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    Jay Leno
    Something I don’t understand, yet I see quite often, is supercars - some fairly new and some over a decade old - with almost no miles on them at all. Recent ones I've seen for sale are a 2005 Ford GT, white, with 105 miles. And a 2003 Ferrari Enzo, red, with 165 miles. Are these real car people? Why do they buy these automobiles? Is there any real pleasure in owning something that you never use? As much as I hate the investment aspect of it, I understand it. Still, do these cars bring the owners any actual joy or pleasure?

    To me the real fun of owning supercars is learning more about them every time I take them out, knowing I will never be good enough to drive them to their limit.

    I’m now in my fifth year of #McLaren-P1 ownership, and I love the car even more now than when I first got it. I’m rather proud of all the nicks and chips picked up in the last half-decade, and can tell anyone where I was and what I was doing when each one happened. Like the time I slid across the track, touched the wall and shaved a hundredth of an inch off the side of the front splitter.

    I took it back to my shop, got some 2000-grit sandpaper, rubbed it down and touched it up. From that moment on, I loved the car even more because it took away all the mystique. I repaired it as I would a Ford or a Chevy or any other vehicle I might own.

    It might be the ultimate hypercar, but its still a car. It was the same thing when it needed new tyres. Rather than go to the dealer, I ordered the tyres and we mounted them in my garage. I was astounded at how hard it was to get those massive tyres stretched on the rim. It took about a gallon of tyre lube to get them on and then took all night before they finally, under pressure, beaded themselves to the rim with a bang that sounded like a .44 Magnum.

    The technicians that work on these supercars are like surgeons. They are specialists. They travel from dealership to dealership around the globe and know every aspect of the engineering. And the one thing they will tell you, whether it s Porsche, #Ferrari , #Lamborghini or #McLaren , is that you have to drive them.

    I know a few guys with Porsche 918s who have had battery problems, because they don t drive them enough or they forget to put them on the battery charger. You can’t let lithium-ion batteries go dead. You’d think they would remember that, with batteries about $80,000 each.

    I remember once, as kids, we found an abandoned engine and we thought we’d take it apart so we could learn about it. It had been left outside for a number of years but the sump was still filled with oil. When we took it off, everything below the sump level still looked good. Everything above it was rusty and corroded. That’s what I think of every time I see any kind of vehicle sitting in a museum where the cars are just outside. The parts not lubricated are more likely to fail than the ones that are.

    Something I use on some aero engines I own is a pre-oiler. These were popular during the war years. I have a 1915 #Hispano-Suiza aero engine on a 1915 Hispano chassis which uses a rubber bladder under pressure to flood the engine with oil before you hit the starter. The Merlin-engined Rolls has an electric pump that you run for a minute until you see 60-70lb of pressure on the gauge. More damage is done in that millisecond of running cold than in hundreds of miles of driving. I often wonder why pre-oilers are no longer fitted. They would surely prolong engine life.

    That said, the old days when supercars were troublesome and finicky are pretty much over. Even Ferraris, considered pernickety for years, now come with a three-year unlimited mileage warranty and a seven-year service plan.

    My PI has never spent more time in the shop than what’s been needed to perform routine oil changes. With the exception of the initial price (oh my God!) and the insurance (oh wow, wow!) it’s not bad at all. If I had bought my P1 five years ago, parked it and put a cover over it for the same time period, I guess the hybrid battery would have to be replaced, every seal would be dried out and beginning to leak, and the oil sitting in the sump would be starting to break down. And whatever petrol that had been in the tank would have begun to separate. Modern blended fuels really only stay viable for a few months before the ethanol and the water go their separate ways and the fuel loses all hope of volatility.

