Most people say they hate driving in New York City. I never commuted through Manhattan; rather, I cut my teeth as a Gotham motorist driving television production box trucks and cargo vans, dodging taxis and pedestrian clots with strict deadlines at top of mind. I learned to navigate the grid aggressively but safely — dare I say, skillfully. That’s prepared me for piloting high-performance “tanks” and venomous pony cars, chauffeuring luxury sedans and myriad other exotics around our fair metropolis. People pay attention to fancy and fast cars sometimes, but about 98 percent of my fellow New Yorkers are oblivious, and treat a car as an annoyance — if they notice it at all.
But not this. Not this Vermillion Red McLaren 570S. I’ve been on Facebook for one decade and have been a social being for about three, but never have I made more friends so quickly. Everyone noticed this car. Old couples, young kids, construction workers, cops, women, men, friends, enemies. And always tourists of all stripes. I had countless memorable interactions during my superlative time with the 570S, but below are some of my favorites. My thoughts on the car are simple: it’s so vibrant, so alive, so natural and so feral. A Porsche 911 Turbo coddles you as though you’re a slick executive; the McLaren doesn’t necessarily give a damn about your corner office. Still, in many ways the McLaren defies description; in the video above I did my best. But I’ve found that where my words fail, others express what I can’t.
New Yorkers Weigh In
Theo, seven years old, and his mother crossed the street to see the car as we shot video footage. He was awestruck and silent, until I took his hand and showed him the hidden door release button. Then I started the engine. Theo’s eyes went large, darting between his mom, the car, me.
Theo’s Mom: “Ask him your question you always ask!”
Theo: “How fast can this race car go?”
Me, grinning: 204 miles an hour!
Theo’s eyes went huge.
Theo, also to me: “Have you ever seen other cars with door that open like this?”
Me: There aren’t many, buddy. This is a really special car.
Theo’s mom, pointing at Theo and me: “My theory is: he’s seven, and you guys never change.”
I pulled over in a no-parking zone next to the Flatiron Building near Madison Square Park to get a photo and a cop car materialized out of thin air.
Me, bracing: Hi there. Just stopping for a qui-
Cop: Wanna drag race?
Me: I… don’t think you should do that.
A construction worker, from half a block away.
Him, strutting over, crossing against traffic: “Yo! Ferrari? What is this, a Ferrari?”
Him: [Low whistle.] “How much? 100 [thousand]?”
Me: “A little more.”
Me: “A… little more.”
Him, not quite believing what he’s asking: “…200?”
Me: “About 230,000.”
Him: “Holy shit.”
A very enthusiastic and likely, err, stimulated man in Brooklyn approached me as I was taking photographs.
Him: “This is a gorgeous car! ”
Me, smiling: “Thanks.”
Him: “I’m not bullshitting you. This is a goddamn gorgeous car!”
Him, on my behalf, to a woman passing by who hadn’t noticed the McLaren: “What do you think of the car, ma’am?”
Her: “Very nice. Is it yours?”
Him: “No, I wish! When you open the doors they go like this. [gestures]”
She kept walking.
Stopped at a light on the Lower East Side in front of a popular brunch spot, a young girl and her boyfriend started talking about me. I was four feet away with my window down.
Him: “I have no idea what that is.”
Her: “He’s showing off or making up for something.”
Me: [Fiddles with the radio.]
A 30 year old dude in a tank top, who was either going to or coming from the gym, yelled at me from about 40 feet away across most of Herald Square in front of roughly 500 people.
Him: “Yo, bro! YOU ARE WINNING!”
A middle-aged British couple in a Land Cruiser pulled aside me at a stoplight in Brooklyn. The man driving leaned out a bit, his wife leaned over far enough to stick her head out the window.
Dad: Nice car!
Me: Thanks very much.
Mom: My son is in back freaking out. [To son] Roll down the window! Go on! [Back to me] He’s so shy. He loves it!
I parked the car outside our office to pick up a female coworker, who approached the car just as a police cruiser idled by. The cop inside was astonished.
Cop: Girl! That…you?
Coworker, grinning: Mm-hmm…
Cop: Goooood for you, girl.
Waiting at stop sign, a twentysomething dude started taking pictures as he crossed the street in front of me. He talked to me through my open window as he snapped a few more.
Him: “Nice. Internet startup, or porn?”
Me: “…Somewhere in between.”