Elon Musk spent $1 million on a super rare car

Elon Musk spent $1 million on a super rare car

In the high-octane world of tech billionaires, Elon Musk is known for pushing boundaries, both in technology and in life. One incident involves crashing a super rare McLaren F1, highlighting his fearless approach to risk. This time, though, his daring move ended with a bit more than just a thrill.

The story, which Musk shared with Sarah Lacy at PandoDaily, dates to the late 1990s. Fresh off the sale of his startup Zip2 for more than $300 million, Musk decided it was time to indulge in the finer things in life. And what could be finer than the McLaren F1, a car that at the time was one of the fastest and most exclusive in the world? With only 106 ever made, owning a McLaren F1 was a dream for many but a reality for very few. The car’s price tag hovered around $1 million, a steep climb from its original price but a drop in the bucket for Musk.

“Three years ago, I was showering at the YMCA and sleeping on the office floor,” Musk reminisced in a 1999 CNN Perspectives documentary, reported by Business Insider. “Now I have a million-dollar car and quite a few creature comforts.” Musk’s purchase wasn’t just a display of wealth; it was a testament to how far he had come.

In the interview, Musk explained he put 11,000 miles on the car. He drove it from Los Angeles to San Francisco and it was his daily vehicle, which he admits was a “crazy car to have as a daily drive.”

Despite driving it often, he said in the interview he didn’t really know how to drive the McLaren. Its incredible power delivery to the wheels, boasting 640 brake horsepower, combined with its lightweight build of just a ton, results in tremendous performance.

In 2000, while driving on Sand Hill Road with PayPal Inc. Co-Founder Peter Thiel to a meeting, a moment of bravado led Musk to demonstrate the car’s capabilities. “Watch this,” he said, moments before the McLaren spun out of control, flew “like a discus” 3 feet into the air and crashed. The worst part? The car wasn’t insured.

“I remember seeing the cars coming towards me while I was going backwards,” Musk recounted, describing the surreal moment before impact. The car hit a hidden embankment on Sand Hill Road at a 45-degree angle, launching it into the air “like a discus.” According to witnesses, the McLaren maintained about 3 feet of air clearance before it slammed down on the ground, going in the original direction. The aftermath was a spectacle of destruction.

“We blew the suspension out … the core chassis and the engine were OK, but all the glass and the wheels and everything was shredded. There was massive body damage in the front and rear,” Musk said.

The aftermath saw Musk and Thiel hitchhiking to their meeting, a reminder that even the most successful entrepreneurs are not immune to missteps. The McLaren was eventually repaired and sold to a new owner in California.

Lacy asked Musk whether there was a parallel between the dramatic crash and how he builds companies. Musk’s response was, “I hope not. That could be awkward with a rocket launch.”

Despite the mishap, Musk’s McLaren F1 adventure is more than a cautionary tale about the perils of showing off. It’s a snapshot of a period in Musk’s life when everything seemed possible, and risks — no matter how ill-advised — were just part of the journey. The silver F1 remains a benchmark for performance at Tesla Inc., with Musk noting that the Model S P85D matched the McLaren’s 0-to-60-mph acceleration time and the P100D later beating it.

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