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    / #1993-Jaguar-XJ220 / It’s hard for me to believe I’ve owned my #McLaren-F1 for over 20 years. What’s even harder to believe is that I almost didn’t buy it. #1993 / #Jaguar

    There had been a number of other supercars on the market that turned out to be disappointing. There was the #Jaguar-XJ220 , meant to have a V12 engine but later changed to a twin-turbo V6. There was also the Vector, an American supercar using a large #twin-turbo V8 and also not quite what was promised. So when the F1 finally came out, with the price tag more than double that of some other supercars, a lot of people thought, well, how good could it be? I was one of those sceptical people. Back in 1992, $810,000 for a car seemed crazy.

    You could get a Rolls-Royce, a Ferrari and a Lamborghini for that much money. #McLaren hoped to sell 300 cars but that scepticism, plus a worldwide recession, forced them to shut down after just 64 road cars, 28 race cars and a handful of prototypes. Just 106 cars in total. Another reason I didn’t pursue the F1 was because, at the time, it couldn’t be sold in America. The driving position was not legal, it hadn’t been Federalised and it didn’t pass California smog tests.

    In a classic case of not knowing what you’ve got till it’s gone, stories started appearing about the greatest car that nobody bought. Then a white knight appeared in the form of billionaire Bill Gates. After having trouble registering his Porsche 959, he helped introduce a law called Show And Display. What this law said was, any vehicle no longer in production, and considered to be of historical or technical interest, could be privately imported and driven in America no more than 2500 miles a year. That’s when I started looking. I called McLaren and spoke to a gentleman called Harold Dermott. ‘Any F1s for sale?’ I asked.

    He said: ‘Yes, we have a very nice one here; black with black interior, and it’s $800,000.’

    ‘But that’s what it is new! It’s a second-hand car!’ ‘Well, there aren’t any new ones,’ Harold said. ‘And we think they’ll hold their value.’

    I knew the car had been at McLaren about a month, with no takers. So I said to Harold, ‘Look, I’ll call you back in two weeks,’ secretly hoping the car would be sold by then and I would be stopped from making the biggest financial mistake of my life. Which was buying a car I’d never seen, let alone driven, in a foreign country with no guarantee I could bring it into the US. After two weeks I called Harold back. He said they still had it, although they’d had an enquiry that day.

    Sensing that this was the oldest car-salesman trick in the book, I quickly fell for it. ‘I’ll take it,’ I said. I then naively asked Harold if the car had air-conditioning. ‘It does’, Harold replied, before adding in that classic understated English way, ‘but if you want the good airconditioning, it’s $25,000 extra.’

    I don’t need to tell you that it was the most brilliant financial decision I ever made. When I purchased the F1 it seemed like the most complicated thing in the world. Imagine a car you hooked up to a computer, and a guy in England could look at a screen and tell you what’s wrong! Now, compared with modern supercars it seems almost simple, and in some ways it is. It even has a tool kit.

    On my website, Jay Leno’s Garage, you might have seen us removing the engine from the F1 to replace the fuel cell. We did it in 2013 and we did it again a week ago. It made me fall in love with the car all over again.

    Fixing even the simplest things on the F1, like replacing the battery, makes you feel like the mouse who took the thorn out of the lion’s paw. Is working on an F1 intimidating? Of course it is. But when you see it laid out on the garage floor, you realise it’s still a car and should be used as such.

    There may be modern supercars that are faster, but none is more seductive and intoxicating. The induction noise, the manual gearbox, the lack of driver aids such as #ABS and stability control, really make it the ultimate driving experience. I’m proud of the 12,000 miles I’ve put on my F1, and I like to think I’ll put a lot more than that on it in the next 20 years. Investment be damned! The downside is they’ve become incredibly valuable and a lot of people are afraid to drive them. The upside is they’re so valuable they can almost never be totalled. If the only piece you have left after a horrible accident is the chassis plate, just take it to Woking and they’ll repair it. And, just like your Mustang or your MG, it even seems to run better right after you wash it.

