What will Danny Wallace do with a £150,000 supercar? What any man would: visit Monkey World
On the day of my friend Colin’s 39th birthday, I am offered the use of a bright orange £150,000 McLaren 570S supercar. And I know exactly what to do with it.
Because when we were at school, Colin and I used to dream of being offered the use of a car like this. It seems amazing now that this never happened. Perhaps it was because we couldn’t drive and were 14. But now – just 25 years later! – things have changed.
Now I will take this bright orange supercar and, like a true friend, give Colin a birthday road trip to remember. We will indulge our car-based schoolboy fantasies.
I will take him to all the places we wished we could go to as boys!
Colin meets me at the McLaren factory – a vast, Bond-style lair of white corridors and acres of glass – but already I spot a problem.
“Where’s your bag?” I say.
“Didn’t bring one,” shrugs Colin.
“Why didn’t you bring one? I said bring an overnight bag. We’re going on a road trip. We’re staying overnight.”
“I’ll just wear this,” he says, tugging at his hoodie. “Where’s the car?”
“You didn’t even bring a toothbrush?” I say. “Or pants?”
“Got some on,” he says. “Where’s the car?”
Already I can feel myself becoming defensive. You don’t sit in a £150,000 supercar in yesterday’s pants. I just don’t think Colin has enough respect for what we’re about to do.
Minutes later, we are presented with the car.
It. Is. Beautiful.
Sleek. Stylish. Stunning. Low. Amazing lines. Dihedral doors. Seven-speed gearbox. Carbon-fibre body. A button that makes the whole car rise. Racing driver seats. A horn.
And it is extremely loud.
Now Colin is excited.
“So where are we driving?” he says, eyes bright.
I look at him very seriously.
“We are driving…” I say. “To Bovington Tank Museum.”
Pedal (not quite) to the metal
We are not just going to Bovington Tank Museum, of course. That would be nuts. We are also going to Monkey World, not far from the village of Shitterton. There’s also a model village near Corfe Castle that screams “lads on tour”.
Colin is less excited than I’d hoped. He fiddles with the satnav.
“I don’t think much of this satnav,” he says. “Also, when you bring the car back, you should tell them they need to look at the front left calliper. It’s squeaking.”
I roll my eyes. I’m under enough stress as it is getting used to driving a supercar without Colin – who used to drive a 1988 Vauxhall Nova – nitpicking like a Budgens Clarkson. I’m extremely close to the ground and I’m worried I’m being too noisy for the other drivers. I glance in my rear-view mirror and notice we’re being tailed by a man in a white van, who’s filming us. He seems to love the car. He moves into the next lane, but hangs back so he can get a sort of Top Gear angle, then slowly starts to overtake. As he inches past, I don’t know how to act. I’m in his little film. So I just turn and wave, but that seems to ruin it, so he speeds off.
“You know we can go over 50 miles per hour?” says Colin.
“I’m getting used to the car!” I say, as we pass a sign.
“Fleet Services!” he shouts, suddenly excited. “There’s a great Burger King in there!”
At Fleet Services, I turn our angry roar into a hungry growl and park up. Everyone is staring at us.
“We’re going to have to open these doors and get out,” I say. “People will be disappointed. How do we do this without looking like competition winners?”
“We don’t look like competition winners,” says Colin, confidently. “We look like dotcom millionaires.”
We press the button that activates the doors. Immediately, a man jogs over.
“Sorry boys,” he says, smiling. “Can I take a picture of the car?”
“Of course,” I say, waving my hand magnanimously, and then I walk off, like I do this all the time.
We reach the entrance to Fleet Services and I pull Colin close.
“Go and get the burgers – I’m keeping an eye on that man.”
The man seemed completely normal and nice. A big McLaren fan. But now I’m paranoid he’s going to go mad and key it, or try the doors. Wait – did I lock the car properly? I look at my key fob. Should I double check? But if I lock it again now, all the lights will flash and it’ll go chunk-chick and then that complete stranger will know I don’t trust him. No. Better to risk the loss of a £150,000 supercar half an hour after receiving it than mildly and understandably risk insulting a man I literally just met in a car park.
Having a supercar is superstressful.
“You know I said you could go faster than 50mph?” says Colin.
“I am stuck behind a lorry!” I say, curtly.
Colin has not let us use the satnav because he prefers to go on instinct.
“Yeah, it’s hard to overtake a lorry in a sports car,” he says.
“Well I’m sorry you’re having such a TERRIBLE DAY,” I say.
But things are about to change, because then we see a sign for “ADVENTURE WONDERLAND”. We don’t know what it is, but we are 14 again. We follow the signs.
Turns out it is an empty children’s amusement centre. It does not seem an appropriate place for two grown men on their own.
But opposite is a scrappy-looking aviation museum. A place for real men! Real men who drive real cars! Soon Colin is wearing a fireman’s helmet, standing on a fire engine and asking me to take his picture. Neither of us questions why this is in an aviation museum. Who cares, because now – finally – Colin is having a good birthday!
We race, delighted by our car, to the Tank Museum. Colin gets a special lecture about a tank from an enthusiastic man named Rob, who gives us extremely grim details of what happens to the human body after a shell strike as if he’s talking about rainbows.
We head for Monkey World, where an ape called Brian pounds his fists in a display of alpha male dominance – presumably because he saw us in our supercar and felt threatened.
We head for Bournemouth. Two women on a zebra crossing stop in their tracks to stare at us in case we are Premier League footballers. In Shitterton, a small child stands by the side of the road and waves at us, in wonder.
“Are they dotcom millionaires?” his face says. “Or simply two men briefly loaned a car for a magazine piece?”
At the Hilton, car secure, we dine on steaks and fine wine in a restaurant downstairs called Schpoons & Forx.
“Is this place Dutch?” Colin asks the waiter, who just frowns.
People who saw us arrive glance across, because now we are international men of mystery, and in the morning they will wonder who we were and what we wanted. And why one of us didn’t have a bag and is wearing the same clothes.
Driving home, I glance at the dashboard and suddenly realise something.
“You wouldn’t lend someone a McLaren without keeping an eye on it,” I say. “Is this car tracked?”
“Oh yeah,” says Colin. “And they’ll look at the diagnostics, computer breakdown and all the stats from the trip.”
My face falls.
“So the guys at McLaren will see what we did?”
“Uh-huh,” says Colin.
“They’ll see we drove at 50mph to see some monkeys and then came home again?”
“And Bovington Tank Museum,” he says.
We’ll always have Bovington.
I press down hard on the accelerator.
“Let’s see if this baby can do 60,” I say. Colin is delighted.
“There’s a great Little Chef not far from here.”
Double rooms at the Bournemouth Hilton start from £116; hilton.com
(Images: Dan Rushall)