Put them on my tab...
In 1985 a film came out called Brewster’s Millions, starring Richard Prior and John Candy. The premise of the film was Montomery Brewster, a minor league baseball player, had to blow a few million dollars in order to inherit $300million. I don’t remember if the film was any good, or much about the plot for that matter, but I do remember for years thinking about what I would blow a shed load of cash on if I had to. Like me, I suspect the first thing most people would do if they had a few million to waste is walk into a [insert the manufacturer of your dream car here] dealership and give the salesman a suitcase full of money. This got me thinking – what would it actually be like to blow a million quid on cars in one morning? Mindful of the harsh reality I would likely never have the opportunity to do it myself, I headed off to meet the guys at supercar club P1 to find out.
P1 was one of the pioneers of the concept of shared access to supercars when it was launched back in October 2000. In the last seven years it has carved out a reputation as possibly the best of its kind and many other similar ventures have sprung up to cash in.The concept is simple - P1 gives members the opportunity to drive some of the world’s most exotic cars without the usual headache of ownership. In return for an annual membership fee the club takes care of depreciation, maintenance, insurance and storage. Members exchange their points for driving time in cars throughout the membership year. The car’s group decides how many points are used on the booking and the vehicles range from a Merc SLR and Ford GT to the lower category Porsche Cayman S and Caterham Roadsport SV. The Porsches, such as the 997 Turbo and GT3 RS, are swapped every four months.
Not only is the company constantly in the process of renewing the fleet, because of its good relationship with manufacturers it has on order a lot of vehicles as yet unreleased, only normally seen in grainy spy-shots at the Nurburgring. If anyone knew about blowing obscene amounts of money on supercars P1 had to be it and I was keen to find out what goes through someone’s head when they shop for cars in the same way I might for groceries. I travelled to P1’s headquarters in Leatherhead and waiting for me was the company’s chief executive Michael Breen and Nick Bailey who is managing director of P1 North. To give you an idea of the buying power of these men they recently confirmed a shopping list in one morning that read: Two Ferrari F149’s, two Audi V10 R8’s, two convertible R8’s, an Audi RS6, an Aston Martin DBS, a Ferrari 430 Scuderia and a 997 Porsche GT2. Considering some of those cars have not yet been released it is difficult to calculate the cost for that lot, but rest assured it will be well north of £1million.
They tell me the process of buying such vast quantities of cars involves sitting down and discussing what makes a good P1 car and what colours would be best for their purpose. P1 also informally discusses with members what they would like to drive, which also goes into the mix. Mr Breen says P1 is at the same level on the order list as stars like David Beckham and Jay Kay when it comes to buying cars. I ask him whether, after years of buying expensive cars, it starts to feel like the same as you or me popping down the shops for some milk. ‘We sometimes pinch ourselves when we are buying a lot of cars,' he explains.' 'We try not to become too numb to the process otherwise we would turn into people who don’t realise what they’ve got.’
Picture: Michael Ward/ Auto Italia magazine
P1 is one of the largest buyers of supercars in the world and at one point the company bought 44 Porsches in one year. Mr Breen said one of the best bits about buying the cars is seeing one of the first in the country of a particular model being delivered to the premises. ‘People look out the window and they’ve never seen a Ferrari 599 before. That is fantastic.’ So does the P1 management have a go in the new cars before the members get their hands on them? ‘We might have a drive around the car-park,’ he says with a smile. ‘We have to give them a shake down as they say.’ The 599 is the car everyone wants to drive and when asked if he regrets any purchases Mr Breen can only think of one car – the BMW Z4M. Not because it is a bad car, he explains, but because no one wants to give it a chance. ‘If I was driving home on lanes and back roads, that is the car I would take. But a lot of members don’t like it. The suspension is so hard you can lose your fillings, it catches them by surprise.’ Cars P1 are still unsure of are the Lambo Gallardo Superleggera, which they say will have fearsome depreciation, and the Merc AMG C63, which people want but may not fit in to the P1 ethos.
So what are the downsides of buying such a large amount of expensive cars? ‘It is exciting but we are in our eighth year, the fleet is worth £6million and every year it depreciates 20 to 25%. That’s between 1.2 and £1.5million a year – that’s the bit that focuses the mind,’ he says. As a car fanatic though the idea of being surrounded by exotic metal all day is a dream come true for Mr Breen. ‘The best thing is loving what you do, there are too many people who don’t like what they do,’ he says. ‘It’s the best job in the world.’