    I don’t know what s worse, high mileage or no mileage. The answer is somewhere in the middle. Most modern cars are just broken in at 20,000 miles. Its a myth that a car is worn out at 60,000 or 70,000 miles. I’ve got a 1968 Mercedes-Benz 6.3 with 326,000 miles on it and, with the exception of the clock, everything works fine.
    Why don’t I fix the clock? Because I have a wristwatch.
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    Along came three Spiders

    / #2013-McLaren-12C / #2019-McLaren-600LT & / #2019-McLaren-720S-Spider-S / #McLaren-720S-Spider-S / #McLaren-720S / #McLaren / #2019 / #McLaren-600LT / #McLaren-12C

    by Mark Dixon

    Spider or Spyder? Both versions of the word have long been used by the motor industry to describe an open-top roadster: Audi calls its new soft-top R8 a Spyder (as reviewed by Matthew Hayward on) whereas McLaren prefers Spider with an ‘i’. Best guess for the origin of the term is that it was a 19th Century coachbuilder’s coinage for a lightweight, high-wheeled carriage that was thought to have spidery qualities of lightness and agility. Which makes it particularly appropriate to McLaren.

    A recent opportunity to test the new 600LT and 720S Spiders in Arizona also seemed a good excuse to revisit its first attempt at the genre, the 12C Spider that made its debut in late 2012. The example pictured left is a 50th Anniversary limited edition from 2013, which was available in just three colours: black, silver or orange.

    I was lucky enough to attend the original 12C’s launch and, like many hacks back then, I expressed some doubts about the car’s styling. It seemed too supercar-generic, we thought, too lacking in adventure. Well, guess what? We were wrong. Its sultry curves now look better than ever, and its distinctive rear end appears almost understated compared with the aero-dictated complexity of more recent models.

    A Spider version of the 12C was planned right from the start, so the open version involved no structural compromises later. The hinged hardtop is electrically powered and folds away in 17sec; clambering over the high sills is a lot easier with the top stowed, especially if anyone has had the temerity to park too close alongside – those dihedral doors need a lot of space.

    Once you are in, the 12C feels almost old-school in its simplicity, with a pleasingly large central revcounter and a digital read-out for mph. The twin-turbo, 3.8-litre #V8 has never been the most soulful of units – it was arguably the 12C’s greatest weakness against its Italian competition; supercars are about emotion as much as technical ability – but the Spider has a slightly louder exhaust than the Coupé and, of course, having the roof down allows you to savour it a lot more. It sounds gruffer, more bassy than the Coupé’s, and there’s an appealingly anthropomorphic breathiness from the intake system as the turbos spool-up.

    The 12C Coupé set new standards as an all-rounder for its combination of comfort, handling and performance; the Spider offers the same – plus more of the visceral stuff, roof down. With 616bhp propelling a 1475kg kerb-weight, it’s still ballistically fast, but on a more prosaic level there’s also a decent amount of storage space under the front lid. Those doors would drive you mad in urban spaces (or rather, lack of them), but otherwise the 12C Spider makes a surprisingly good fist of being a real-world regular drive. And now we have two further variations on the Spider theme.
    The new 720S and 600LT Spiders are from McLaren’s Sports and Super Series respectively, the latter car being rather more track-focused – henced the ‘LT’ suffix for Long Tail, its rear end extended 47mm over the 570’s for increased downforce. The 720S starts at £237,000 whereas the 600LT’s base price is £201,500.

    The 720S feels closest to its 12C ancestor in spirit, although it has a character all its own. The V8 engine has been upped from 3.8 to 4.0 litres, with 41% new parts content, and it makes a very different sound: there’s a breathy V8 burble as you pull away, which transmutes to a crisp braaaap as you pile the revs on. Even with the roof lowered this is a genuine 200mph car yet, despite the big power and performance increases, McLaren’s relentless pursuit to pare weight means that the 720S Spider weighs about the same as the 12C Spider. It’s also even more livable with, thanks to glazed panels in the rear flying buttresses that make a huge difference to over-the-shoulder vision, although top-down it feels a lot less claustrophobic, as you’d expect. McLaren’s chief test driver, Indy winner Kenny Bräck, told Octane that he would definitely choose a Spider over the Coupé for just this reason and, indeed, the sales split is forecast to be 75:25 in favour of the open car.

