When I was writing the article on the Ferrari 288GTO, F40, F50, Enzo, & LaFerrari recently, it got me thinking not just about the wonderful cars we have been fortunate enough to own over the years, but also about a few that got away. Of the many acquisitions we have made, there have probably been as many that didn’t happen for one reason or another. Most of those that fell through fade pretty quickly from my memory but there are three that still vividly stand out. All three in this “got away” group would be cornerstones of any great collection. They are the McLaren F1, Ferrari Enzo, and a Porsche Carrera GT.
Back in 2004 I ran across the following advertisement for a McLaren F1 GTR:
Ex-Bigazzi works team car run for BMW Motorsport in Fina and BMW colours. Raced by Piquet, Soper, Laffite and Duez. Silverstone 4th & Pole, Le Mans 11th. The car has now been homologated and licensed to run on the road but maintained externally and internally as a race car. Rare opportunity to acquire one of only four race F1 GTRs that can be used on the road. Colour White BMW Fina, Interior colour Black, Year 1996, Chassis No. 16R, Price £675,000
I had read a number of great reviews on the McLaren F1 and was quite intrigued. However, all my attempts to get man math to work were a complete and utter failure. The sad reality was I just couldn’t get my head around how any car could be worth that much, especially a used old race car that had been converted for road use. To make squaring the man math even more difficult, the F1 was produced by a company that no longer made road cars and didn’t appear to have any intentions for doing so again in the future. I did a bit of research on maintenance costs and options for servicing and came to the conclusion that the first might be financially ruinous and the second was extremely limited. I thought the Le Mans history on chassis 16R was a big plus as was the whole story behind the F1s development. In the end, head won out over heart and I didn’t end up making an offer on the car. Looking back, the only thing I was actually right on were maintenance costs, they actually can be quite ruinous. Given McLaren F1 values today, this was my £20 million mistake.
Eight years after my big whiff on the McLaren F1, I passed on a Ferrari Enzo. This was a slightly more complicated deal as the ask was for £495,000 plus the Mosler MT900S. The big idea at the time was to first acquire an Enzo, and then add a 288 GTO shortly afterwards as they hadn’t quite gone through the stratosphere yet. These two, along with the F40 & F50 already in the garage, would make a great collection. The Enzo on offer was a yellow car. While yellow was not my first choice, I thought it actually worked fairly decently on the Enzo’s lines. What killed the deal was a bit of homework on the particular car, Chassis # 129581. What I first found out was it had a very large number of warrantee claims and then second that the engine had been pulled and sent back to the factory for a range of issues. More hunting around revealed that the engine was latter replaced and I couldn’t get verification on the mileage. In the end there were just too many red flags and a gut feeling that this Enzo would be on-going trouble that killed the deal. Not going ahead with the deal on this Enzo had a lot to do with what I learned the hard way after buying a “too many stories” Ferrari 456GT. That car turned out to be an ongoing nightmare. While I do still think it was the right call to pass on this particular Enzo, I should have immediately gone and found another.
Porsche Carrera GT
Unlike the first two where I was the one to pass on the deal (very unwisely in the first case, and probably the right decision in the second), when it came to the Porsche Carrera GT, it was the dealer who killed the sale. This was back in June 2014 when we were in the process of moving from the UK to the US. We had just parted with the Ferrari F50 as it could not be imported to the US for another 9 years. While parting with the F50 was quite difficult, I thought getting a Carrera GT in the US would be both a great replacement for the F50 and a new experience. I located a 2005 Black/Grey Carrera GT with 8,200 miles at Porsche of Newport Beach in California. We had agreed a price of $436,000 & I had offered to wire over a deposit which I was told was not necessary. I was just waiting for them to send over the pre-purchase inspection report before finalizing everything. After three days, 2 unreturned phone calls and no signs of the PPI nor any response to my emails, I finally got ahold of the salesman and was told they had sold the Carrera GT to another buyer. What made it even worse was the dealership manager wasn’t even apologetic about the situation and basically told me to go pound sand. Since that time average Carrera GT prices have jumped by $300k to well over $700k now and just can’t get my head around one at these values. The biggest mistake I made when this all happened was getting annoyed with Porsche dealers in general, not immediately hunting down another Carrera GT, and then deciding to go back down the Ferrari route again which resulted in the acquisition of the 430 Scuderia 16M. I hope Carrera GT prices will come back down to earth at some point as they are not particularly rare and can be quite a handful to drive. However, many seem to have fallen into the grasp low mileage collector’s (see: Tyranny of Low Mileage) and then trade hands every few years without seeing much, if any, usage. Hope and reality, in the case of the Carrera GT, may not ever intersect again.
Over a couple of decades now of car collecting, there have been plenty other cars that have gotten away or been allowed to escape. Most fade into the distant fog of irrelevant memories pretty quickly but these three still, and will likely forever, standout. Passing on the McLaren F1 has to be close to an all-time epic miss, the only thing I can think of that would top it would be turning down an offer on a Ferrari 250 GTO for $9,000 in the late 60’s. If I had gone ahead with all three of these acquisitions, realistically the one of the three that I would likely still have is the Porsche Carrera GT. The Enzo would have been sold when we moved from the UK to the US. The McLaren F1 would likely have either gone to a new owner or been stored once values went north of £3 million as at that point, I would no longer have been comfortable driving it on public roads.
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