Discovery: Elon Musk once owned (and crashed) a McLaren F1
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To most Kiwis, the 'Elon Musk' name is something that's only existed since the advent of Tesla — recently crowned America's biggest car carmaker.
But, Musk was one of Silicon Valley's biggest names well before he started to experiment with technology of the four-wheeled variety. In 1995 he started a web software company called Zip2, and four years later it was acquired by Compaq — resulting in a US$22-million dollar windfall for Musk.
Part of that gulp of coin went to creating his next big venture, X.com (which later became Paypal), and part of it went into buying one of the most hallowed supercars in the world; a McLaren F1.
This of course came as a huge surprise to little old me when I recently stumbled upon the YouTube clip of Musk and his then-partner (future wife, and future ex-wife) Justine Wilson taking delivery of the beast way back in 1999.
The whole video is a wonderful insight into what pre-Tesla Musk was like; a purveyor of brown suits and cocky confidence. Shades of the latter still exist today, lacing every third tweet, but that's part of why so many motoring writers find him so fascinating.
“There are 62 McLaren F1s in the world and I will own one,” he says in the clip, with the blunt certainty of a child in the toy aisle staring down what they want for Christmas.
Justine, who he amicably split with in 2008, says what most viewers of this pre-millennium show were probably thinking at the time...
“It's a million dollars for a car, it's... decedent.”
“My fear is that we become spoiled brats, that we lose a sense of appreciation and perspective.”
Sure enough, Musk's time with the McLaren eventually met a sad end. An end that many supercars purchased by the rich and famous are known to meet.
He crashed it, of course. Just a year after he got it, without the car being insured.
In the above 2012 interview with PandoDaily, Musk outlines the fate of the car — at least from when it was in his possession — during its final drive with Peter Thiel in the passenger seat.
“Probably number one on the list of famous last words, I said 'watch this'. I floored it and did a lane change [sigh] ... We broke the rear end free and started spinning.”
It's an age old story; the one of the person who has minimal respect for the skill required to tame a supercar. No matter for Musk though, who could've bought a whole fleet of the things if he really wanted to. Where that McLaren is now is anyone's guess.
Bit ironic really that Musk now makes a living, in part, out of selling cars that accelerate to 100kph quicker than the old McLaren.