One might say Los Angeles Angels pitcher C.J. Wilson has it all. After a long stint playing for the Texas Rangers ending with his first All-Star game, Wilson signed a five-year deal with the Los Angeles Angels during the offseason worth a reported $77.5 million. Over the past several years, as his success in the major leagues has enriched him, Wilson has indulged in his passion outside of baseball: buying race cars, racing them himself and starting his own race team. He also purchased some of the most exclusive vehicles on the market, and he stands as one of a few 31-year-olds in the world who can afford the upcoming $1.15 million, 903-hp McLaren P1 hypercar.
But first, he had to make a pitch to prove he was worthy.
The McLaren P1 will never become a common sight around the world: the British sports car maker says it will build only 375 P1s, which it touts as the fastest road car in the world, capable of hitting 62 mph in under three seconds. As the eligible customers worldwide far outnumber the available machines, and McLaren wants to keep the cars out of speculators' hands, it's impossible to just wander into a McLaren dealer and sign on the dotted line. To qualify, one needs a list of previously owned cars worthy of Jerry Seinfeld, a wallet deeper than Jay Leno’s chin, and a dedication to the brand akin to Lewis Hamilton (before he jumped ship to Mercedes, of course). None of which guarantees a spot.
Wilson tells me cars have always been his passion. Over his years in the major leagues, he’s owned enough Porsches to start a dealership – including numerous 911 GT3 RSs and a Carrera GT. After his collection outgrew his garage, Wilson had an epiphany:
“I only have one butt and two hands — how am I supposed to drive all these cars,” he joked. “What am I doing with all these things? This is so stupid.”
Wilson decided it was time to sell up and purchase an actual racecar. “If I crash it, it’s a racecar, who cares? You fix it and keep going.”
After selling many of his prized gems, Wilson bought a Mazda MX-5 Cup car – a racing version of the machine auto enthusiasts know to be the greatest affordable roadster on the planet. He then began to race the MX-5 and even started his own race team, gifting young racers the opportunity to prove their skills and use the race team as a promotional tool for his charity work.
Despite his rapidly emptying garage, Wilson kept his prized Carrera GT. He also decided to save space for a Ferrari, but acquiring one became his first introduction to the velvet ropes of the supercar club.
“I did eventually own a used Ferrari 599, but I got dissatisfied by the Ferrari ownership thing almost immediately,” Wilson recalled. “It was like, ‘you have to buy a used Maserati, then you can buy a new Ferrari.’ It was an exhausting process with so many hoops to jump through. I originally wanted a new Ferrari 360 but they wouldn’t sell it me, despite having the cash to drop there and then. After the 599, I vowed never to own a Ferrari again.”
Although Wilson’s love for the Italian brand was tainted, he had a similar affection for the British Formula One team and carbuilder founded by Bruce McLaren.
“I’ve always been a McLaren fan boy, ever since the (Ayrton) Senna days,” states Wilson. “The road car I looked up to as a kid was the McLaren F1. It was completely mind-blowing. I thought that was the best thing ever. It became my focus as a child to one day own that car. The problem is, they cost about $4 million today, and they only made 100 of them. You can’t buy one. You just can’t.”
Wilson decided to purchase the next best thing — the McLaren MP4-12C supercar. While not a hypercar variant like the F1, the 12C ranks as a capable Ferrari 458 fighter that boasts 593 hp and surpasses 200 mph, which Wilson, in true car guy form, drives the wheels off of.
“I use that car almost everyday," Wilson tells me. "I’ve amassed over 7,000 miles already, which is a lot for a supercar in such a short time.”
Wilson was astutely aware that a successor to his adored F1 was imminent — so much so that he began lobbying earlier than most for a slot on the list.
“When the rumblings began, I called up my guy at McLaren and said, ‘I don’t care what it costs, I want that car,’” said Wilson. “This was about two years ago, and at that point, they hadn’t even come up with a name yet. ‘I want the new F1,’ I said. I practically begged the guy. I was the first person in the country that asked to be on the list.”
“McLaren directed me to produce a catalog of cars I’ve owned. I listed the Porsches, Ferrari, and McLaren 12C but was concerned, after my Ferrari experience, that at 31 years old, I might not maintain the diversity of cool cars needed to be eligible. But they replied saying it was plenty and I was officially on the list.”
A while later, Wilson was invited to a preview event in Beverly Hills to mingle with a group of wealthy and famous individuals who were also on the sought-after list. “I wondered why I was there,” he confessed. “I was by far the youngest in the room.”
By this point, Wilson had already dropped a sizable 10 percent deposit on a car he hadn’t even seen and knew nothing about. But that night in Beverly Hills, the sheets came off and Wilson saw the car he had already committed to buy. It did not disappoint.
“It looked like a spaceship,” Wilson explained. “I really liked the flow and the smoothness and I think it’ll age really well. I was so excited to put my foot into 903 hp. I have no idea what that will be like.”
He’ll find out early next year. The P1 should be available in late 2013, but all owners must fly to England for a custom driver's seat; with cornering forces sustained at over 2g, McLaren treats the final delivery process like fitting one of their Formula One drivers. Due to Wilson’s baseball commitments, he probably won’t be capable of flying to McLaren’s factory until November, making a deliver date of his P1 likely to be in the spring of 2014.
How much will he drive it?
“I’ll take it out to southern California on a weekend and rip off like 400 miles,” he says. “It won’t be my daily driver, of course, but I’ll definitely put some miles on it. I grew up with humble roots and I just can’t imagine it sitting in the garage. This will be the gnarliest car ever.”
The purchase of a McLaren P1 hypercar is the fulfillment of Wilson’s childhood dreams. It might not be the F1 from his bedroom wall, but the P1 appears to be every bit its 21st-century successor. Come next spring, Wilson will truly have it all.
“I’ve been waiting my whole life," Wilson says, "to own a car like this."