Sometimes going out on a limb can lead to rejection, disappointment, or even embarrassment. Other times it can land you in the driver’s seat of a 600 horsepower super car. Luckily for me, reaching out to the owner of Pfaff Automotive here in Toronto produced the latter result.
A mid-summer afternoon last year had me, as any afternoon often has me, contemplating what I might do in life. As someone who grew up among stacks of car magazines piled to the ceiling and scale models staking claim on every flat surface in my bedroom this contemplation has often lead to thoughts on a career in the automotive industry. But what exactly does that mean? Writing? Sales? Marketing? Or perhaps moving to the UK, perfecting an accent, and mimicking Mr. Harris until my amateur driving skills spell my demise. I was leaning toward the last option when I decided to shoot a humble email to Christopher Pfaff over at Pfaff Automotive, a network of dealerships specializing in McLaren and Porsche among other brands.
In my email to Mr. Pfaff I expressed love, passion, and emotion for the above brands. Okay, maybe I wasn't this romantic or flattering but I did exude honest enthusiasm asking if he would be willing to share a moment of his time. I made it explicit that I was not seeking employment or an interview, but merely some time to learn how he was able to turn his passion for these automotive icons into a career. To my surprise he responded within an hour to set up a meeting.
During our meeting we discussed current trends in the industry as well as my own personal background. I learned about how Christopher was introduced to the business by his father and got a genuine sense of his zest for exotic cars. Mr. Pfaff really drove the point home that success is not measured purely in dollars but rather in excitement, energy, and doing what one truly loves. This is a lesson one cannot hear too often and something I found to be quite inspirational. Chris also provided some great advice to me personally regarding business and school, and outlined some opportunities he sees in the industry.
Of course I could not resist the opportunity to voice my opinion on a few car related points. I touched on the 991 with its somewhat bloated design and synthetic soundtrack (something I am surprised doesn't get more attention). Also, I expressed my concerns regarding the current 'digitization' of sports cars. It was a great occasion to wax nostalgic about cars of yore. A playful debate ensued in which I argued the merits of a traditional manual transmission whereas Chris stated he had long ago crossed over to the dark side of paddle-shifters. I don't have to tell you how these discussions go. But apparently a chord was struck. The clouds parted and the heavens looked down upon me. Perhaps in an attempt to expose my misguided philosophies, or perhaps to convert me to a McLaren fan boy for life, an invitation was granted. I was asked to take the reins of a beast, regrettably, named MP4-12C. I was completely floored.
Now I would like to make clear that I have had the good fortune of driving some impressively quick machines in the past, including various 911's, AMG's, and a couple of supercharged Jaguars. But nothing, I mean nothing, prepared my senses for the onslaught delivered by a McLaren. This car is simply in another dimension of performance. I shall call it performance ad absurdum. It took me about half of the brief seat time I had to bring my giddiness down to a respectable and dignified level so that I could be completely mindful of the experience. The gearshifts were sublime, the various chassis settings were as astonishing as they are technologically impressive, it has the reflexes of a house fly, and the sound, well let's just say if you want to create a playlist to audibly induce orgasm the first track should be the 12C exhaust note. Anyone claiming this car lacks character or soul must have the emotional intelligence of a serial killer, I'm looking at you Jason Plato. The experience was over all too soon and I then had to recreate it to friends through storytelling and vocal engine notes. McLaren indeed earned themselves a new fan boy that day.
Yet I am sure Jalopnik has already gushed over the 12C enough for everyone so I would like to try and make this story a little more substantial.
That Pfaff Automotive, a direct representative of McLaren, would give this level of attention to a 26 year old who is only about $275,000 shy of affording one of their cars is simply remarkable. This is one effective way of creating true fans, the kind of fans that will shout from the rooftops to promote a brand. Interestingly, a certain Italian brand has worked to alienate fans through snobbery and condescension in the recent past. Quite the opposite philosophy. For me McLaren exemplifies the character of a young and hungry company. It is a company that obsesses over its products, has a deeply enthusiastic network of dealers, and works to overwhelm and impress each one of its fans, whether or not they are potential customers.
This experience taught me a little something about the benefits of reaching out to those in high places but I think it drives home a greater point. Shared enthusiasm is the great equalizer. Regardless of where our interests lie we are all on equal ground when we share in the experience of genuinely expressing our emotion and zeal for these interests. McLaren is a great example of this ideal.
Just to be sure though I think I might need a little time in a P1...
Michael Stone is a small business owner in Toronto and a lover of technology, philosophy, and (most) things automotive.
Follow him on Twitter @mistastone