    Curiously, while the Spider is claimed to give nothing away in terms of structural stiffness, both this reviewer and our sister mag evo’s tester – driving different cars – noted mild steering column shimmy and windscreen shake on less well-surfaced stretches of the very road pictured left, although it wasn’t dramatic. It clearly doesn’t bother Kenny, anyway.

    But if extracting the last nth of on-the-limit handling ability is vital to you, the 600LT Spider is probably more your bag anyway. McLaren says simply: ‘We asked ourselves, what’s the absolute lightest we can make a roadgoing car?’ And they’ve really pulled out the stops, to the extent that even the windscreen glass is thinner. The correlation of this stripped-out approach is that the 600LT feels conceptually older than the 720S – even its sat-nav looks a bit dated. But it’s more obviously a driver’s car, with a simpler console layout and manually adjustable race seats. Its exhaust note is different again – buzzier than the 720S’s, like an angry wasp – and its V8 is a 3.8, not the 720S’s 4.0-litre.

    The 600LT really comes alive on a circuit, where you can fully appreciate its incredible brakes and neck-snapping acceleration. Selecting ‘Track’ mode and keeping the steering wheel as straight as possible at all times minimises driver-aid interference, so drifting round corners is the fastest way to proceed. As if you needed any excuse…

    Clockwise from left 12C Spider was launched in 2012 but is ageing well; 12C interior is refreshingly uncluttered; new 720S Spider is faster and more powerful, but weighs the same as the 12C.

    From top 720S Spider will pull 200mph with the roof down; 600LT has a slightly smaller engine, a little less power, but has been optimised for the track.
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    The greatest thing about our passion is the fact that it’s only about 150 years old. If we were all Bible scholars, instead of petrolheads or gearheads, we’d be spending our days poking around in the searing heat out in the desert somewhere. Instead we get to go to cities like Modena, Stuttgart, Detroit and Paris. Or even Woking.

    / #McLaren-P1 / #McLaren / #2015 / #2015-McLaren-P1

    When I was a teenager my life was muscle cars. I used to feel sorry for people who grew up in the 1920s and ’30s because cars seemed so slow back then. But the more knowledge I gained, the further back I wanted to go. That’s the reason I got interested in steam. I wanted to know what came before the internal combustion engine.

    Steam ran the world from the 1800s until the opening decade of the 20th Century, just as the internal combustion engine ruled the world from the 20th Century to the dawn of the new millennium. Sure, the internal- combustion engine is still around, but the writing is on the wall. A child born this year will most likely not ride in an internal-combustion vehicle as an adult, just like most kids in America today have never been in a manual-shift car.

    I now realise that every decade had its supercars. In 1906 Fred Marriott, driving a Stanley Steamer, set a world land speed record of 127.6mph on the beach at Daytona, Florida, that record stood for 103 years as a steam car’s peak speed achievement until it was broken by a British three-ton, two-stage turbine-driven steam car which only went a hair over 20mph faster - over 100 years later.

    Another early supercar I lusted after, and was fortunate enough to acquire, was the 1918 Pierce Arrow Model 66. The Pierce 66, as it was popularly called, still holds the distinction for being the largest production engine ever put in a car. It has six cylinders with a total displacement of 825 cubic inches, that’s 14 litres.

    The pistons are the size of paint cans and the engine has three spark plugs per cylinder. It needs three spark plugs because the combustion chambers are so huge, the bore is 5in, the stroke is 7in and the wheelbase is 147.5in. Horsepower is rated conservatively at 125. This car is a torque monster. One time when I was pulling away from a traffic light I thought to myself, it feels a bit sluggish, then I realised I was in fourth gear.

    The twilight of the 1920s brought what has to be the greatest American classic of all time, the Duesenberg Model J. A straight-eight, twin-cam, 7-litre masterpiece, with four valves per cylinder and 265bhp. Or 320bhp when fitted with the optional supercharger, this was at a time when 100bhp was considered exceptional. It was also the first American car to be fitted with four-wheel hydraulic brakes. Between the braking, the horsepower and the handling, it’s one of the few cars of the 1920s that you could actually drive today in modern traffic with no problem at all. Assuming, of course, you have massive biceps and a strong left leg.

