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Driver’s Seat: C.J. Wilson On His McLaren P1 Road Trip

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Article and Images By: C.J. Wilson

I’ve been waiting a few years for the P1, but before now, as a kid, the F1 was, for me, clearly the definition of a dream car.

From my initial inquiry, ordering and ownership of the 12C, to completing the same steps for the P1, the whole process with McLaren has been fantastic. I’ve had a chance to get everything out of the experience- factory visits, test drives and constant emails have all had a huge positive impact.

Of course, the longer you wait for something, the more impatient you become towards the delivery date.

Once the date came, my options were to either ship the car or to drive it home on a road trip to the Grand Canyon. So, I packed my camera and took delivery of the car in person. Park Place McLaren picked me up from the airport in a Bentley Flying Spur, which just goes to show how far they are willing to go for their repeat customers. Chris Blank went through all of the systems and controls on the car as we went on a short test drive. He then gave me all the info on how to charge the battery, extend the range and, most importantly, how to deploy all 903 hp, if I felt like it.

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Seeing the entire car in person for the first time was pretty hilarious. The paint color from MSO is unlike anything I’ve ever seen on another car. When I got to pick it out in Woking, word got back to Frank Stephenson and he hinted it might be too nuts, but throughout the construction process he managed to send me updates and emails including tons of photos. Everyone fell in love with it- bold and unique, wacky and gorgeous.

Frank’s design is showcased by the way the colors bend light around the curves. In broad daylight it has reflections of orange and red, while at night it mainly reflects blue and purple. You have to see it in person or on video to truly appreciate the shift, but each hue has gorgeous tones and, with the curves of the car, it really does look like the futuristic spaceship from my childhood memories.

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Cars like this make you feel like a kid again. Heath Strayhan and Chris Blank were fantastic through the delivery process and were really eager to hear how it is to drive a car like this such a long distance right out of the gate. I was a bit nervous to get going, but made sure to go through all of the questions and double check my inventory. From the McLaren store I went to visit my friend Mark, who works at the local Lamborghini shop. I was in the parking lot for about 15 seconds before everyone in the store went into the parking lot, taking photos and obligatory selfies with the car.

“I can’t think of a color that speaks to CJ’s individual sense of style and enthusiasm for life better than Cerberus Pearl, or as he more appropriately calls it, “hyperblurple,’” said Strayhan, General Manager at Park Place Dealership. “Flexible yet strong, the color is a perfect representation of the unique nature of P1 as well as the car’s owner, CJ Wilson.”

(See Also: McLaren P1 GTR Interior and Bespoke Driver Program Announced)

I drove over to DFW to pick up my wife, Liz, who just started laughing and walking circles around the car with her iPhone. We squeezed into the carbon fiber and alcantara seats and headed towards Albuquerque.

Each fuel stop was full of questions, photos and smiles.

“Sure you can take photos.”
“Yep, it’s a McLaren.”
“No, the F1 has the seat in the middle.”
“903.”
“Yes, it is fast.”
“No I haven’t gone 200 yet.”

My wife is a car nut like me and loves the noise. She was blown away by the acceleration, despite going for rides in fast cars and her prior Porsche Driving School seat time.

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“Do you know why I pulled you over?”
“Is it because my car is purple?”

This conversation happened twice. One was a warning for going 8 mph over the speed limit and a photo request. The next was in New Mexico. I saw the SUV and wasn’t speeding but he pulled me over anyway.

“We had some complaints about a black sports car.”
“Officer, you can see that my car is clearly not black. Or grey.”

So, no tickets.

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Taking the car through the desert sunsets and into the Grand Canyon was a great experience. We were only able to shoot a few angles because people kept walking up to the car for photos, but since Liz and I had never been, we were glad to experience the enormous views anyway. Even some of the local deer were confused- one almost walked into my car while we were parked at a stop sign.

Driving back was pretty simple with just stops for gas and one for an In-n-Out burger. The car is a showstopper and everywhere we parked we got hounded. Nobody recognized me or Liz and some people had no idea what the P1 was. You start coming up with funny answers after the eighth time repeat questions:

“Who builds it?”
“English people in Polo shirts.”
“Where is it from?”
“The future.”
“Is that a Lambo’ or something?”
“Eh…”
“How much does it cost? What is insurance on that thing?”

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It’s from the future. The hybrid tech is amazing. It handles better than any car I’ve ever driven. It’s faster than a Carrera GT with a turbo. It feels faster than a Veyron. It’s just as user friendly as the updated 12C. Full electric mode is great for fuel economy and we got great mileage. The P1 sounds impossible. But it is real.

1,500 miles and 10,000 splattered bugs later, I can say it was worth waiting 22 years for McLaren to do it again.

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