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A night at the North American McLaren 570GT unveiling (and what it’s like to attend a car event way fancier than you are)

Ross Ballot August 17, 2016 All Things Hoon 7 Comments

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A few weeks back I was lucky enough to attend the private, invite-only, North American unveiling of the McLaren 570GT in the fancy-pants town of Greenwich, Connecticut. I should have guessed that I wouldn’t exactly “fit in” but had way too much fun to actually care. It was quite an event: food galore, free-flowing adult beverages, well-dressed people everywhere, and of course, the majority of the inimitable McLaren lineup gracing the area with its presence.

Not only was the experience a bit overwhelming, but it was a totally new and exciting thing for me to witness the revealing of a car for the first time. Fun was had, and many a 650S were drooled over. Read on to get more of an idea of just how extravagant the night was and what it’s like to be present at the unveiling of a car most of us will never be able to afford.

This uber-wealthy car scene is still new to me; having grown up around Jeeps and GM trucks, foreign cars themselves have always been a bit…nice…for my taste. As such I grew up fantasizing over, well, Jeeps and GM products. Despite this though, over the years I’ve come to appreciate foreign automobiles, and have even owned a few. Exotics though, having grown up in the middle-class, were always and will likely always been something I can’t fully grasp. So when my friend Kevin asked me to go with him to a private event at an exotic car dealer, the answer was a quick and definitive yes. What I found was a totally different form of car culture, one with more expensive taste and liking of caviar. It was a bit overwhelming, yet a damn good time.

Let me paint the background picture for you, if you’re not familiar with the area: Greenwich is one of the beautiful, incredibly wealthy Connecticut towns that fits most stereotypes you can think of. Want to get way overdressed and drive your Bentley to an expensive (yet likely delicious) dinner? Greenwich would be a good place to do that. Own a boat, another house in Florida, never fear the phrase “financial insecurity?” Prefer the sport equestrian and the word “exquisite” to the sport football and the word “fuck”? Good chance you’re from, or a resident of, Greenwich. You get the point: it’s a town in which the shock on your face after seeing some of the homes is only surpassed by the shock on your face should you see the bank account statements of the residents.

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McLaren Greenwich – Image courtesy Google Maps

And thus you can likely imagine how much my buddy Kevin and I didn’t fit in. I arrived in my…well…you’ll know what my current car is once I introduce it in its own piece. Let’s just say it’s not exactly “fancy.” But despite my not-so-subtle sedan, Kevin does drive a Porsche…then again, it’s not like the other 911s we saw that night. Quite the contrary, actually. It’s a Frankenstein of a car: 1986 911 Carrera body, 3.0 out of a 1976 stuffed into the back, and the transmission out of a 1974. It’s covered in identification racing numbers, is louder than any street-legal car I’ve ever heard short of a straight-piped Corvette, and is more friendly with the autocross course than you are with the parking lot in which said competition takes place. His 911 is set up well and it moves. You also hear it well before you see it, and that doesn’t exactly give off the “sophisticated” vibe that most other 911s, Cayennes, and Panameras that arrived at this event did.

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Kevin’s Porsche parked in good company in the lot at the Ferrari dealer

Both of us had gotten out of work with enough time to go for a spirited drive through the lovely Greenwich roads, and we still arrived at the dealership at which the event would take place a bit early. We parked in the lot of the Ferrari dealership next door, and knew from that moment that the night would be…interesting. “What are they doing here” glances were shot our way as we pulled in, followed by the “who are those guys and why are they invited” stares as we walked up. I knew we wouldn’t exactly be the average people there given neither of us can afford a McLaren (I could probably buy a wheel…), but we were still shocked upon making our way in.

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Parking at a Ferrari dealership has its perks…

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…like seeing a Maserati MC12 in hiding

You’d think with the invite calling for Business Casual attire that an outfit of dress pants, dress shoes, and a long-sleeve button-down shirt would be appropriate. Sure, it might be, but this is an event at McLaren. Accordingly, most people there probably had shoes costing more than everything Kevin and I were wearing combined, but we didn’t let that didn’t get to us. Admittedly, we laughed as we walked in, realizing immediately just how out of place we were. As other guests arrived it became even more apparent. Ferraris, Maseratis, high-end Porsches, and so on; the chariots for those potential customers in attendance reflected their wealth appropriately, and this was just the beginning of a night that would leave us both smiling and a bit astonished.

