I drove into the parking lot of the Grillhouse restaurant, next to the Victoria BC airport, for a late afternoon meeting with Tim Evans, a fellow car enthusiast. He was chatting with a man I didn't recognise. I parked my car next to them and immediately made one of those remarks that seem clever and amusing at the time but in retrospect are rather silly.
"It's okay," I said, "it's got an F1 engine under the hood!"
What prompted that bit of nonsense was a fear of inadequacy, for my car is a 2003 Focus ZX5, while my friend drives a beautiful Audi TT and I assumed the stranger was one of his pals, all of whom own desireable and expensive sports cars. I thought a little humour might take the edge off my embarrassment. After all, I've been writing about cars all my adult life and have driven competitively with some success. It follows that my ride should be something that reflects that background, not a humble hatchback. Sure... pride, as they remind us, goes before a fall.
The words were no sooner out of my mouth than the stranger (whose name I've forgotten) turned to me and said, quietly, "actually, I've got one."
"You mean you've got a McLaren F1 at home?" I muttered in amazement, thinking he was referring to an F1 racing engine. Who was this guy and how did he come to own the engine from an F1 race car? Well it turned out that he was referring to the McLaren F1 sports coupe, one of the most exclusive and costly supercars on the planet. A serious collector and obviously very wealthy he also possesses a Lamborghini Countach, though he doesn't drive it on the street as the Lambo is "too conspicuous." And a McLaren isn't? During our conversation he humbly chatted about his two corporate jets, a pair of Falcons that he hopes to move from their base in California to our Victoria airport.
This incident happened a few weeks ago but I was reminded of it when reading about one of the "stars" of Gooding & Company's Pebble Beach auction this weekend. It's a 1997 McLaren F1 in turnkey condition, being offered from a private US collection in its original factory-delivered form in Magnesium Silver over a black interior. Having had just two owners from new, this sought-after F1 will go on the block with an impressive McLaren maintenance record, factory owner’s manual, luggage, tools and EPA and DOT certification.
Gooding is especially proud of this auction as it marks the firm's 10th anniversary. The occasion will be celebrated at a private event with the Pebble Beach unveiling of the all-new McLaren P1. The new P1 will also be on display for public viewing Saturday and Sunday at the McLaren pavilion at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance.
It wouldn't surprise me if the gentleman I met that afternoon is one of the invited guests at Gooding's private party. Very few people in this world actually own a McLaren so he's someone I'd invite if I were a Gooding public relations person. You can be sure I wouldn't mention what's under the hood of my car, though. Or my car, for that matter. Let him think I'm just one of the guys.