I know it may not seem like it, but I usually try to avoid purchasing incredibly broken cars — especially when they’re ridiculously expensive. In other words, I don’t go looking for trouble — rather, trouble seems to find me. I think that’s a quote from “Harry Potter,” actually, but it certainly describes me, as well — especially with my latest and most expensive purchase yet. Obviously I knew what I was getting into buying the cheapest McLaren MP4-12C with a clean history in the U.S., but I did something smart for once. Something that will almost certainly save me from financial ruin.
When I came across this 2012 McLaren listed on Autotrader, I was coming off a pretty sad run of bad luck when it came to exotic car purchases. After a short taste of greatness with my 1995 Ferrari F355, it sadly burned to the ground, but it resulted in a generous insurance payout. Instead of putting that money away for my daughter's future, I decided she would enjoy being driven to kindergarten in a 1988 Ferrari Testarossa more. She can pay off student loans eventually, but the memories of that Ferrari would certainly last forever!
Unfortunately, my Testarossa ownership was short lived as well, since the title I received was metaphorically torched by a clerical error, which required a lot of effort and time to solve. The dealer refunded the money on that purchase, and I quickly moved on to a much cheaper Ferrari 348, but after wiring the funds to the dealer consigning the car, the seller couldn't produce a title. The dealer told me his client's finances appeared to be caving in, and the car was most likely hawked for way more than it was worth -- so, once again, my money was given back to me.
Things could have been much worse, obviously, as I didn't lose out financially, but I decided to give up on finding another Ferrari, hoping I might find better luck with something more modern. My first thoughts were the obvious choices: A Lamborghini Gallardo or an Audi R8, as they're both in my price range, but after chasing a few cars and pondering what I could do with them, I decided neither would work. Both of those cars, while fantastic, are the village bicycles of automotive YouTubers. Pretty much every scenario has been played out with them -- and at 32 years old, I don't have youth on my side for those catchy click bait titles, such as: "BUYING MY DREAM LAMBORGINI AT 20 YEARS OLD." At this point, if I drove a supercar to my old high school to show off like those YouTubers, the police would probably arrest me for looking like a creep.
What I didn't realize, much to my joy, was how cheap McLaren's first real mass-market production car was getting -- and when I found the perfect car, I decided to snag it quickly, sending a deposit to hold the car pending my in-person inspection and test drive. Turns out, it was so broken that it was barely even driveable, but, of course, I bought it anyway.
The seller wanted to make sure everything was perfect for me before I took delivery, so he dropped it off at the McLaren dealer for its annual service, and to check on a noise he was hearing while shifting through the gears. This turned out to be an internal failure somewhere deep inside the transmission, which required a complete replacement of the transmission. Unfortunately, there's a nationwide shortage of replacement 12C transmissions, so the car has to wait for several weeks while a transmission is built in England.
The holidays are fast approaching and I'm getting married at the beginning of the year, so my only real chance to see this car before purchasing was in its current state, but I assumed I could still drive it. Turns out, the technicians had drained the transmission fluid during their inspection, and didn't bother refilling since it was being replaced. This meant the 12C could only go into first gear, and didn't have reverse. So my test drive of the fastest, most expensive car I've ever purchased consisted of limping around a lot in one gear. One spot was too tight to maneuver, so the seller had to get out and literally push the car backwards so we could continue on this silly trek. Given my hooptie background, I felt right at home.
The good news about all this is the seller purchased McLaren's Doug DeMuro special, a bumper-to-bumper, unlimited mileage warranty, which is being transferred to me. The transmission is covered, which is a very good thing, since paying out of pocket for a replacement would be over $30,000. Amazingly, this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to warranty repairs on this car, but I'll save that amazing history for the next installment. Hopefully, the car will be finished and shipped to Kansas before January 1. MAYBE.
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