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May 12, 2011

If you could fill your dream garage

by JHW

What would be in it?  Mine starts here…

It is my favorite car of all time.  That is saying a lot considering one important fact… I have never driven one, and more than likely never will.

I love every last detail of the Mclaren F1, from it’s long list of innovations, to its record breaking pace and central driving position.  This is a machine built with a singular purpose, a cost is no object quest to create the worlds premier four wheeled speed instrument. The McLaren is not a supercar in the modern tradition.  When I first encountered one, a perfect silver example in the Park Lane, London showroom – I was in awe of it’s minute stature.  To put it in perspective, the Mclaren hypercar is as wide as a new Porsche Boxster… and shorter by 3 inches.  Not enough?  The carbon monocoque chassis seats 3 adults, packs a 6.1 liter BMW V12 kicking out an insane 627 hp, goes more than 240 mph in a straight line, and weighs only 500 lbs more than an S2 Lotus Elise.  I feel the point needs repeating… 627 hp… smaller than a Boxster… and weightless by comparison.

Next time I would encounter an F1 would be at NYC’s Rockefeller Center in the late 90’s… Louis Vuitton held an exquisite concourse event, and during set-up I watched in horror as a GTR was backed off a truck into a pole, the driver then panicked and slid forward, crushing the nose under the truck.  I must have walked around the damaged car for an hour – marveling at every intricate detail, and then gritting my teeth each time I laid eyes on the gaping hole at front.  It was a version of this car that won 1st at 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1995 (oh, GTR’s also took 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 13th) and looking at it close up, it was easy to understand why.  Trying to absorb the intricacies of the F1 in a moment is akin to skimming War and peace… details such as floating rotors (which I would later learn used specially developed hardware still used in Brembo’s high performance offerings), magnesium wheels, gold foil to assist with heat dissipation in the engine bay and about 100 other mind bogglingly cool tech pieces could still be used for bragging rights nearly 20 years after the F1’s inception.

Among the coolest things about the Mac is how truly exotic it is.  There is no local dealership to ogle at, you won’t see an F1 at your local meet, don’t expect to see one pull up to you at a light… the Mclaren F1 is “the one”… we have all read about it, enthusiasts can rattle off it’s spec sheet, speculation still exists that the car could have gone faster if not for limited test roads.  It is fabled. Iconic.  Special… perhaps more so than all of the others… the F40 has that kind of specialness (I have been passenger in an LM spec F40 north of 180 mph and can attest), the amazing and revolutionary 959 & wind tunnel shaped Enzo are all spectacular beyond words… but they are Swatches to the Mclaren’s Patek Philippe pedigree.  They all fall short of the F1, a no-cost proposition from the mind of Gordon Murray, and developed within a skunk works division of a Formula 1 outfit. This is the real McCoy.

The next time I would encounter an F1, man… it still gives me chills.  It was 2001, I had recently bought an Audi S4, and driven across country to my new home in Scottsdale, Arizona.  It was a Saturday morning, on my return from breakfast I passed a shopping center and kept watchful eye to the storefronts (here’s hoping a Starbucks is near) as a bright orange object caught my eye.  Surely, there is no chance I saw what I thought I did… how could it be?  I jerked my wheel to the right and pulled into the entrance, my heart now racing – I made my way through rows of empty spaces, and there it was – parked out there in the open among a sea of undeserving scrap metal.  I parked a few spots away, opened my door and jumped out like my car was on fire.  I had seen them before, but in this setting – it looked smaller and more docile than ever.  The bright orange metallic paint job glowed in the Arizona sun, not the color I would ever think to apply, but there was no arguing that it added to the gravitas of the cars occasion.  I cupped my hands around my eyes and stared into the cockpit – the owner had selected a lush mix of carbon fiber & matching orange alcantara.  This was years before cell phones came equipped with cameras, so I did what any logical car nut would do – and raced off to buy a disposeable camera.  I returned, relieved to find the F1 sitting as I left it, and started snapping away.  As I stood in awe, I noticed a tall man walking toward me from behind.  This couldn’t be the owner – he was wearing jorts!  As he neared, I noticed that he was holding keys… my heart resumed it’s elevated pace.  The next 10 minutes were spent asking nearly every question I could think of – afterall, one does not end up owning a Mclaren F1 by accident or windfall… this was a man who’s taste in all things (non denim related) were extraordinary by any measure.  Only a discerning enthusiast would consider such a purchase.  The cream on this cake of a day were the moments in which the F1 started, fought to find a deep raucous idle, and tore out of the complex with a tire smoke inducing V12 scream.  I must have stood still and silent for a full minute before breaking into disbelieving laughter.  I am a diehard automotive enthusiast defined largely by my love of wheeled objects.  I have been to every local, regional, national and international show worth mentioning, have worked in the industry for the last decade, and have not once – EVER wanted to drive a car more.

In finding a kick off point for this list, I must put my best foot forward and choose my all time favorite, what is in my opinion the greatest vehicle ever to touch asphalt – the incredible Mclaren F1.

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