    Another thing you learn when you study automotive history is that there is really nothing new under the sun. Four-valve heads, twin cams, hemispherical combustion chambers, even hybrid cars are nothing new. All these things existed before the First World War. One of Ferdinand Porsche’s first cars was a hybrid: the 1899 Lohner Porsche, which was front-wheel drive and had its electric motors in the front hub. And since battery technology was still in its infancy, he had two small gasoline engines directly powered to a generator, providing the electricity to the front wheels. Sounds like the future, doesn’t it?

    When I was a teenager, the King of the Hill was the Chrysler Hemi - a massive V8 with two four-barrel carburettors and an unheard-of 425bhp. It really ticked all the boxes, the one I have is in a 1970 Dodge Challenger with a four-speed transmission and the hilarious pistol-grip shifter. It’s painted Hemi orange with a black vinyl roof and matt accents on the hood. It handles like a bowling ball on a waterbed but that doesn’t matter because it goes like stink in a straight line. Or it seemed like it did, back in the day, when 0-60 in 6.3sec was as good as it got. And 13.1sec quarter-mile times were all it took to beat everything else out there, all the while getting nine miles to the gallon. On a good day.

    Unfortunately, today driving a ’70s muscle car is like walking around with a rolled-up sock in your pants. It looks impressive until a kid in a hot hatchback blows your doors off while still getting 30 miles to the gallon.

    In this era of McLaren-P1s, Corvette ZR1 s, Bugattis and Koenigseggs, there are probably kids now looking back at my era and feeling sorry for me. Why? Because cars were so much slower then.

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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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    / #McLaren-720S & #Lamborghini-Aventador-Roadster

    The ‘digital’ McLaren heads to Italy, where the Brit aims to put one over on its ‘analogue’ rival

    / #Lamborghini-Aventador / #Lamborghini / #McLaren-720S / #McLaren-720 / #McLaren /

    The re-emergence of the sun meant it was time for the year’s first proper road trip, and therefore the Black fleet 720S’s toughest test yet: a jaunt from Monaco into Italy, with Woking’s McLaren going head-to-head with one of the home team’s star players, the Lamborghini Aventador Roadster.

    The route was set to include motorways, viaducts and tunnels through Italian countryside, and the most picturesque of roads carved into the mountains, to get a real sense of each car’s capabilities. Some friends would be there, too, in an M4 F82, AMG C63 W205 and a 911 GT3 (991.2), and the agenda was simple: have as much fun as possible over two days, enjoy the performance and drama of the cars, but also try to nail down the emotions that they evoke in mere mortals like us.

    The first part of the route was filled with those tunnels and sweeping viaducts, where first blood went to the Aventador based on pure aural intensity. There’s nothing that sounds quite like the feral scream of that naturally aspirated V12, particularly when run out to the red line, before slotting another gear (with a fearsome jolt) in Corsa mode. With the roof stowed, the full range of that high-pitched wail that rebounds off every tunnel and slab-sided truck could be enjoyed, providing an intoxicating hit of automotive hedonism. I never tire of that experience, which induces manic grins every time, and demands that the formula is repeated.

    The McLaren, by comparison, is a much more calculated technological tour de force. It’s a scalpel to the Lamborghini’s sledgehammer, providing the driver with a scientific instrument to extract the maximum performance in any conditions. My friend driving the M4, who became utterly besotted with the McLaren, likened the 720S to a classically trained ballerina, and the Aventador to a rugby prop forward at the top of his game. He also described the 720S as ‘creamy, magical – it felt like my favourite friend was helping me down a tricky road’. And he loved the instruments rotated to the minimalist display, deciding it was far from a gimmick, but instead took away distractions and added to the purity of the drive.