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    Jay Leno
    Jay Leno joined the group Jaguar XJ220
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    votren911 is now friends with Jay Leno
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    Jay Leno
    First let me start by saying that I like electric cars, but mainly purpose-built ones. I own a #Tesla-Model-S-P90D / ( #Tesla / the dual-engine #Tesla-Model-S model), a #1909-Baker-Electric and a #1914-Detroit-Electric . My wife has an #electric-Fiat-500 .

    What I have never been a fan of is taking perfectly good gas-engine cars and turning them into electrics, because they never quite deliver on the promise. Electricity is like sex: people seem to have a compulsion to lie about it. Every electric bicycle or motorcycle I have ever ridden promised 80 to 100 miles on a charge, but if you rode them the way you ride a normal motorcycle, you never got more than about 30 miles before you were limping home.

    Most amateur and semi-professional conversions from gas to electric tend to come up short. The cars are usually heavier, which means handling and braking are adversely affected. Luggage space is lost and, of course, range is diminished. None of this really bothered me because most of the cars being converted were cars I wasn’t particularly interested in.

    Something I thought I would never accept was converting classics to electric. Like most car enthusiasts, at least here in the States, the only part of the Royal Wedding I found interesting was the electric E-type. I’m not sure how I felt about it. A priceless classic ruined? Or had it been made better than it was?

    To answer this question I consulted a man named Michael Bream. He owns a shop called EV West near San Diego, California, and has done some fascinating conversions such as electrifying Porsche 911s. Now, before you head down there with pitchforks, hear me out. As Michael explained, 911s are expensive but not rare. They built well over a million of them and his conversions are such that you can always go back to stock. He never cuts anything structural.

    The classic I found most fascinating was his electric Fiat 124 Spider. The unusual part was that he had kept the original gearbox. I had always been told that there was no advantage in having a gearbox on an electric motor. Most electric motors make full torque from zero, so a gearbox just adds weight and complexity. Years ago I drove one of Elon Musk’s early prototype roadsters, the one with a two-speed gearbox. The electric motor was so powerful that the gearbox broke. So a single-speed was deemed sufficient, although the top speed was somewhat limited.

    The advantage of having a gearbox, though, is driver involvement. Although I could pull away in just about any gear with the converted 124 Spider, using the gearbox made me feel more like I was part of the car. The electric motor was way more powerful than the original four-cylinder internal combustion engine, and the only thing missing was the exhaust note. I think transmissions will be the next big thing for electric vehicles. Just the fact that they use them in Formula E racing, when they’re not required to, proves something.

    I was fortunate enough to get a ride in the beautiful #new-Tesla-Roadster designed by Franz von Holzhausen, which goes from 0 to 60mph in well under two seconds, turns the quarter-mile in the high-eights and has a claimed top speed of over 250mph, while giving you over 600 miles between charges.

    I couldn’t tell if it had a transmission or not, and everybody was pretty hush-hush about the technical aspects of the car. What I can tell you is that it was the fastest-accelerating street vehicle I have ever been in. No need for launch control. Just hit the pedal and it was gone.

    It was about the same size as a 911, which I consider the perfect size for a sports car. The other fascinating aspect was the aerodynamics. Since there is no traditional transmission, the undercarriage could become a giant diffuser. Imagine: no headers or long exhaust pipes running the length of the car to break up the airflow. Combine all those elements with a power plant that requires absolutely no maintenance of any kind, and is good for over a million miles, and you have an unbeatable combination. The genius of Tesla is the battery technology. They develop it, build it, own it.

    Back to Michael Bream. After seeing his converted Porsches, Volkswagens, Fiats and even a BMW that ran at Pike’s Peak, I was sold. I’d been prejudiced against converted electric cars purely because I’d never seen any done this well. These conversions were faster, handled as well and, with their original gearboxes, were just as much fun to drive as the originals. But as for the #electric-Jaguar-E-type … that’ll take some time.
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    Jay Leno
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    Jay Leno

    To be a car enthusiast in Japan takes a lot more effort than in America or the UK. First of all there are hardly any parking spaces. You have to prove you have a space before you can buy a car and most of the guys wind up doing their work outside on the street because r the most privileged or wealthy.

