” cars.

    If we start being really strict about looking at carbon emissions from all sources, it’s going to get scary: Recreational motor vehicles (by which I mean boats, personal watercraft, snowmobiles, motorcycles, etc., not motorhomes), power equipment, oil- and gas-fired home heating, outdoor grills, residential fireplaces… what doesn’t emit some carbon? At some level, though, if we had our sh!t together WRT the big stuff — transportation and large-scale power generation — we probably wouldn’t have to worry about the yule log or the backyard barbecue… or the odd racecar.

    That said, it would be a nice show of cultural leadership if motorsports would take steps to be carbon-neutral, as you suggest. IIRC the IRL has shifted to 100% ethanol, which is at least a wink in the right direction. OTOH, given recent advances in electric cars, maybe the real leadership will show up in a different area than fuel choice or carbon credits: Looking at the capabilities of the Tesla Roadster, it’s not hard to imagine an all-electric racer with F1-like performance in the not-too-distant future. Is there an autocross class for electrics yet?

    PS: I agree with you about NASCAR. Real racers turn both ways! ;^)

  27. MikeM says

    Here’s the latest on this story I can find:

    I came to the conclusion that cars are a total-loss investment. If you’re willing to spend $1 million on some supercar, it means you’re willing to lose about $1 million on transportation, and if that turns you on, well, I can’t really stop you. Yes, that’s even true on supercars that gain value; you pay for that “appreciation” through much higher repair, insurance and maintenance costs.

    I’ve been a car freak all my life, and I really think where things have gone in the last 10-15 years is insane. Anyone see the ad for the new Altima Hybrid that has 197 horsepower? I just can’t figure out why the average driver needs to have an overpowered monster to get around on a daily basis. It’s nice that it gets such good mileage, but it could have done even better if Nissan had said, “Okay, 150hp is sufficient”.

    It has all turned into automotive pornography. Everyone now has to have a 300 hp vehicle for the simple act of getting to work. It makes no sense to me at all.

    When Europeans must drive a larger vehicle (for construction, or whatever), they understand that it’ll be underpowered and slow. Us? We want the largest engine that Nissan, Toyota, Ford, Dodge (in my opinion, Dodge is the largest offender here) and GM offer. 40+ years ago, trucks were underpowered and slow, and we lived with it.

    This event in Tennessee is one of those where you look back and say, “Wow, what were they thinking?” It may even not be closely related to the overpowered cars everyone now seems to think is a necessity (gotta have an Audi RS6 to drop the kids off at day care, don’t we, honey?). Just incredibly poor judgement, not really even related to our obsession with automotive porn. You just shouldn’t have spectators within 15 feet of dragsters doing burnouts; plain and simple. I can’t believe the insurance companies even let this event happen.

    For 95% of us, do we really need more than a 4-cylinder Accord/Camry/Fusion/Altima (and so forth) to get around?

    Not really.

  28. Ellen Layendecker says

    Being an owner of a Mustang GT, and coming from a family that always drove cheap fast cars, I was raised with a few of important rules:
    1. The safest car is the one that can get you out of trouble faster than it can get you into trouble.
    2. A car should always be able to stop faster than it can go.
    3. Owning a car is like owning a gun – you are responsible for knowing how to use it safely. Anything traveling at 60mph has a lot of kinetic energy and can do a lot of damage.

    Unfortunately, some of these cars are scary fast, and the drivers have no clue how to drive them safely. Most of the cars come with “summer racing tires” and I can tell you, they are useless on wet pavement.

    So if you see an exotic being driven beyond it’s limits, keep a safe distance.


    PS: I carpool to work – it’s too far to ride a bike.

  29. Jeebus says


    For 95% of us, do we really need more than a 4-cylinder Accord/Camry/Fusion/Altima (and so forth) to get around?
    Not really.

    So, I’m guessing you rollerskate everywhere you go?

  30. Bill Dauphin says

    So, I’m guessing you rollerskate everywhere you go?

    Are you kidding? Do you know how much CO2 all that heavy breathing would emit? ;^)

  31. RamblinDude says

    MikeM : I have to agree with you. There is something really perverse about American mentality.

    I’m not against buying a Porsche, or loving drag racing, but it is interesting that the more we are warned that we are heading for environmental meltdown, the more fuel we want to consume–or at least it seems like it. We just have to get in those last few days of road screamin, overpowered, rocket boosted, monster truck glory. We’re like the spoiled rich kid saying, “Nobody’s going to tell ME what to do!”

