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Roaring through Mass. in the McLaren F1

Posted by Clifford Atiyeh  November 23, 2009 03:05 PM

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I was about 12 years old when I saw my first McLaren F1. Saw, not as millions of others did from the cover of a Road & Track issue, but saw, as in hearing my father say, "Hey, what's that coming behind us?", turning around, and watching the blessed Messiah of all exotic cars pass our Mercury Sable and literally part the interstate traffic.

We were mere miles from our home in Connecticut, and I was freaking out for another 20. No, Mom, that is not a kit car! It's the fastest production car on earth.

At that time, I knew I had seen one of just seven McLarens in the entire United States, and I knew I would never see one again. I found out later that a company in Danbury, about 35 minutes away, was importing all the F1s from the factory in Woking, England, proof that Connecticut was the center of the universe.

In 2005, I witnessed the second coming of the F1 at Boston's Museum of Fine Arts, which was holding an exhibition of Ralph Lauren's cars. I hardly moved from the velvet rope, despite Lauren's impressive collection. Two sightings in one lifetime? This had to be the last time I would see an F1.

McLaren made roughly 100 road and race versions between 1993 and 1998, and it's impossible to cite the exact number in the US today. Some people say there are more than 20; dealer magnate Herb Chambers thinks there's about a dozen. (And he should know. Jay Leno bought one after taking a ride with him.) Facebook groups and message boards claiming to document each McLaren try their hardest, but the owners of these cars rarely come up in the news unless one catches on fire or gets sold at auction for more than $4 million.

Last month, Chambers decided to drop his McLaren at his new BMW showroom in Sudbury, just 20 miles west of Boston. So I asked what anyone would in this rare moment, short of begging: can I please, please, please go for a ride? Chambers obliged, and on a sunny November morning I found myself holed into the F1's left side, yanking the butterfly door shut, and trying to resist a hyper fit of feet stomping and flailing arms.

To be assaulted by such a high power-to-weight ratio, deafened by a 627 horsepower V-12, and stared at by every driver on the road is the car enthusiast's reason for living. What, I wondered, would I do now for the rest of my life? The afterlife won't be able to match being inside a McLaren at full-bore, running and running while the planet stands still.

For Herb and all the well-heeled car lovers with McLarens, here's hoping, then, for a long life.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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Clifford Atiyeh is an automotive writer and car enthusiast . He has spent his entire life driving cars he doesn't own.
In the garage: 1995 21-speed Iron Horse, 2002 Jeep Wrangler X (by association)
Bill Griffith is a veteran Boston Globe reporter, having reviewed cars for more than 10 years and serving as assistant sports editor for 25 years. He was also the paper's sports media columnist.
In the garage: 2006 Subaru Baja
AAA's Car Doctor, John Paul John Paul is public affairs manager for AAA Southern New England, a certified mechanic, and a Globe columnist. He hosts a weekly radio show on WROL.
In the garage: Hyundai Sante Fe, Chrysler PT Cruiser convertible
Craig Fitzgerald has been writing about cars, motorcycles, and the automotive industry since 1999. He is the former editor of Hemmings Sports & Exotic Car.
In the garage: 1968 Buick Riviera, 1996 Buick Roadmaster, 1974 Honda CB450
Keith Griffin is president of the New England Motor Press Association and edits the used car section on About.com. He also writes for the Hartford Business Journal and various weekly newspapers in Connecticut.
In the garage: Mazda 5, Dodge Neon
George Kennedy is a senior writer for WheelsTV in Acton, which produces video reviews for Yahoo, MSN, and other auto websites.
In the garage: Lifted 1999 Jeep Cherokee
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