    My GT3-owning friend, on the other hand, was much more taken with the Aventador’s charms. Like many, he characterised much of the appeal and charm of the Italian heavyweight being in the emotion and drama. He reckoned that ‘supercars shouldn’t drive as easily as a Ford Focus – rampant performance should be built up to’.

    There is undoubtedly a huge skill factor in driving both these cars nearer the edge, and none of the drivers on this trip would claim to be able to assess the cars’ capabilities in the way that many of the journalists in this magazine have so deftly described. But we have been able to gauge the approachability of the performance, which is undoubtedly more accessible in the 720S.

    Does it make it the better supercar? Not necessarily. Whilst one friend claimed ‘I tried and felt something approaching greatness in the 720S today’, another suggested that the McLaren was ‘almost anodyne. I wasn’t excited by how it feels and what the car does. It’s capable, but it felt almost digital.’

    As I’m sure you can imagine, the debate raged on over many glasses of good Italian red wine without any real conclusion. Perhaps next time we’ll have to invoke some sort of eCoty scoring system, but I’ll sign off this month with my thoughts on which is the more ‘evo’ car for me.

    I’ve mentioned before my ambition for each car in the Black garage to have its unique circumstance to shine, and these cars justified their acquisitions for quite different reasons, but what this trip brought into stark relief is the role they each play in the fleet.

    The 720S is truly a car of the digital age: the way in which it makes the most rapid progress is intuitive, easy and accessible. It’s a huge feat and McLaren should be applauded for making such a magnificent supercar experience available at this price point; I love it. However, the Aventador feels like the epitome of the supercar event for me. It’s not as quick, it’s clunky in comparison and the technology and interface is seven years old, but it has such a sense of drama and makes the heart beat a little faster and the adrenaline flow a little quicker.

    Oh, and the Italian Tifosi test? There was only one car that men, boys and women wanted selfies and pictures seated in, and it wasn’t from Woking. Until next time…

    John Black (@john_m_black)

    Date acquired November 2015
    Total mileage 4897
    Mileage this month 332
    Costs this month £0
    Mpg this month 10.2

    McLaren 720S
    Date acquired November 2017
    Total mileage 921
    Mileage this month 365
    Costs this month £0
    Mpg this month 12.3

    ‘The trip brought into stark relief the role that each of these cars plays in the Black fleet’
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    / #Dan-Gurney b.1931 / #F1 / #Formula-1

    The death on 14 January of racer, engineer and team boss Dan Gurney at 86 has dwindled what remains of The Few – the pioneering freethinkers and out-smarters from another time. He was fast, clever, hungry and charming – in and out of the many cars he took to scores of victories in numerous disciplines.

    Born on 13 April 1931, Daniel Sexton Gurney grew up in Long Island but moved to California in his late teens. He was soon quenching a new-found thirst for stripping, improving and torturing machinery, mostly Ford Coupes, and he duly fell under competition’s spell in 1955 with a Triumph TR2. It was an appropriate, if somewhat humble machine for a man excited by the breadth of possibilities offered in far-away Europe.

    And it didn’t take this 6ft 4in, charismatic grafter with an eye for opportunity and detail long to get on that European radar, thanks to a 1959 Ferrari contract for Formula One and sports cars.

    His first major endurance-racing scalp that season came in the Sebring 12 Hours aboard a 250 Testa Rossa. He would add victory in the 1960 Nürburgring 1000km alongside Stirling Moss in a ‘Birdcage’ Maserati and success in the Le Mans 24 Hours in ’1967 with fellow US all-rounder AJ Foyt and Ford to his long-distance CV.

    Gurney’s decision that day in France to spray the crowd with his podium champagne rather than drink it began this messy ritual. His Formula One career could so easily have produced more than his four wins and quartet of fourth-placed championship finishes. As it was, he took maiden victories for Porsche in 1962 and Brabham in ’1964, both at Rouen. A third win came in the BT7 in Mexico later that year.

    What if he’d still been at Ferrari for ’1961? Or at Brabham beyond 1965?

