As a child, I would lock myself away in my room, fire up the Playstation (yes, the original) and play Need for Speed. It was a racing game that let me dream of driving cars I would likely never see in person. Of these rare, exotic, insanely priced hyper cars, the McLaren F1 stood king, as it was the fastest in top speed and cost 1 million dollars in 1993.
The McLaren F1 is somewhat of a unicorn in the car world as there were only 106 ever made, and of those, some have seen themselves crashed away…. I’m looking at you Rowen Atkinson. Over the years I have only seen a few, at random car shows, and only one on the street. In college, I would watch the Top Gear segment where Tiff drives one at a private track, and as soon as it was finished, watch it all over again.
You are probably starting to see my obsession with this car…
A few years back, I was contacted about photographing a McLaren F1 GTR Longtail, the racing version of the car. It was a photoshoot that I will always hold dear, as seeing it and sitting in it was the fulfillment of a childhood dream. However, part of me still felt like the quest was not over, as I wanted to see / photograph the original. I wanted the car that I had wasted so many hours driving on that game in lieu of having any social life whatsoever.
And then the call came…
A kind car collector had offered me the use of his collection to photograph, amongst many race cars, Ferraris and Bugattis, there stood one car that floored me. A completely stock, silver McLaren F1. Before I could even finish the list, I had packed up my gear and was on a plane to meet a car which had lived only in my mind and the pages of magazines past.
Less that two weeks later, I walked into a room that was dark, lit only by one emergency light, yet in the lack of light, the unmistakable shoulder line of the F1 appeared. This 90’s sensation sat amongst the greats of today and still commanded attention unbestowed on its hyper brethren. Turning the lights on in the room only filled in the details of perfection that Gordon Murry had envisioned nearly half a century earlier.
Fortunately for me, I had packed a bottle of scotch along with my regular camera kit. The opportunity to take in such a wonderful sight paired well with a kind glass of Archive and camaraderie of those that were helping me realize this dream. Pausing in the middle of the shoot, I took time to think about what this car was, to me, and to those that shared my passion for cars.
The McLaren F1 was a car that peeled open our vision into the future and left us in awe of the innovation so far ahead of its time. It was the guidon bearer of creations yet to be thought of even at the time that its production line gave the world its last sample. Its form is nothing short of captivating, but its purpose is simple… show the world what mankind is capable of dreaming.