    People are making a statement that if we’re headed for alternative, low emissions technology then it had better not be a step back in fun-to-drive. I get it, but it still seems pretty thoughtless.

  32. RamblinDude says

    Actually, we’re more like the kid putting his hand over his ears, saying, “I’m not listening…”

  33. RamblinDude says

    Oh, I forgot to add; what’s up with American car manufacturers being so slow on the uptake? We’re being held hostage to big oil, the price of gas is endlessly rising, a lot of people actually want hybrid technology, and They’re like a bunch of dimwitted goons scratching their heads and saying, “Gee, we never saw this one coming, duh, duh, duh…” It starts at the top.

  34. The Spaghetti Monster says

    “It’s another example of how the rich-poor divide is widening in this country. So, yeah, rich pampered scumbags….”

    Translation: ‘I’m jealous’

    To suppose that you could be rich and not behave as the rich behave, is like supposing that you could drink all day and stay sober.

  35. Steve_C says

    I dunno.

    Bill Gates and Steve Jobs are ridiculously rich and you don’t see them being complete wankers because of it.

    People are assholes whether they have money or not… people just happen to demonstrate it more lavishly when they have the cash.

  36. rebel_yellow says

    My impression of the Selmer, Tennessee tragedy is that it was due to extreme neck redness more than anything else. After all, the classic last words of a redneck are “Hey, ya’ll, watch this!”

  37. says

    A 16 year old with 11,000.00 dollars or less can buy at least a dozen different motorcycles that would beat any of these cars except the Bugatti.

    Well, yeah, in a straight line. All that leaning back and forth slows you up in the twisties. I’ve tailgated motorcycles with a frickin bicycle (okay, it was on a steep downhill twisty mountain roads).

    By the way, for those who succumb to the siren song of motorsports: take it to the track. Street racing is like playing a pickup game of full contact football in a crowded shopping mall. Except it’s more dangerous.

    I have a four cylinder race car, bought for about the price of a motorcycle. I’ve passed more exotics on the track than have passed me. Primarily because many of these guys are so enamored with higher and higher performance cars that they forget to upgrade the driver.

  38. Fox1 says

    We’re like the spoiled rich kid saying, “Nobody’s going to tell ME what to do!

    In many cases, yes, but let’s be a touch careful with the broad generalizations.
    I’m quite a motorsports fan, and I’ve got a… well, I’ll skip the “car porn” and say, a car that I love, that’s fun on the track and gets pretty mediocre mileage (though not as bad as you might think).

    I use it maybe once a month at the track, and maybe one or two other times a month on the street, just to tool around a bit and keep it from sitting.

    The rest of the time, I take the bus or drive a 4-cylinder grocery-getter. What’s more, there’s a surprising number of people like me, but, sort of by our very nature, no one sees us. That’s why it’s so hard to convince people at city/county referendums on new tracks, that the high-visibility morons aren’t the majority.

  39. Sarcastro says

    … there’s really never any need to race cars around in a circle, burn out, or treat powerful fast-moving machines like amusement toys.

    Y’know, when it comes right down to it there’s no real need to do anything but fuck and eat. Everything else is just gravy.

  40. MikeM says

    Wow, I get to respond to Jeebus! I’ve never been so honored!


    For 95% of us, do we really need more than a 4-cylinder Accord/Camry/Fusion/Altima (and so forth) to get around?
    Not really.
    So, I’m guessing you rollerskate everywhere you go?

    Nah, I have a ’96 Maxima I see no real need to replace. It does the job, which is to get me from point A to point B without putting a huge dent in the environment. Fifteen years ago, sports cars that went 0-60 in under 7 seconds were deemed adequate, and somewhere along the line, someone decided we all need to do it in under 5 seconds; hence, cars that perform way, way better than people really need.

    During commute hours in Sacramento, I’m lucky to get to 60 mph at all, let alone to 60 in under 10 seconds. So some wise-ass has to spend $70,000 on a Z-06, so they get get to 60 mph faster than me, only so he can use his brakes to get to 20mph in a hurry.

    What’s the point?

    Perfect car for LA: Accord with 4 cylinders and an automatic. Bland, but who cares?

