Heavy Metal Affliction - 2012 McLaren MP4-12C
How do you decide to buy a supercar? For some it is to make a statement. For the hardcore enthusiast, it’s likely because the handling, power and distinctive styling set these cars apart from the best the sports car market can offer. For Nic Johnson – Art Director for Turn 10 – it was something entirely different.
It started off as what he calls “a fantasy car-buying game” that he and Turn 10 friend, Tim Dean indulged in. “[Previously] I only thought about third-row seating, roof racks, ground clearance for family ski trips, and excellent gas millage,” Johnson said. He currently owns two Volvo wagons, and has a wife and two 15-year-old girls. He is an artist at heart, and has never considered himself a car guy. Sometime last year, however, Dean started coming to his desk and suggesting cars that he thought Johnson should think about buying. The game was on.
Johnson has always appreciated cars and understands what they mean to different people. “I think cars are interesting because we tend to load them with wildly subjective meaning,” Johnson said. His first car was a late 1970s Toyota Celica that he bought for $2,200. He says that car changed his life in the usual ways being 19 and getting your first car would. It was the perfect car to go to the beach with his girlfriend, among other things.
Until the fantasy car-buying game started, Johnson was content to put his Volvo V60 XC in sport-mode and charge down the highway on-ramps loaded with the family. As Dean kept showing up at his desk with different ideas, Johnson started to like the conversations. “It was like a complex puzzle that we were trying to solve,” Johnson said.
He never thought he would end up buying an actual car. He enjoyed the self-reflective discussions about why a certain car brand was or was not for him. “It seemed like we weren’t really talking about buying a car, we were really talking through who we are as people,” Johnson said. At one point, they decided that an Aston Martin was the solution. Now the game escalated into fantasy car-shopping.
Then, on his own and in secret, Johnson went to an Aston Martin dealer and looked at a used DB9. “This was a strange experience,” Johnson said, “I felt out of my element.” He liked the look, he liked the understated design of the Aston, it was sexy, yet practical. He thought he was looking for something that would be a daily driver, yet be exciting. Then he had an epiphany: he didn’t want something practical, and he realized that he might actually be shopping for a car.
The next day at work Johnson shared his vision with Dean, who came back undeterred and proposed an older Lamborghini Gallardo. They looked at a few of them and while it felt exotic, aggressive, and purpose built, the nicer ones were out of Johnson’s budget. The idea began to fade again. Then Johnson again, secretly, went to a Lamborghini dealership.
This was the first time Johnson had ever seen a Lamborghini in person, much less a showroom full of them. He was shocked and moved. “There is something primal in a brand new shiny Lamborghini staring back at you,” Johnson said. “You question your values. You start doing make-believe math. It’s not good for you, but you can certainly feel it.”
After telling Johnson they never had any older Gallardo models, a week later the dealer called and said he had one. It was white with a tri-color stripe, but was in sad shape. It stank of cigarette smoke, the wheels were curbed, and it was desperately in need of a washing. On the other hand, it had a red and black leather interior and it caused a gut reaction in Johnson. “It felt like a filthy-dirty-fabulous-secret-thing that I could call my own,” he said. All of a sudden, the car buying game got very real, he really wanted it.
Then came some sobering details. The car would need a new clutch every year at a cost of around $10,000. There was also the possibility of even higher repair costs for an out-of-warranty Italian supercar. Johnson realized that these cars are for people who don’t care how much they cost. He realized he was in the wrong place and eventually told Dean that he was out of the fantasy car buying business.
Out of desperation, Dean offered a new range of cars to consider, but they all came with similar maintenance risks. Then Dean brought up the McLaren MP4-12C. They had had come down massively in cost, and were spoken of highly by the likes of Top Gear and Evo magazine for their drivability. Johnson didn’t even know what an MP4-12C was, but he soon would.
Research now took a new direction as Johnson watched all the videos he could find, read McLaren blogs, and found a McLaren dealer in Newport Beach, CA that listened to what he wanted. The 12C with the Revozport front end and the McLaren Special Operations options would not be easily found, but when one came up, he pulled the trigger sight unseen.
“I bought it because I fell in love with the way it looks—inside and out,” Johnson said. Up to the day it was delivered in a cargo container, and the driver fired it up Johnson, had been preoccupied with the design of the car and the logistics of owning it (he doesn’t have a garage). When the motor roared to life, he thought, “Oh my god, that’s really loud; it’s a race car, I can’t drive that!” When the driver handed him the keys he was terrified and that feeling continued for months.
The McLaren been with him for around a thousand miles now. Fantasy has become reality. He loves it, and he has huge respect for the power he wields. “It so exceeds what is necessary—there’s something really compelling about that,” said. He is in awe of the engineering and capability of his car and those are things that he shares with every car guy around the world.