I have a dream. In this dream, I show up at the McLaren Technology Centre in Woking, England behind the wheel of a mint Pontiac McLaren Grand Prix Turbo. Zak Brown, so awed by my ownership of this incredible vehicle, climbs in the passenger seat while we do donuts in front of the glass-paneled entranceway.
When we’re done, we line up my Grand Prix Turbo next to other stunning feats of automotive engineering such as the Can-Am cars of the 1970s and James Hunt’s winning 1976 Formula One machine. At this point, the dream ends, but presumably, I just stay best friends with Zak Brown for life and he lets me drive all his cool cars.
I almost saw my dream come to fruition — the part about having a Grand Prix Turbo, anyway. One popped up on Bring a Trailer two weeks ago, and it sold for a reasonable $6,999. When it first showed up on my Twitter timeline, I set a limit for myself. I wouldn’t bid over $8,000. But I was theoretically supposed to close on a house five days after the auction period ended, and I figured dropping that much money on a car when I still need a fridge, a washer, and a dryer was probably not the responsible adult thing to do.
We didn’t end up closing on the house — we might still, maybe on Monday, but I’m not getting my hopes up — and I didn’t end up getting the Grand Prix Turbo. But it will remain one of my dream cars, probably until I end up owning one.
Longtime Jalopnik readers might remember that my first car was a 1989 Grand Prix Turbo, one that my entire family ended up driving at one point or another. It was my mom’s, then my dad’s, then mine, then my younger brother’s. By the time I inherited it, it was a rolling death trap where just about everything had long since stopped working or was in its last leg.
If it got too cold, I needed to jump-start it. If it got too hot, then I was screwed; it wouldn’t go anywhere unless it was an optimal temperature. Just about all the electronics were dead after the Grand Prix took a trip into a ditch. Maintenance was a dream that had died about a decade before.
I didn’t care. I loved it.
Part of it was nostalgia. Once, when I was a toddler, I threw a hissy fit in the back seat by popping open the top of a vial of mini M&Ms and flinging them throughout the cabin. As a teenager, part of one of the seats kinda just fell off, and I found a disgusting chocolate stain left behind by one of the M&Ms that didn’t make it in the vacuum.
Any time I hear Alice in Chains and I close my eyes, it’s like I’m still sitting in the back of that car on the way home from an October trip to the beach, and I’m watching the shadows flicker through the drying cornfields. I look at the interior, and I’m reading the phrase ‘Grand Prix’ for the first time (yes, I pronounced it “grand pricks,” and yes, my dad laughed until he cried).
Part of it, though, is the fact that it’s an absolute menace of a car in the best possible way — something that reading through the Bring a Trailer listing brought home for me.
I mean, just look at the interior. When was the last time an automaker was audacious enough to upholster its seats with tan leather and corduroy? Corduroy. No one would dare.
And in the driver’s seat, it felt like you’d entered the cockpit of a spaceship designed based on what a 1980s company considered futuristic. The 10-way power-adjustable seats are controlled by a host of toggle switches and buttons on the center console, and it would be a huge understatement to claim I did not love playing with those buttons as a kid. The steering wheel itself is, quite literally, just buttons and switches.
And the dashboard. My god. The box on the left-hand side of the wheel that controlled the lights and windshield wipers was divine. The climate and audio controls were extremely satisfying. But nothing compared to the digital readout below that showed a little image of your car, the direction you were going, and the date.
The model on BaT is newer than my first car, and it has some nicer features. I did not have a head-up display or a sunroof or keyless entry, but I did have that lush tan interior (and, when paired with my car’s red paint job, boy did that thing look slick).
I had the gold-spoked wheels, the functional louvers, the 3.1-liter turbocharged V6 engine that was rated as producing 205 horsepower and 225 lb-ft of torque when new. I had a fucking beast of an automobile. And, as I liked to flex on my high school friends, I didn’t just have a McLaren. I had a Pontiac McLaren, which was arguably even better.
For now, the most I can do is wait for one of these cars to pop up for sale when I am no longer trying to settle down in a house while daydreaming about Zak Brown telling me how cool my McLaren collection is.