Travels With McLaren

Follow Us From L.A. to New York.

The cross-country drive was one of the great set pieces of American letters, once upon a time. I well remember reading Jack Kerouac and John Steinbeck as a boy, not to mention Brock Yates, of Cannonball Run fame. All of them taught us something about this vast land of ours when they set to cross it by car.

Steinbeck took his time and spent a lot of it talking to his dog, Charley. Kerouac was talking, non-stop, with plenty of drinking and screwing to round things out, which may have limited the ability of his alter ego, Sal Paradise, and lead-footed wheelman Dean Moriarty to make record time. Through him, generations have become steeped in the restless nihilism of the Beat Generation. And, of course, the great automotive writer, impresario, and teller of tall tales Yates built a durable franchise in the 1970s while traveling as fast as was then humanly possible.

Time has marched on, and as the twenty-first century unfolds, the romance of the cross-country blast seems to have faded. But here at Automobile Magazine, where our literary aspirations are more humble, we don’t know why. Nothing compares to a good cross-country blast, and on the suitable mount side of the ledger, we often find ourselves more in the Kerouac/Yates camp, preferring something fast and a little bit more furious than Steinbeck’s pickup camper. There are certain truths that can only be illuminated by getting there in a hurry.

Which is why we’re happy to tell you that we’re on our way to New York, having left Los Angeles in a McLaren MP4-12C. We’ve planned stops in Phoenix, Santa Fe, New Mexico, Dallas, Montgomery, Alabama, and Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Previous experience driving the 12C at its launch on the track in Portimao, Portugal, led us to suspect that the $239,900 mid-engine flyer with the twin-turbo, 615-hp V-8 might be well suited to long-distance travel. That’s because not only is it prodigiously fast and surprisingly frugal – one consequence of its lightweight carbon-fiber passenger monocell – but it’s possessed of some of the most excellent ride properties we’ve ever encountered in a sports car. And it’s just large enough to fit me, ace lensman Martyn Goddard, our luggage, and an ungodly amount of camera equipment. Six hundred fifteen horsepower and some of the most serious ground effects the public roads have ever seen won’t hurt.

We’re going to keep you posted on how it’s going. Hopefully, our next blog won’t be coming to you from jail.