Owning a McLaren F1 was my childhood dream. UT 1:18 scale models of all variants sat on my bookshelf, the book detailing the conception and development of the F1 ‘Driving Ambition’ sat pride of place (only to be read with watched clean hands so no to smudge the papers), and of course in the early ages of internet videos the sight of Tiff Needell on Top Gear spanking XP4 around the Goodwood circuit was etched into my memory. The fact that XP4 ended up being purchased by a New Zealander, the late Sir Roger Bhatnager, was amazing to me! He used it on occasion but sold it again in 2000. Never the less another F1 was in NZ, chassis #049 lives not far from me but is out so infrequently I’ve never seen it in person much to my chagrin of other friends seeing it.
For Kiwi F1 fans Andrew Bagnall purchased the amazing chassis #018 in 2008 for what was now an absolute steal- around $2 million. I drove some distance to see that car in the flesh and wasn’t appointed. My recent trip to Goodwood in the UK took my tally of witnessing F1’s to 5.
Values have been well documented and as they raced north faster than the car itself. So the realist in me knew that dream was over. When McLaren announced their intentions to enter the comparably more affordable sports car market I was excited with the prospect that indeed one day I’ll still own a McLaren with the DNA of an F1. Mass produced= depreciation.
Fast forward to 2017 and another chapter in my goal is written- my first drive in a McLaren. A 650S coupe from the Super Series lineup. Finished in a stunning Volcano yellow, offset with the full carbon package and diamond cut wheels.The generous owner throwing me the key fob with a mere 186 kilometres on the clock- “take it for a hoon” the instructions. No need to tell me twice!The diahedral doors open with a positive force and arch open with grace. Slipping over the large monocell is a bit of an effort but sliding into the bucket seats reveals a cabin with the driver in its focus. All the controls are perfectly laid out within reach and even the much criticized IRIS control system was intuitive to me.Bearing in mind public roads, Sunday afternoon traffic and while in the run in period the drive was more cruise than Fast & Furious. Still the smallest squeeze on the loud pedal propels you down the road at a rate of zero to arrested before you know it. The gear shifts are as fast as you’ve heard and the rocker paddles have a satisfying click. The grooves in the steering wheel were molded off the grip of Lewis Hamilton’s F1 car so the pedigree is immediately apparent.The fit and finish is also testament to the environment they’re built in. The panel tolerances are all perfect and the carbon weave joins are square and true.In between a hill run, and a beach esplanade cruise I couldn’t help but bring it back to my house- I needed a photo of it sitting in the driveway… even if the wife wasn’t impressed. Time ticking by I thought it best to take it back to its rightful home before I was able to convince myself to just keep driving…
With that experience finished now it’s just the task of keeping on saving so one can come visit my garage permanently!