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The scene outside McLaren Greenwich the night of the event

Time to set the scene as bit: in the small lot out in front of the building sat a 650S, a 570, and a bare 650S tub in all its carbon-fiber glory. We stared for a moment, strolled up to the entrance, and were asked our names by two attractive women wearing McLaren shirts to see if we were on the list. McLaren’s Greenwich dealership is a stunning, albeit small, two-floor structure that’s open and airy feeling, with glass windows and walls reaching to the ceiling on the street side. Inside you’ll find a small glass box with a model of a P1, signifying the dealer has sold one of the few allotted, ultra-rare, hypercars.

Offices and such are situated at the back, opposite the glass, and in-between on this very night sat two lone cars. In the center of the floor lay a 650S Can-Am, one of fifty produced. The Can-Am is a homage to 1960s and 1970s motorsports, decked out with carbon fiber bits/panels, forged alloy wheels, titanium lugnuts, and a price tag starting around $335,000. It’s one of the most expensive cars I’ve ever been up close and personal with, and I was nervous even breathing around it. Aside from its cost, it’s also absolutely stunning; one thing McLaren does brilliantly is the details in their cars, and the Can-Am is no exception.

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The 650S Can-Am

The other car in the showroom was the subject of the night. It sat nestled quietly in the corner, spotlights shining down on the cover that hides it from waiting eyes (despite some people likely having seen it on the internet months prior). Kevin and I milled about for a little while prior to the actual unveiling, talking up whoever would entertain us and munching on the delicious hors d’oeuvres they were serving to the guests. I had no idea that a lobster roll could be an appetizer-style finger food, or that ceviche was so good. I also didn’t know that a pulled pork slider can fly from your hand seemingly on its own accord, of course landing bun-open and meat-down on the polished floor for everyone to see, but a napkin and a quick lookaround with a “not guilty” look on my face seemed to have diffused the situation before I got the attention of the wrong people.

At one point Kevin and I found ourselves outside, doing our best to not drool directly into a bare carbon tub that could have in another life been a road-going 650S, when a nice gentleman wearing a suit and a McLaren badge came over and chatted us up. To our surprise he was the guy about to make the pre-unveiling speech, a rep for the company whose job is to represent McLaren and do so in a wholly positive light. An exceptionally friendly and well-spoken gent, and one that would likely have shot the shit with us for hours had he not a job to do. Kevin and I did our best to probe him with tech, future production, and other insider-like questions for the better portion of a half hour, and this guy didn’t falter once.

He openly acknowledged when our questions went outside the scope of his knowledge and had no shame doing so, stumping us time and time again. We tried our hardest to get answers out of him about the future of the company but his lips were sealed tight and the best we got wouldn’t come as news to even the most passive of McLaren fans. It was apparent that his job relies primarily on regurgitation of info from within the company and also that he certainly likes what he does, but that to more geeky fans like us the questions we were asking were way too in-depth for what he would even have a chance of knowing the answers to. We were overly optimistic, I suppose, but the rapport in the conversation was great and we gave him a few laughs to ease what probably weren’t nerves going into his presentation.

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Mid-discussion, somebody else in a company shirt came outside to retrieve him. Immediately there was an announcement that the unveiling would be happening shortly, and everybody began to funnel into the building for “the moment you’ve all been waiting for.”

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The McLaren press guy’s speech was brief, but then again this was the stateside debut of a car that had already debuted, not an all-new first-showing. Camera phones snapped rapidly as two other McLaren shirt-clad men pulled the white sheet off the rounded shape, and then we were all finally able to lay eyes on the car of the night.

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It bears the name 570GT and takes a luxury angle at the McLaren Sports Series mojo. Instead of focusing on weight savings and lap times though, the GT is concerned with a trip to Cape Cod or arriving at the winery in the utmost style. That’s not to say it’s not fast, because it’ll blow the doors off most everything out on the road, but, as we saw all over the interwebs, it’s covered in leather and other comfort-focused tidbits rather than the bare-carbon we’ve come to expect of McLaren. In all honesty though they’ll probably sell more of these than of any other car they make because, a) it’s based on their least expensive line, b) most owners or prospective buyers care more about how their rear end feels in the seat rather than how the rear end of the car feels going sideways out of a turn, and c) given “a” and “b” it’s packaged to be the most accessible for anyone who wants a McLaren but also wants to drive it regularly and comfortably. It’s a gorgeous car, smaller in person than you’d expect, but seriously attractive. I’d love to drive one on a road trip up to New Hampshire on a cool fall day to take full advantage of the comfort-focused interior, but then again I’d road trip any McLaren across the country given the chance.

