Any swell can buy a 500-horsepower Lamborghini, Ferrari or Porsche, but not everyone can drive it competently. At the point where rich guys' funding exceeds their driving talent, one can often find a salad of shredded carbon fiber, crumpled aluminum and highly engineered junk - aka an exotic-car wreck.
Now, thanks to the Web's worldwide weirdness - and the good offices of an anonymous 27-year-old San Francisco Bay-area executive with a wicked case of schadenfreude - you can savor pictures of these mechanical pratfalls at www.wreckedexotics .com.
Among the offerings: a $600,000 Ferrari Enzo owned by a Tampa, Fla., RV dealer whose son gave it a $400,000 rhinoplasty; an extremely rare Pagani Zonda whose owner took it curb surfing in Hong Kong; and a Ferrari 355 reduced to about 177 1/2 after an unfortunate encounter at a railroad crossing.
Submitted by car enthusiasts, ambulance chasers and frequently the drivers themselves, the pictures have a delicious, how-the-mighty-have-fallen quality about them. (No gory pictures are allowed.) They also illustrate the bizarre ways kinetic energy dissipates in car crashes. The pictures of sports cars knotted like pretzels are pure dada.
The 2-year-old Web site, which gets 350,000 hits a month, is the work of "Gregg Carlson" (not his real last name), who started it because he was "disappointed with the lack of car crash pictures on the Internet," he said in an e-mail response to a reporter's query.
Why? Gregg is only too happy to psychoanalyze himself: "A few reasons may be that I take pleasure in other people's misfortune [as long as they're not injured]. But let's be honest: Who doesn't take pleasure in others' misfortunes? Isn't that what the tabloids are all about?"
Car enthusiasts will find it hard to turn away from pictures of a smashed-up Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing (punted off-course during a recent Mille Miglia event in Italy); a Lamborghini Diablo made ever so much more rakish by having its roof flattened; as well as a Jaguar XJ220, a Bugatti EB110 and a Vector, cars as rare as high-energy isotopes.
"Although I like any type of car crash, I get really excited when it involves an exotic," Gregg writes. "The more beautiful it is, the more pleasure I get from seeing it destroyed."
He is concerned that people will think he has some sort of fetish, a la the J.G. Ballard novel Crash and the 1996 David Cronenberg movie version.
"Don't mistake this `pleasure' for anything sexual," Gregg writes. "It's just a giddy feeling I get when I see these photos."
As strange as it may seem, there is a public service component to Gregg's Web site. Like the blood-on-the-highway movies shown in driver's education classes, the site's Bad Crashes category - filled with the mutilated Asian imports of dead teen-age drivers - is a sorrowful reminder that horsepower and hormones make a deadly cocktail.
"It's only natural that at one point or another, you're going to push your limits," Gregg says. "Hopefully, Wrecked Exotics will make them stop and think."