Its an obvious car to lust for, isn't it? A standard go-to. The Greatest Car Ever Made. The McLaren F1. Utterly one of a kind, it offers volatile performance and a laser-focused execution of purity and perfection. Obtaining one is beyond the dreams of most millionaires. It's not traditionally high-tech in the way that the Porsche 959 or the period-contemporary Bugatti EB110 are, but unparalleled in the innovation in its concept and the vision of its creator Gordon Murray. (It took restraint to not capitalize "Creator" in that sentence).
I've been infatuated with it ever seen reading Driving Ambition which I got for my 19th birthday, and highly recommend if you can find it. Since then I've read pretty much everything about the car that I could find, collected a few thousand photos of it and learned a little about the ownership history of the 64 road cars produced.
This past weekend I saw a McLaren F1 here in Houston. This is the third one I've seen, and it's an incredible feeling to see one. It has this presence. First of all it's tiny, with dimensions closer to a Porsche 911 than the typical wide-stanced supercar. It's incredibly detailed and just looks, for lack of a better word, perfect in every way. It seems like such a simple shape but it's so complex and concave and the shutlines just seem to flow around the car so incredibly. It looks aggressive without trying to be aggressive, like it's angry without ever raising its voice.
This F1 is #036, originally produced in 1995 for Monsour Ojjeh, part-owner of McLaren Group, and it was originally ordered in this Pale Blue Metallic. It came to Houston Coffee & Cars thanks to a very gracious and humble owner who wanted to share it with the community. I don't usually enjoy Houston Coffee & Cars (you can only see so many Gallardos) and I tried my best to make the photos not look like the typically "Car Show in an Ugly Shopping Center" setting.
Chronologically, going backwards, this was the previous F1 I had seen, chassis number 014. This car was originally yellow, and inexplicably had Michael Schumacher's signature on the doorjam. It was auctioned in Monterey, CA in 2006 and sold to a gentleman from New York. He sent it to McLaren for a refitting and when it came back, it was white with black wheels and the High Downforce Kit (think McLaren F1 LM)
This was another one at a Car Show in an Ugly Shopping Center. It was in Manhasset, NY in 2007, and I took the train from my Brooklyn apartment to attend this car show. When the owner left the show, I saw that the doorjam was signed. The signature? Lewis Hamilton.
This is the very first F1 I ever saw. The car's owner is popular with the BMW community in Massachusetts, and when I found out it would be at a small BMW car show outside of Boston in July 2007, I rented a car for a Saturday and drove there from NYC. It was absolutely surreal to see it up close and to see it move! A fantastic road trip. This one is an original color F1, I believe the color is Jet Black with 10% flake.
When you build something like this up in your mind so much, when you're actually in the presence of it it's almost euphoric, as ridiculous as that sounds. I usually lust after relatively inexpensive cars from the 70s and 80s and 90s, and this is the exact opposite. But at the same time, it takes everything we love about exotics and racing and precision and motoring and dreaming and wraps it up in a concise, perfect package. I can't relate to Luca de Montezemolo but somehow I can relate to the man who created this. It's just a scaled up, perfectly executed version of everything we dream of.