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Supercar Spotlight — SCS On Site at McLaren P1 Preview

McLaren P1 Unveiling at Lake Forest Sports Cars

Photo By Matt Magnino | The Photomotive

As automotive enthusiasts we all go about our daily lives sitting in traffic behind econoboxes, walking past endless aisles of crossovers at the grocery store, and once in a while (when we’re lucky) running across something that gets our engines running. For me it can be as simple as driving past a car my father once owned during my childhood, receiving a friendly wave or “Hey whatcha got in that thing!?!?” from someone at a red light, or seeing a car maker introduce something brand new that resonates back to a car that has always held a special place in my heart.

Petrol heads are often asked what our favorite cars are. Like most, I have many favorites: favorite classics, favorite muscle cars, favorite contemporary cars, supercars etc. Atop my all-time consolidated list of favorites lies only one, the McLaren F1. A car so special, few outside the enthusiast circle have even heard of it let alone know any small morsel of its illustrious, impressive story. I remember hearing rumors in the late 2000’s of a new McLaren and my heart was set aflutter. When the design was unveiled in 2009 it evoked memories of my plethora of McLaren F1 desktop wallpapers long since forgotten.

Photo by Dan Chmielinski

As the first cars were completed and the press tour began I watched videos and read articles as the McLaren MP4-12C became the talk of the town. The car received rave reviews; presenters stacked it up against the Ferrari 458 Italia, the Porsche 911 GT2 RS, even the Ariel Atom, but for me something was missing. The car didn’t give me the warm fuzzy feeling I get even to this day when I so much as hear the name “McLaren F1”. If it wasn’t the confusing name (which by the way is completely ridiculous, MP4-12C, give me a break) perhaps it was that everyone had simply caught up? Maybe Ferrari and Porsche had covered ground that McLaren had lost while taking a break from street cars for almost two decades; or maybe I simply missed the third seat.

Photo by Dan Chmielinski

What it was, I decided, is that McLaren had produced a mainstream car. Not mainstream in the sense that it suddenly fell within budget of the masses, but mainstream in the world of supercars. The F1 didn’t compete with Ferrari nor Porsche, it was in a class of its own and therein lied the problem. The Mp4-12C may have been and may still be the best street car on the market (I wouldn’t know, my invite to drive one may have been lost in the mail) but it’s not in a class of it’s own as the F1 was, literally.

Photo by Dan Chmielinski

Fast forward a few years and murmurs of a new car, the P1, began to abound. P1 sounds like F1; maybe I had been looking at things the wrong way. Maybe McLaren had introduced the MP4-12C to get their name back on the map in the eyes of consumers whilst secretly working on the next generation. Could the P1 be a true successor to the F1? When the exterior design of the P1 was officially unveiled at the Paris motor show in 2012 it became evident to the world that this was not intended to be an ordinary car, anything but. The design was futuristic enough that it appeared as if it could have been a far-reaching concept car yet the people at McLaren insisted it was slated for production.

Photo by Dan Chmielinski

One day in early January, Zach Chapman, a loyal SCS attendee and frequent poster to our Supercar Saturdays Facebook group posted a photo of a P1. The car was not on stage at an auto show nor at an elaborate event, it sat simply parked under a lift at Lake Forest Sportscars / McLaren Chicago a few minutes drive from my house.

McLaren P1 on Lift at LFSC

Photo by Zach Chapman

Almost instantaneously, I received a text message from Jeremy Cliff of The Photomotive saying he’d do anything to photograph it. I made a few calls to the great people at LFSC who were extremely generous in extending invitations to an very exclusive event — the Chicago unveiling of the P1 design. Here, without further adieu is the result courtesy of Jeremy Cliff and Matt Magnino of The Photomotive. After you finish drooling over these poster-worthy shots, scroll down for a video of the P1 in testing.

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Supercar Spotlight: 1988 Countach

Welcome to the first feature post of the Supercar Saturdays blog.

We hope to provide a little bit more insight into the cars and owners that attend Supercar Saturdays, as well as give you more to read on our website than registration info and directions.

Our first supercar needs no introduction. If you were born in the early 80’s you probably lusted over this particular machine for years as it was the quintessential exotic of its time, and still has a certain aura to it whenever you see one in
person. The owner, Bob, is used to the stares and attention; saying:

“If I park it in town to have dinner it virtually stops traffic. On the toll-way people follow me for miles taking pictures. It’s the car that was featured in Cannon Ball Run and Rain Man. Everyone knows what it is, The Lamborghini that made Lamborghini what they are today.”

Bob is lucky to own quite possibly one of the last production Countachs ever built. The run ended in mid-1988, with the numbers on the car indicating that this example was built in May. The factory is currently trying to confirm this car’s lineage as one of the final 10 to come off the line.

Like most supercars, the most exciting part of the experience is in the driver’s seat. The owner had this to say:

“Driving is always an adrenaline rush but it is a handful. I’ve driven [manual] cars
my entire life but the Countach has a very unforgiving clutch. It’s tough to get
used to and stalls easily. Not the kind of thing you want to do when a crowd is
watching you park. You better have small feet also…”

Buying a Countach in this day and age isn’t as much of a challenge as it was back when they were still in the dealerships and on aspiring childrens’ bedroom walls, but owning a Countach today represents a slightly larger investment. Bob shared a few anecdotes that brought the ownership experience into perspective. “Maintenance is always difficult. No matter how much I read there is so little known about these cars. There is no shop manual and even the wiring diagrams I’ve found on line are usually wrong.” It even went so far as to have an ignition specialist not even include a wiring diagram with the installation kit because “no two cars are the same… I need to walk you through step by step.”

I have a great respect for the passion people have about their cars. Bob says “It’s taken me years to find a competent mechanic”, adding that the first one he took it to did more damage to the car than he fixed! “I was sick for a month trying to get it fixed properly.” Add to that the fact that it took two years to locate a set of replacement tires (Hey, the Bugatti’s are expensive, but at least the factory still makes them…) and this car might have turned off all but the most hardcore and resourceful enthusiasts.

Needless to say I’m glad that this piece of automotive history lies in good hands and and ecstatic to see it at Supercar Saturdays month after month. I can distinctly remember back when we first started this event, seeing this car and saying “Well, we’re official now, there’s a Countach here!.” Bob’s parting words in our interview were this:

“The poster of this car hung in my room along with Farrah
Fawcett. Farrah may be no more — but this car is forever beautiful.”

Amen.