Elon Musk goes through life with a “go big or go home” type of attitude.
So in 1999, Musk decided to reward himself with a new car after selling his startup — Zip2 — for more than $US300 million. And not just any car. The greatest and quite possibly one of the most expensive cars of its time.
In 2015, two of the 64 McLaren F1 road cars built from 1993-1998 have come up for sale. One of them, owned by British comedian Rowan Atkinson (“Mr. Bean”) sold for a reported sum of $US12.3 million. Another example, a 1998 LM spec F1, sold at auction by Sotheby’s for a whopping $US13.75 million.
That’s some impressive appreciation even for a car that cost a not-inconsiderable-$US800,000 new.
In a clip from a CNN Perspectives documentary dating back to 1999, a then-28-year-old Musk and his fiancee (now former wife) Justine take delivery of the exotic set of wheels.;
“It’s a million dollars for a car,” Justine said. “It’s decadent.”
“Three years ago, I was showering at the YMCA and sleeping on the office floor,” Musk told the camera. “Now I have a million-dollar car and a quite a few creature comforts.”
“There’s 62 (now 64) McLaren F1s in the world,” Musk added. “And I will own one of them.”
In its day, the McLaren F1 was unlike anything the world had ever seen. It was designed by and engineered by the legendary duo of Peter Stevens and Gordon Murray — featuring the latest advancements pioneered by the company’s success in Formula One motor racing.
Powered by a BMW 6.1-litre 627-horsepower V-12 engine, the hand-built, carbon-fibre hypercar was capable of a mind-bending top speed of more than 240 mph. The F1 boasted some truly unique features, such as a Formula One-inspired central driver’s seat — and an engine compartment lined with 24-karat gold!
So what ever happened to Musk’s McLaren? In a 2012 interview, the Tesla and SpaceX boss told PandoDaily that Musk used the exotic ride as his daily driver for several years, putting 11,000 miles on the odometer.
In the same interview, Elon Musk also told the story of crashing his beloved McLaren. In an attempt to show off the capabilities of his hypercar to his PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel, Musk spun the McLaren, hit an embankment, and sent the car flying “like a discus” three feet in the air.
After the crash, the car was repaired and is now under the watchful eye of a new owner somewhere in California.
Even though Musk has moved on to the latest offerings from Tesla, his silver F1 remains the performance benchmark for his company. In 2014, Musk proudly touted the Tesla Model S P85D’s ability to match the McLaren’s 3.2-second 0-to-60-mph acceleration time. In 2016, the company’s Model S P100D registered a barely-believable 0-60 time of just 2.28 seconds.
Here’s a short clip from the documentary:
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