    It was that pioneering spirit and self-belief that convinced Gurney to build his own car to contest F1 and US Indycar; he craved engineering not politicking. Thus his Anglo-American Racers squad and its Eagle hotshoes flew in for 1966. In F1, the underpowered and unreliable four-cylinder Climax motivation in the T1G made way for British-built Weslake V12 grunt for ’1967 and a famous win came Gurney’s way in the Belgian GP at Spa, a week after the Le Mans success.

    The Eagle F1 outfit’s financial wings were clipped in ’1968 but the team continued winning in Indycar until the mid 1970s, its final tally a record 49 wins (seven for Dan), including three Indianapolis 500 triumphs. He raced at the Brickyard nine times, finishing second in 1968 and ’1969. Gurney saw out his top-flight career with McLaren until the end of 1970. He tackled six GPs with the British team and stepped into one of its Group 7 Can-Am monsters following founder Bruce’s death at Goodwood in June of that year – winning instantly and cheeringly.

    The unparalleled breadth of Gurney’s ability meant he also won in NASCAR’s stock car premiership, Trans-Am and the British Saloon Car Championship – all in thumping V8s. Economics forced Gurney to resettle in the States, with a rebranding of his squad to All-American Racers. AAR later took Toyota-powered Eagle prototypes to IMSA sportscar glory, ncluding at Sebring where his international ambitions began.

    Innovation and trendsetting were never far from the witty and charming Gurney’s thoughts, even well into his 80s. There was his ingenious rear-wing modification that improved downforce without compromising drag, universally known as the ‘Gurney flap’, and the pioneering use of a full-face crash helmet. Road & Track magazine ran a campaign in #1964 to have him installed in the White House as US president. He even advised Elon Musk on space-travel engineering. Dan Gurney was a leader on the racetrack, in the workshop and in the boardroom. Always modest yet steely, for him nothing was impossible.

    Gurney finished his #F1 career with #McLaren , here leading Jack’s Brabham in the ’ #1968-Mexican-Grand-Prix . Inset: ‘Handsome Dan’, at Zandvoort in 1970.

    Eagle-Weslake en route to its maiden victory in ’ #1967-Belgian-Grand-Prix at Spa.
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    McLaren’s dynamic drop-top… 570S Spider has lost a roof, but it retains every bit of the Coupé’s driving appeal – and it sounds even better, too. Words Steve Sutcliffe. #McLaren-570S-Spider / #McLaren-570S / #McLaren / #2018

    Convertibles have come a long way in the past 15 or so years, and today many are referred to as Spiders, or Spyders. McLaren’s new £164,000 570S Spider is the most recent addition to such ranks – and, having driven it on some of Europe’s best roads, Octane is prepared to stick its neck out and declare this particular arachnid to be one of the very best, if not the best. But not necessarily the most scary.

    As a starting point, the 570S Coupé is hardly lacking in brilliance, or visceral appeal. At its core sits a carbonfibre tub, with a twin-turbo V8 and seven-speed dual-clutch box mounted behind the driver but well ahead of the rear axle. What separates the McLaren from all its key open-top rivals (think Lamborghini Huracán, Porsche 911 turbo 991, Ferrari 488 and Audi R8) is that there’s precisely zero difference in structural rigidity between coupé and drop-top versions. This is due to the way the 570S’s carbon tub has been designed. Right from the word go, this car was engineered to be both a coupé and a convertible, and because the roof has zero strengthening, the loss of said panel makes no difference to the car’s core integrity. You can feel as much the moment the 570S Spider starts to move. It feels absolutely identical to the Coupé in its ride, steering, handling, braking and acceleration – because, McLaren says, it is identical to its stablemate in every aspect of its dynamic behaviour.

    So, just as the Coupé 570S will sprint from 0-60mph in 3.2sec and hit 204mph flat-out, so will the Spider. It’ll even do 196mph with the roof down, claims McLaren, thanks to a nifty reworking of its rear end to achieve all-but-identical aerodynamic qualities.

