Supercar Ghosts

With the McLaren Senna arriving shortly, I have been reflecting back on the different supercars I have owned over the years.  They basically fall into three groups; missed and would like it back, enjoyed owning but it was time to move on, and thank god it’s gone.  For the sake of brevity, I will only touch upon my top three in each category.

Starting with the last “thank god it’s gone” group, at pole position would have to be the Ferrari 456 GT followed by the Porsche 911 (993) Turbo with a BMW M5 (E39) getting a dishonorable mention.  When I bought the 456 GT, it came with a huge pile of invoices and I naively assumed that anything that could possibly go wrong had already gone wrong.  I was completely wrong; this rubber footed spawn of Hades was just getting going.  Every turn of the ignition key seemed to invite further punishment.  On those rare occasions when it did run, I found it under braked and overweight.  Both did nothing to help its case.  The only person sad to see it go was the mechanic I was using at the time.  The 456 GT probably put his son through school that year.  The 911 (993) Turbo was just not a good car.  On the autobahn at 150 mph, the front end went frighteningly light.  It would shimmer at high speed and just didn’t give you much confidence to push it hard.  On roads where the Ferrari F40 excelled, the 911 Turbo came up far short.  Add in a very harsh ride coupled with air-conditioning that would only work randomly and the 911 Turbo was not long for my world. While not quite a supercar, the BMW M5 (M39) has earned a place here as it was that bad.  The engine in the one I owned must have been put together after a long afternoon at Oktoberfest.  It drank both petrol and oil at about the same alarming rate.  Its appetite for tires was a close second to thirst for oil.  Add in a plethora of random warning lights, a clutch that suddenly died, and this was not a relationship that was ever going to last.

In a more positive category of “enjoyed owning” the top three would have to be the McLaren P1, Koenigsegg CCR, and the Mosler MT900S.  The McLaren P1 was an engineering masterpiece.  The P1 was enormously complex but was actually quite docile to drive if you just wanted to cruise around.  The biggest challenge with owning a P1 was finding roads where you could at least start to unleash its mind-bending capabilities.  The P1 both accelerated and stopped unlike any other car I have driven. Had it not been a hybrid with the omni present dead battery threat, it might still be with us.  The Koenigsegg CCR was always an event to drive and mine was completely reliable.  Acceleration was borderline terrifying if you really stuck your foot into it.  While not exactly the most polished car (the gear box was truly demonic), it did get huge marks in terms of being truly exotic and unique.  Somehow the whole package worked.  The Mosler is simply a great driver’s car.  Simple, focused, blisteringly fast, and perfectly balanced.  For just over a tenth the price, the Mosler delivered Enzo type performance.  In an era where all cars look more and more alike, there is no mistaking the Mosler for anything else.  

On the “I would like it back” list, the top three would have to be the Ferrari F50, Ferrari 430 Scuderia, and the Ferrari 365 GTB/4 Daytona.  The Ferrari F50 tops this list and I doubt it will ever lose top billing here.  The F50 is still simply the best driver’s car I have ever owned.  No one will ever make a car like it again and no other car sounds quite like an F50.  The engine is a work of art and that 6 speed gearbox is the best I have ever experienced. Nothing beats blasting down a back-country road in an F50 on a sunny day with the roof off.  On my list of favorite Ferraris, the 430 Scuderia certainly sits in the top 5.  Of the single clutch F1 gearbox generation of Ferraris, it is easy the best.  Great engine, great soundtrack, well balanced and with ceramic brakes that actually work make the 430 Scuderia a wonderful car to drive hard.  The Ferrari 365 GTB/4 Daytona was the first and probably the last semi restoration project I will ever undertake.  Patience is not one of my strong points and restorations require it by the truck load.  Once we had it all sorted, the Daytona did drive nicely and epitomized late 60’s cool.  The engine and soundtrack it produced have to be two of the best ever designed.  The Daytona was a demanding, but hugely rewarding, car to drive. 

The one car I haven’t included in any of the above lists but deserves a mention is the Jaguar XJR-15.  I’m not quite sure if it falls into the “I want it back” or “enjoyed owning” category. What I am sure about the XJR-15 though is it is a unique car unlike any other.  Many cars claim to be road legal race cars, the XJR-15 is the only one I have driven that truly is.  On the one hand, they are beautifully built and on the other, they are completely without any creature comforts.

As time goes on and more cars come and go from our garage, I am sure this list will evolve.  My hope is that the first group never changes and a few from the last group make it back into the collection at some point in the future.

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May 2019

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    Another great article!
    Your view on the 993 turbo is interesting. Prices have skyrocketed recently and I’m wondering if they’re inflated due to collectors betting on the fact it’s the last air cooled turbo, not because of the way it drives.

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