    / #Lexus-LFA-Spider / #Lexus-LFA / #Lexus /

    In America (USA), if your car is more than 30 years old you can register it for next to nothing. In Japan, the older your car is, the more you have to pay to keep it. You show up at the shop for the equivalent of an MoT with a car from the ’70s and they go over it with a fine-tooth comb, and it takes hours and hours. All for a car you might drive only a couple of thousand miles a year.

    So when you run into these enthusiasts in Japan, they are hardcore kind of guys. There are a lot of enthusiasts who don’t even have driving licences but they drive on Nintendo and PlayStation. They know all the tracks, they know all the cars, but they just don’t have any hands-on experience with them.

    There’s a snobbery about Western car enthusiasts, that we have the heritage, we own the heritage. But Japanese cars have been around long enough to have a heritage of their own.

    In America, when we make a mistake we come back and blame the other guy. When the Japanese make a mistake they blame themselves, they throw themselves on their swords and they come back harder and faster with something better.

    The Honda NSX is the car that made Ferrari better. Ferrari was quite content to put out 220bhp cars in the early ’70s and ’80s that were really not up to Ferrari’s standards. Then the NSX came along and just embarrassed everybody and made everybody up their game. The NSX was the car that Gordon Murray felt the F1 should emulate, but the trouble was that at the time the Japanese had a gentleman’s agreement not to produce any car with more than 276 horsepower. We did not appreciate the finesse of the NSX; the jewel-like quality of the build, the handling, the fact that Senna himself played an active role in its design. We thought it was OK, but without ever driving it and (for most people) without ever seeing it, we dismissed it as some sort of Japanese wannabe. Which of course it wasn’t.
    I drove the Lexus LFA Spider while in Japan, which is very cool. The LFA is proof that the Japanese believe a car should be able to perform every purpose well. Westerners like flaws. You get some of these Japanese supercars and they don’t break. They’re bulletproof and they don’t require a lot of effort from you as an owner, so consequently there’s nothing for you to brag about. You can’t say, well they originally weren’t able to do this, but I modified it. That adds a certain cachet. The LFA does everything really well. I would say that the Mazda MX-5 is the most globally successful British car that the Japanese sort of reinvented and did correctly. The British were there first with the Lotus Elan and the MGB; if only they had put a little bit more effort into it and ploughed money back into development instead of whatever they did – when I was a kid they were everywhere and everybody had problems with them. The diehards worked the problems out and the regular people just said ‘Forget it’. I remember a quote from a British motorcycle company executive saying the average motorcycle enthusiast enjoyed decoking his head on a Saturday morning. No doubt some did…

    When the MX-5 came along it was a hard sell. It was a secretary’s car and a hairdresser’s car. And then people drove it and discovered that it was as good as the Lotus or the MG – maybe better. I had one and the battery lasted 13 years. It handled, it was fun to drive, and I would say to myself when I drove it that this was really kind of a perfect car.
    I also drove the current GT-R in Tokyo. You buy a car like that and by rights it should cost a million dollars. Technically it does things that are just unbelievable.

    I’m always suspicious of these tuners who claim to double the horsepower of your GT-R. Well, no, you can’t. The guys who built these things are real engineers. I’ve been in the clean room where they make these GT-Rs and the level of detail is amazing. They wear gloves and hairnets. And yet you’re supposed to let some guy in some filthy garage in LA take your engine apart in order to try to get more horsepower? I don’t think so.

    It was an amazing trip to Japan. Check out some of the films we shot on my website and

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    When Bullitt came out with Steve McQueen I wanted to know everything about the Ford Mustang. The same with #Knight-Rider – I remember tuning in just to see the car. These days most people don’t notice the cars the stars are driving, but they seem to know the ones in the video games, like Gran Turismo 6, which just came out.