    But there is one big difference between the Coupé and Spider versions of the 570S. When you drop the latter’s roof and give it some beans, the noise that comes back at you from behind is five times louder and six times more exciting. And maybe the absolute best way to drive the Spider is with the glass aero-screen behind the seats dropped and the roof raised. That way, you can really appreciate the range and complexity of the sounds that emanate from the V8 in a way you never can in the Coupé. As a bonus, a new, small luggage area behind the seats means the Spider is not only more entertaining to listen to than its brother, but it’s rather more practical as well.

    On the move the newcomer genuinely drives just as well as the Coupé, with razor-precise handling, ferocious acceleration, lovely steering and great braking power and feel. However, it’s the noise that really gets you; it convinces you this model must be the better of the two overall. That’s why McLaren expects at least 50% of all 570 sales from now on to be Spiders. And why all 400 of the first batch have already sold out.

    Above and below 570S Spider is as good as top-down motoring gets, with coupé-like dynamics and an awesome roar from its V8.
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    McLaren: the next chapter. New 720S stars at Geneva 2017. Words John Simister. McLaren did its best to keep a lid on the new lodestone of its range, the replacement for the 650S. But the lid started to unscrew a few weeks before Geneva, not least with speculation over the name which, on past form, was likely to denote engine power and be followed by an S. / #McLaren-720S / #McLaren / #2017

    So, at Geneva, the world welcomed the McLaren 720S, first in the new generation of McLaren’s so-called Super Series. It’s quite a step forward, too: 10kg lighter than the 650S and generating up to 30 per cent more downforce at the rear, despite less drag overall. It has that extra 70bhp from its twin-turbo engine and also gains 66lb ft of torque, making 566lb ft, thanks to a longer stroke which raises capacity to 4.0 litres.

    Bucking the trend towards ever-bulkier and less usable supercars, it actually looks smaller, lower, more compact. The dimensions reveal the impression to be an illusion, but it’s the short, no-longer- smirking nose, the low scuttle, the slim pillars and the contrasting roof that do it. Even the rear pillars are slender. It’s been a while since a supercar has been this easy to reverse.

    Key to it all is a new, British-made carbonfibre tub known as Monocage II (the P1 used Monocage I, itself a big leap over the tub used in lesser McLarens up to now). It now includes the windscreen surround and the roof, posing a potential problem for the engineering of a future open version – not that McLaren, disingenuously, will admit to one. There are new ‘dihedral’ doors which open upwards, forwards and, by means of rotation along the doors’ longitudinal axis, outwards. You can park a 720S six inches nearer to a wall than you could a 650S, and still get out. Slightly gruesomely, McLaren describes the headlights as an ‘eye socket design’. The eyes, in the form of normal headlight lenses, have been plucked out, with just bars of LEDs remaining ahead of intakes for cooling air. Overall cooling efficiency rises by 15 per cent.

    Other developments include new and lighter suspension wishbones and uprights with revised geometry, plus ‘Proactive Chassis Control II’ with an extra 12 sensors. The aim has been to make the ride even more compliant than before, but also to make the 720S’s limits easier to explore on a track. ‘It’s easy to measure the objective things in a chassis,’ says vehicle line director Haydn Baker, ‘but what matters is how a car feels. This is the most genuinely involving supercar. Driving modes are Comfort, Sport and Track: “normal” mode has gone, and there’s a new variable drift control app.’

    Chief test driver Chris Goodwin elaborates. ‘We’re generating oodles of grip, but too much of it can be a turn-off. The steering is a little bit more involving, with more natural loading. And that variable drift app is incredibly useful. You can change the traction control if it’s raining.’