The point is, the 570GT is a seriously nice car that I’ll be happy to see out on the road once deliveries begin. That blue 650S sitting in the parking lot though…it’s one of the few high-end cars that actually really does something for me. I was outwardly pleasant and friendly all night, but my mind couldn’t keep from drifting back to the thought of hooning the hell out of that exact car.

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The 570GT

The whole night was an event that didn’t feel too overdone, but still was of the caliber in which you could basically smell the wealth. Of course McLaren would go to lengths to represent itself in the best way possible; the cars they brought were stunning, the food amazing, the employees all very  nice and equally good-looking, everything shiny and bright and polished to reflect your hopes and dreams of one day owning an example of Woking’s finest.

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The interior of the 570GT

I weirdly had a great time hanging around people who likely make as much in a month (or week?) as I make in a year, and Kevin and I got some good laughs out of the situation as a whole. The McLaren 570GT is a hell of a car and, while it’s not the McLaren I’d buy, I totally get how people will cross-shop it with cars like the 911 Turbo, R8, S65/SL65, 488 GTB, Huracan, and so on. It’s a more differentiated offering from a small, intensely focused company, and it’ll definitely stand out among rivals.

I’d really love to go to another event like this in the future should the opportunity arise; maybe next time it’ll be something more my speed though…Mazda? Subaru? Jeep? This whole McLaren thing was nice, but I felt somewhat disconnected from reality. Then again, that’s one of the great things about companies like McLaren: they’re so good that they basically make you forget about everything else. And if just being around the cars for a night gave off that effect, I can’t even imagine what driving one is like. [Editor’s Note: *cough* I could tell you] Time to find a way behind the wheel of one…

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Image courtesy of McLaren

  • Sjalabais

    Wait…cars requiring outlandish skills to use right and not one can park with respect for themselves and what’s painted on the pavement?
    http://i2.wp.com/hooniverse.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/13770502_10103427439236181_3284330200377578434_n.jpg?w=700
    /poorly disguised envy

    • Ross Ballot

      It’s not as bad as it looks. I have another picture floating around somewhere but I can’t find it right now. The front of the parking lot was up against a 40 MPH road, with two lanes in each direction. Guessing the Ferrari owner parked back to protect the car…or at least that’s what I’m hoping.

  • Rover 1

    One picture there proves what I long suspected. In the automotive hierarchy, Ferrari 365GTC4s sit above restyled Ferrari Enzos with Maserati badges.

  • Van_Sarockin

    Nice. I had a similar experience, when I was invited to the DB-9 rollout. Met some interesting people. Loved the A-Ms, and the lot and shop had an incredible range of classic cars in for maintenance and restoration.

    • Ross Ballot

      That sounds fantastic. I’d love to go to an Aston Martin event, especially with what they’re building now…

      • Van_Sarockin

        It was a very composed, high end kind of crazy. Gold foil in the engine bays, and wishbones better designed and finished than chronometers. Early sixties Ferraris and a Bongo. Just delightful. I’m a bit out of touch with the model range now. Mostly it seems variations on the theme and further stretchings, which isn’t so bad. I’m sure the technical specs have also ramped up. The problem is, that in real life circumstances, you can’t really use very much of the car. Which makes them beautiful, highly compromised shuttles, with a really harsh ride on average roads. Drive one like you should, and your license could be gone before you’re in third gear. But it you like, I can probably arrange an introduction to the dealer. The repair/resto side is probably more interesting than the new stuff in the showroom.

        • Ross Ballot

          Oh absolutely. As for the cars being too fast for their own good, that goes for most everything that’s sporty or “sporting” these days. Unless you’ve got an FR-S/BR-Z/GT86 or Miata, chances are your fun car is fast enough to put you behind bars very, very easily. The Astons and McLarens absolutely fit into that description…