    / #Steve-McQueen / #Bullitt / #1968-Bullit / #Gran-Turismo-6 / #1966-Oldsmobile-Toronado / #Ford-Mustang / #Oldsmobile-Toronado / #Mark-Donohue

    The idea that concept cars make their first appearance in video games makes a lot of sense. A movie opens and it makes $50 million and is a huge success. A video game launches and makes 700, 800, 900 million dollars on the first day because people want to see those vehicles.

    In the movie you tend to think of your self as James Bond or Steve-McQueen , whereas in the video game there is no human element, it’s just the car. So you are the driver, as opposed to that person, and you can make it do whatever you want it to. And the video games are way more accurate than the movies. There’s a whole cottage industry of picking out all the little mistakes in various car films. The only thing missing from games now is the gasoline and rubber smell. When you watch a game like Gran Turismo 6, they’ve gone to great trouble to recreate the sounds exactly. A friend of mine got one of the driving games and it has Mark Donohue’s Camaro in it. And he couldn’t last past a certain time, he just couldn’t get any better. Then he read Mark Donohue’s book about how he set up his Camaro and his tyre pressures and things, and he put all the stats from the book into the video game. He was lapping faster. So you actually are driving the car.

    When I got to drive a Jaguar at the Nürburgring, I practised on the video game. Braking points, the Karussell, all of it was exactly as it was in real life. Not that I had it memorised, but it meant that the track was not foreign to me when I got there.

    The amazing thing to me is the amount of time people dedicate to it. If you’r e going to sit down and play a game it’s the same as watching a two-hour movie. You sit down and pick your team, your tyres, and your car. It’s hours of information and input. You’re racing against some guy in Thailand and he’s racing against some guy in Finland. It’s a huge commitment.

    My #1966 #Oldsmobile Toronado is in Gran Turismo 6. They did a great job with the Toronado. The attention to detail is amazing because you just take for granted that when a car goes by you see a shadow. You don’t realize how many hours went in to making that shadow. When they did the car, they came to my garage with a secret camera and they put the car in the middle of the floor with a big tent over it. It was some kind of 3D camera but I don’t know what it does because I wasn’t allowed to see it. It is not just the look but the feel they have replicated well. The heaviness of the big sedan is matched in the game just great.

    I had the #Mercedes-Benz Gran Turismo concept car in my garage recently. It’s stunning. The front of that car looks like an SLR from the ’50s. The pure design of it I thought was really really good. I thought it was a clean design, it looked masculine, and it looked Mercedes-Benz. It looked futuristic yet it looked like it could also be a real car.

    People ask why Mercedes would go to all that trouble for a video game. When you say it like that it sounds disdainful, but when you use the words they used, ‘Gaming Console’, it suddenly sounds more important. It is a gaming console that is played by millions of people. It’s why games, not movies, are seen as the future.

    If a car is in a movie it might only be in the shot for a second. There was some hype about Lexus in that movie with Tom Cruise, but he got in the car and drove away in a second or two, before you even realised what he was driving. In a video game you know your car is going to be seen by exactly the people you’re trying to reach – young men, aged 12 and up. Guys who will soon be getting their licence. And what car are they going to want to drive? The car they lusted after in the video game. It’s very clever marketing. In the future I think you will see people going to dealerships and taking virtual test drives in a simulator. An actual seat from the car and the dashboard in front of you and you’ll ‘drive’ this ‘car’ instead of taking it out on a real test drive. You’ll go on a virtual test drive to see if you like it. I think that will happen. We will see cars reach reality, having started on video games. We already have. Every major car company will do this.