  41. RamblinDude says

    What I’m getting all preachy about is, Detroit keeps pumping out the SUV’s, and people keep buying them for no other reason than everybody else is. There are many places (Florida, LA) that don’t require big honkin 4 wheel drives to get to work, and other vehicles would be a lot more practical all around. By all means get an SUV if you really want one, or need one, but how many times have you seen an SUV driver ‘tiptoeing’ over railroad tracks so as not to hurt the delicate undercarriage? You just know that they are never going to use it for anything it was designed for. These millions of people don’t need to be driving Canyonaros and pumping huge amounts of needless emission into the air. Spread the word, stop the madness! ;-)

    Hollywood needs to make a movie about a real cool action star who rides a bicycle.

  42. says

    “The number has tripled since 2003.”

    This is about in line with the increase in individuals that can afford such cars. And, as far as the Maserati’s are concerned, accidents rosed 81% since 2002, much lower than the greater than tripling in sales.

    But, hey, some people are susceptible to an article that has graphic illustrations, little comparison with other vehicles, and a topic that naturally upsets the reader. Like all of those people who mock and jeer someone who wrecks an expensive car instead of stopping to help because, you know, that would involve treating that person as a human being, instead of as someone to be despised so they can feel better about themselves.

    Me, I just drive my $3500 dollar motorcycle that gets 60 mpg and goes 0-60 in 4 seconds, and my $3500 minivan when it rains. And, I’d stop to help the asshole in the exotic car who crashed, or the asshole in a Prius who could have bought a more fuel efficient motorcycle and cheaper four cylinder car for the same price.

  43. MJKelleher says

    For 95% of us, do we really need more than a 4-cylinder Accord/Camry/Fusion/Altima (and so forth) to get around?

    I still miss my 3-cyl ’93 Geo Metro. No acceleration, but it gave me 50+mph on the highway, and got me from here to there.

  44. Chinchillazilla says

    I saw a Viper and thought it was pretty sexy for a car. Then I saw it was eighty thousand dollars.

    I’d rather drive a crappy ugly car, honestly.

  45. George E. Martin says


    Not to mention that NASCAR, for one, still uses leaded fuels. Now we know why their fans don’t seem to be getting any smarter.

    Many will likely put this in the “It’s About Time” category,
    but NASCAR is transitioning this year from leaded to unleaded fuel. Many races this year were scheduled to use unleaded and all races starting in 2008 are supposed to use unleaded fuel.


  46. zilch says

    For 95% of us, do we really need more than a 4-cylinder Accord/Camry/Fusion/Altima (and so forth) to get around?
    Nope. I get around just fine on my bike and public transportation- I don’t own a car. Of course, in Europe it’s easier.

    How much more obvious does it have to get that there are simply too many cars?

  47. Arnosium Upinarum says

    Cars cars cars.

    Wowee. How friggin’ exciting.

    When Americans put their cars on, they go into locust-mode. Our alter Hyde-egos. Those aren’t humans out there on the roads any longer: its an entirely different “gregarious swarm” form of the species – especially when concentrated at density levels that would give the average time-traveler from more than a century ago a heart attack.

    When you put your car on, you are doing a “transformer” number and entering Locust-Land as a metallic beast on petrol-based wheels rolling upon petrol-based “trails” energized by petrol “food”.

    Humans are such brilliant polymorphs. But the driver morph hasn’t discovered anything new: its been roughly a few billion years since mitochondria put on our ancestral eucaryotic cells. They may not be driving us now – they’re happy just to get the ride. But what the hell makes us think we know where we are headed?

    Oh yes…to commute back and forth to a “job” in order to be able to drive to that corner supermarket to obtain the essential sustenance. Short term personal survival allowing us to reproduce kids who are introduced to the obsession with “matchbox” toys.

    Just being as facetious as possible here, that’s all. Long term? Anybody hear about the letter by Isaac Newton displayed at Hebrew University which apparently has him “predicting” the end of the world before 2060 (“but not before”)?

    I don’t think for a moment there is the slightest credibility to this “prediction”, but I would say that he might just have coincidently hit on about the right time f-f-fra-frrrame. (Sorry PZ)

    Lets all have a car party (to celebrate or before its too late, take your pick) and act like the idiot locusts we have become. Let us, by all means, worship the “rubber” wheel, and the asphalt roads, and the internal combustion engine as gods, for they bestow upon us the gift of rapid mobility to places that no longer exist beyond the Promised Land of the Locust.