    The 720S’s arrival comes as McLaren completes its 10,000th car and predicts 4000 sales for the whole of 2017. It promises 15 new models between now and 2022, by which time half of McLaren production will feature a hybrid powertrain. But for all that technology, says product development director Mark Vinnels, ‘We’re not about cars that drive themselves.’ Vital stats? From a standstill to 60mph requires 2.8sec, and the top speed is 212mph.
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    The other day I started up my ’ #1941-Plymouth , for the first time in over a year. Every collector has one or two vehicles that don’t get driven as often as the others. My #Plymouth is not special, just a good old girl. It’s unrestored, a two-door business coupe; the Deluxe model with heater, radio and threespeed column shifter, with a vacuum assist to make shifting easier, a 201ci six-cylinder flathead engine and about 87 horsepower. #Plymouth-Special-De-Luxe-Business-Coupe / #Plymouth /

    Even after sitting for over a year, the engine cranked about half a dozen times and started right up. The reason it made me smile is that so many modern cars would be almost inoperable after sitting for so long. If they are not turned over every week or two, injectors get clogged from lack of use. And you have to keep them on a trickle-charger.

    I have a 2002 Firebird that I had to get emissions-tested. The battery was ten years old so I changed it for the exact same factory-standard battery. And swapping the battery confused the computer, so they couldn’t get it to pass the emissions test. The technician said, drive it for 50 or 100 miles and see if it re-boots. I’m still waiting.

    When I called my #Porsche dealer about getting a part for my Carrera GT, he said ‘We don’t work on any of the really old stuff.’ I said it’s a 2004! He said he’d check to see if any of the old guys are still around who worked on them. I mean, how old could they be? Forty-five?

    I have a warning light on my #2005 #Mercedes-SLR-McLaren nobody can turn off. It doesn’t seem to affect anything. The car runs beautifully. But nobody knows how to deal with it. I wanted to put new tyres on it too and, like many cars, it has a locking lug nut. So I gave the tyre guy the key for the lug. And he lost it. So we called #Mercedes and #McLaren , quoting the serial number, but we couldn’t get one and couldn’t make one. So we had to torch the lug nuts and cut the wheels to get them off.

    The last real maintenance I was able to do on a modern car at my own garage was, surprisingly, on the #McLaren-F1 . Ironically the F1 comes with a tool kit. A tool roll, actually, which contains wrenches, pliers and screwdrivers, all made of titanium. Was there ever an F1 owner whose car broke down on the motorway, pulled out his trusty tool roll and got it going again?

    Anyway, we had to replace the Vanos unit, which controls the cam timing. Taking the engine out was pretty straightforward. And we did it without using a single tool from the toolroll! As sophisticated as the F1’s powerplant is, it’s still a car. It’s a #V12 and compared to modern cars it’s pretty straightforward. A good mechanic can look at that engine and pretty much figure out what they have to do. Would I try this with my #McLaren-P1 or a #Porsche-918 ? Not on your life.

    Remember the Ray Bradbury book Fahrenheit 451? Where all the books are destroyed and so each person needs to memorise one book, and become an expert on it. That’s what seems to be happening with supercars. There’s only a few Veyron guys and a handful of P1 guys. I don’t know many #Porsche dealerships that could actually work on a 918; there can’t be many.

    I feel that the days of the general mechanic who can work on anything are just about over. Those lucky enough to be trained mechanics on machines like the #McLaren-P1 and #Ferrari-LaFerrari pretty much have jobs for life, travelling the world, re-booting computers on 10-to-20-year-old supercars, many with very low mileage.

    The way technology is going, collecting modern cars will be extremely hard. The fun part about working on old cars is that, if you don’t have the proper tools, you can measure up what you need, go to the lathe, and make one. On modern cars, if the manufacturer decides to lock you out of their code then that’s it, you’re pretty much done. Unless you have the #Ferrari code-reader, for instance – which someone told me is $25,000 – you’re not going to get to work on the car. That’s it. So any work on these cars in the future will probably mean having to go back to manufacturers. How much is that going to cost?

    That’s fine for rich guys, who will always be able to have somebody take care of their car. It’s the little guy who’s going to get screwed. Unless they stick to analogue cars from the 1970s and earlier.

    In 100 years from now, after my garage has been buried under some massive earthquake, and some automotive archaeologist will find my stash and dig it up, I’m guessing the only one they’ll be able to drive away is the ’ #1941 Plymouth!

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