‘Ini­tially a sales un­der­achiever, the Fer­rari 250 GTO is now worth about £50 mil­lion’

CAR (UK) - - QUICK GROUP TEST - Con­trib­u­tor in chief Gavin Green is a lim­ited edi­tion of one

AN­OTHER DAY, AN­OTHER hy­per-priced hyped-up hy­per­car. Soon after de­liv­er­ies be­gan of the £750,000 Senna, the new­est mem­ber of McLaren’s Ul­ti­mate se­ries to hit the road or track, came news of the As­ton Martin Project 003, ‘de­scen­dant of the Valkyrie’ (which hasn’t even been built yet).

Project 003 is a more road-friendly ver­sion of Adrian Newey’s techno-won­der, lim­ited to 500 cars and due in 2021. It even has space for lug­gage, which the Valkyrie does not. Apart from this nugget As­ton re­leased few de­tails, the first time in sports car his­tory that boot space is the head­line act.

Then, a few days later, came con­fir­ma­tion that Mercedes is pro­duc­ing its first mod­ern hy­per­car, the AMG One. It uses F1 tech, ap­par­ently has 1086bhp and will be the first Mercedes road car made and en­gi­neered in the UK, just like Lewis’s GP racer.

Just 275 ex­am­ples will be made, at more than £2 mil­lion each. No doubt most will be care­fully se­questered, like tur­bocharged Ti­tians, as own­ers an­tic­i­pate rock­et­ing val­ues, if never ac­tu­ally ex­pe­ri­enc­ing the rocket-like per­for­mance. Alas, this is the sad, clois­tered life of a 21st cen­tury hy­per­car.

Then, less than a week after the Mercedes an­nounce­ment, came the Fer­rari SP1 and SP2 Mon­zas, un­veiled in Paris, priced at £1.6 mil­lion – and, nat­u­rally, all 499 will be quickly sold out to the Fer­rari faith­ful who will mostly keep them in her­met­i­cally sealed garages and watch val­ues soar. Their 12 lovely lit­tle pis­tons will be as in­ac­tive as bars of gold stored in a Swiss bank, their forged al­loy wheels as im­mo­bile as a Yuan dy­nasty vase, their fetch­ing barchetta-style bod­ies as sta­tion­ary as Venus fig­urines. If sam­pled at all, most will be driven spar­ingly, cleaned re­li­giously and then re­turned to their garage vaults. The SP1 and SP2 are first of a new range of lim­ited-edi­tion Icona cars that mimic old Fer­raris in style.

Com­ing up is the McLaren Senna GTR, for those who think the reg­u­lar Senna is a bit of a wuss. Nat­u­rally, its per­for­mance will be far be­yond the ca­pa­bil­i­ties of own­ers. Then will come an­other McLaren Ul­ti­mate car, the Speed­tail. It’s a three-seat suc­ces­sor to the mar­vel­lous McLaren F1 and has 986bhp. Only 106 will be built at £1.75m plus taxes each. All are pre-sold.

Amaz­ingly, Adrian Newey’s Valkyrie (de­liv­er­ies start in 2019) prom­ises to op­er­ate on an­other per­for­mance plane again. The goal for the fastest ver­sion is to de­liver F1 lap times, a stu­pen­dous achieve­ment for a road-based car. Trou­ble is, own­ers will need F1-type tal­ent to de­liver.

Not long ago, new hy­per­car in­tro­duc­tions were rare. That all changed when they be­came col­lectibles for ‘high-net-worth in­di­vid­u­als’, rather than cher­ished driv­ing ma­chines for af­flu­ent en­thu­si­asts. McLaren be­came newly prof­itable when the P1 sold out. As­ton steered it­self into the black when Valkyrie money flooded in. These are big-profit prod­ucts. Plus, as As­ton Martin and Fer­rari are now self-styled ‘lux­ury life­style brands’, pre­sum­ably bot­tom lines are more im­por­tant than red­lines.

All these cars will be fan­tas­tic, never mind their ab­surd un­us­abil­ity for the road. But when profit is the pri­or­ity, when cars are mostly bought not to drive, and when their ca­pa­bil­ity is far be­yond their own­ers’, then a bit of the magic goes miss­ing. Years ago, hy­per­cars were ei­ther road ver­sions of cars built to win races (Jaguar D-Type, Fer­rari 250 GTO, Ford GT40) or tech­ni­cal tours de force de­signed to el­e­vate and en­lighten road-car ex­per­tise (Porsche 959, McLaren F1). That’s no longer true, although the AMG One and Valkyrie are cer­tainly tech­ni­cally am­bi­tious, and there is even loose talk of Valkyries rac­ing, the best way to turn a fast car into a leg­endary one.

It is also sober­ing to re­flect that prob­a­bly the two great­est top-end sport­sters of all – the Fer­rari 250 GTO and McLaren F1 – were ini­tially sales un­der­achiev­ers. There sim­ply wasn’t the de­mand. Now, they’re worth about £50 mil­lion and £12 mil­lion re­spec­tively. They were bought for the thrill of the drive, not for re­turn on in­vest­ment. A few GTOs are still thrashed en­er­get­i­cally at his­toric races, in­clud­ing the Good­wood Re­vival. Such no­bil­ity of pur­pose el­e­vates a car’s rep­u­ta­tion, as well as – para­dox­i­cally – its value.

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