Hard-and-fast rules sometimes produce unfortunate results, but nonetheless I have a few. One is: never go in against a Sicilian when death is on the line. Here’s another: if someone offers to let you borrow a 612-horsepower $250,000 British supercar for the weekend, always accept. That’s what I did when the people from McLaren’s PR firm contacted me. I tried to be honest with them.
“D Magazine doesn’t do car reviews,” I told them.
“Is it even possible you would write about it?”
I made a noise—kind of like ehhhmr—that could be interpreted as a response in the affirmative if you were a positive person and disinclined to take no for an answer, which it turns out is an accurate description of the McLaren PR people. But they were a crafty bunch. They understood that a weekend behind the wheel of their client’s machine would produce copy.
I am a 50-year-old man who drives a 2008 Prius with 108,000 miles on it. Wow. That looks depressing when you type those words all in a row. I’ve now read that sentence six times. It gets worse each time, doesn’t it?
But there it is. When it comes to my personal choice in transportation, I apparently have no self-respect or even regard for my neighbors, whose property values I surely lower every time I take my Prius out of the garage, quietly slinking down our street on battery power, my only emission a cloud of uncoolness. The McLaren people knew they could change me. A weekend would do it.
The first thing I did upon taking delivery of the car was to frighten and alienate my 15-year-old daughter. “Come on, kiddo,” I said, leading her out the front door. “You’re going to love this.” And she did indeed dig the dihedral doors, the fancy sort that swing out and up as if the car is signaling a touchdown. But then I got my daughter on a straight stretch of Northwest Highway, east of Plano Road, and I put the hammer down.
“Dad! Dad! Dad!” she said. There might have been a few more “Dads.” She said them in such quick succession that it was difficult to count them. “Stop it!” she begged.
The McLaren GT goes from 0 to 60 mph in 3.1 seconds. To achieve maximum thrust, you must fiddle with some knobs and press an actual button labeled “launch.” I was too scared to do that and left my loaner in the idiot-proof automatic setup in which it had been given to me. It still accelerated with such suddenness and force that it quite literally took my breath away. For a guy who trundles around town in a car powered by a cordless electric chainsaw motor, the McLaren’s turbocharged V8 was intoxicating. For my daughter, it was too much. I have spoiled her with responsible driving.
My own father, a biochemist and retired university professor, is a speed freak. He drove Porsches in amateur track races when I was a baby, my mother always on his ass to knock it off and grow up. After they divorced, he continued to drive classic Porsches too fast. I have vivid passenger-seat preteen memories of taking mountain road turns at speeds outside my comfort zone—the moan of the 911’s air-cooled engine, the smell of the horsehair in the seat padding—until, at some point, I learned that the only way to survive was to give up and trust him. Dad knew what he was doing, surely.
Not my daughter. In her dad’s car, since the age of 3, she has known nothing but the speed limit and impressive fuel economy. Is that any way to raise a child?
On our way to lunch at the Original ChopShop on Mockingbird, I took each turn like I was auditioning for The Fast and the Furious: East Dallas Drift, trying to compensate for years of bad parenting. My daughter adjusted the tint of the optional $6,000 electrochromic glass roof and connected her phone to the Bluetooth so she could listen to a ’50s Spotify playlist on the Bowers & Wilkins sound system.
“You’re going to get a ticket,” she said.
“If I get pulled over,” I told her, “I’ll tell the cop I’m sorry and that this is a media loaner car and I had no idea how fast I was going.”
“So you’ll use your White privilege,” she said pointedly.
It’s hard to say that the exchange that followed produced a memory that my daughter will happily revisit when she is older, but memory is a funny thing, so who knows? Maybe I handled her insolence with the same cool competence with which I tried to rip the rubber off the McLaren’s cast alloy wheels.
Side note because this McLaren model has a new feature: it’s theoretically a touring car, so where other McLarens have a bulkhead behind the seats, this one has room to put stuff. I can report that it easily accommodated our leftovers from Original ChopShop.
My daughter adjusted the tint of the optional $6,000 electrochromic glass roof and connected her phone to the Bluetooth so she could listen to a ’50s Spotify playlist. “You’re going to get a ticket,” she said.
Later in the day, my daughter needed to deliver some paperwork to her basketball coach at Woodrow Wilson High School. There was still some rubber left on the wheels, so I volunteered to ferry her up there. It was a gorgeous, sunny day. While she ran into the gym, I idled in the parking lot with the windows down. My daughter emerged in due time, followed by her coach, who stood just outside the gym.
Embarrassed to be seen climbing into a dihedral-doored car that costs roughly five times the city’s median household income, my daughter said, “Gas it!”
“Gas it?” I asked.
I feathered the accelerator. But I’d forgotten to put the car in gear. Instead of Dad going, Dad revved the 612-horsepower engine, which echoed impressively off the red brick exterior of the new gym. I smiled and gave a thumbs-up to Coach through my open window. We rolled forward a few inches.
Then I gunned it again before I got things worked out. Truly, the ruckus was all an accident, but she didn’t think so, and I was OK with that on two levels. That was the most fun I had in the car.
The rest of the weekend was mostly filled with frustration. Everyone, everywhere was constantly in my way. I get passed a lot in my Prius. All well and fine. The McLaren, by contrast, made me want to do the passing. You know how if the only tool you have is a hammer, it is tempting to treat everything as if it were a nail? Similarly, if you have a McLaren, every other driver looks like an anti-American pudding head hellbent on depriving you of your God-given right to go fast. Why they hated my freedom didn’t matter. I just yearned to show them my LED taillamps. I found that the car also inclined me to use British terms. I started saying “taillamp” instead of “taillight” and “bonnet” instead of “hood” and “Bob’s your uncle.” I am not proud of my behavior.
By the time the lads came to retrieve the car, I was knackered and ready to return to the slow lane. I handed over the McLaren’s key fob, content with my automotive lot in life and yet also confident that my daughter’s basketball coach doesn’t quite know where to slot that Rogers kid in her mental lineup. Shooting guard? Heiress to a fortune? Everyone needs a little mystery in her life, including my daughter. Maybe Dad is a bit more dangerous than she thought.
So that explains the car in the photograph. As for the getup I was wearing, I am an ordained minister of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster (fact), and on the weekend I had the McLaren, I officiated my cousin’s socially distanced backyard wedding, for which occasion my mom sewed a stole and crafted a matching miter with His Noodly Appendages. The red Pumas, they matched the blazer.
Write to [email protected].