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    Certain facts in the automotive world are irrefutable. Number one, the #1971-Citroen-DS-Pallas / #Citroen-DS / #Citroen / #1971-Citroen-DS / #Citroen / #1971 / , especially the #Pallas / #Citroen-DS-Pallas model, is the most comfortable car in the world. You may not be crazy about the four-cylinder engine, while the transmission’s not the smoothest, but the seats combined with the padded floor truly make it the most comfortable car on the planet. People sit in my DS after I’ve told them this, and they all say the same thing: why can’t all cars be like this? And why can’t they? When you get behind the wheel of a DS you literally fall into a big easy chair that wraps itself around you. Some manufacturers try very hard; two of my favourite Mercedes-Benz models are my 1972 600, which has hydraulically operated seats, and my ’1971 280 SE Coupé, with its big, overstuffed leather chairs. These are the last of the truly handmade #Mercedes-Benz cars. Yet even with the finest leather, they’re still not as comfortable as the DS.

    The only car that comes close is my #1931-Bentley-8-Litre fourdoor Mulliner sedan. Even though its suspension is primitive, the big, down-filled leather chairs are something you’d be proud to put in your library or sitting room.

    When I was in England recently, a friend collected me in a beautiful Rolls-Royce Phantom. It is an amazing car – quiet and smooth, with an unparallelled sound system – but still I felt like I was sitting on the seat rather than in it. Shouldn’t a Rolls be at least as comfortable as a DS? And why does the leather in today’s high-end motors have the texture of vinyl? My 1968-Mercedes-Benz-6.3 has 327,000 miles on it, but the constant application of hide food has given the leather a patina and suppleness that just can’t be found in modern cars.

    And can we stop with the Recaro racing seats? One of my favourite cars to drive would be the Aston Martin Vantage with a manual gearbox. It’s fast and sexy, but it has the most uncomfortable racing seat I’ve ever sat in. I love everything about the car except the seats. They’re slaves to fashion trying to look cool. Astons are for driving long distances across continents, which should be done in the most comfortable way possible.

    With these Recaro buckets, after an hour I had to pull over to get out of the car and stretch. It felt like it was cutting off the circulation. Even in my #McLaren-P1 I replaced the standard seat for a slightly wider one. It’s a little bit better – but not much. I have a Shelby Mustang GT350R. The first thing I did when I ordered the car was to ask for the stock Mustang seats to be put in, instead of the standard racing buckets. If the goal was to crack walnuts with my buttocks, I’d have kept the Recaros. It’s hard to drive if you’re not comfortable. Where’s the fun?

    When I was restoring my DS, I took great pains to deconstruct the seats and examine what made them so comfortable. The secret? Foam, and lots of it. Of course, Citroën never took the DS to the Nürburgring. That has a lot to do with it. The Nürburgring has probably done more than anything else to make luxury cars uncomfortable. Any suspension perfected there is designed to handle loads and speeds the average driver would never see in a luxury car. Along with low-profile tyres, which are so popular and have absolutely no give, the combination means cars simply aren’t as comfortable as they should be. My Tesla had 21in tyres. In 1000 miles I hit two potholes and blew out two tyres. There’s not enough sidewall to take the compression, so you split the sidewall. There’s nothing else you can do.

    Why do people buy 21in wheels? They don’t really know the difference between sidewall compression rates, they just think it looks cooler. They are willing to give up comfort for that.

    How many people would prefer to look good or feel good? Style reigns, unfortunately. BMW has just come out with the R Nine T, which is a twin-cylinder Boxer motorcycle available in three styles. The coolest is the Café bike. I drove the standard version with standard handlebars, and it was so comfortable, but I ordered the Café because it looked the coolest with the little half fairing and the lowered bar. After 20 minutes of riding, I realised I should have ordered the other one.

    The idea of selling comfort now seems to have gone out the window. It seems to be about looking cool or sporty, or Nürburgring times. Stuff like that. In the old days they used to sell comfort. American cars used to sell what they called the Boulevard Ride: the car floats down the road. Ford made a fortune selling LTDs, saying it was quieter than a Rolls. Whether it was or not, nobody really knew. It’s like you’re the captain of a ship, driving a big boat. So much of that seems to have fallen by the wayside. If someone offers you a seat in their DS, take it. It’s the most comfortable motoring experience you can have.

    The Collector Jay Leno

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