Mustangs, Camaros, Chargers, and Challengers lined up outside the barracks, each with a young service member standing idly by. The same type of person who would willingly sign up to fight for their country often tends to have an affinity for horsepower, speed, and the occasional bad decision.
In the modern era, Hellcats are the top of this automotive barracks heap, with their 700+ horsepower supercharged engines and low, rumbling exhausts advertising their hidden power to anyone within earshot.
A brand new Charger Hellcat starts at $70,000. That’s a ludicrous sum of money for any enlisted service member to pay for a car… but if you can swing that, you and a buddy could pool your money and buy one of these instead.
Of all the stereotypes that plague the military community, few are more established than the bright-eyed lance corporal strolling onto the sprawling car dealership right outside the gate and signing himself up for a brand new (used) Mustang GT convertible. “Sure, it came with a 38% APR,” he tells himself, “but they threw in a full tank of gas!“
It’s such a common element of military life that platoon sergeants from the Air Force to the Marine Corps train in new and creative ways to discourage their junior enlisted warfighters from falling into the dealership trap and emerging with a Bumblebee-looking Camaro and half their income spoken for. The problem is, those platoon sergeants are usually giving that speech a cool 20 yards away from the Dodge Charger SRT-8 they purchased themselves as lance corporals themselves.
“Sure, I’ll be paying for it until I’m a 1st sergeant,” he says to himself, “but it’ll blow the doors off this boot’s Camaro.”
I’m not just idly speaking ill of my brothers in uniform (and yes, it does tend to be the male service members who fall into the sportscar trap). I’m speaking from experience. When I was a corporal tooling around outside the gate of Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, I was doing it from the driver’s seat of a heavily modified, nitrous-injected Mustang GT convertible.
In fact, my affinity for all things automotive runs a lot deeper than just trying to look cool at the base’s gym. The truth is, I worked in racing before I enlisted in the Marine Corps and again after, though in very different capacities. During that time, and thanks to my brother’s successful career in the racing industry, I’ve had the good fortune to drive all kinds of cool cars. From taking a million-dollar (at the time) Porsche Carrera GT for a spin around Las Vegas to delivering Christmas presents through the snow in a burnout-happy Dodge Viper, it’s safe to say that I know an impressive car when I see one. In fact, to be totally honest, I sort of assumed I was done being impressed with cars as a result.
That is, until I hopped into my brother’s Mclaren 650S Spider the other day. Now I don’t know what to think.
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It’s the beginning of a new era
After a lifetime logging miles in high-performance tuners and overstrung exotic cars, I never imagined that the laws of physics would allow for a car to press the limit further in a straight line than a Dodge Hellcat, or harder in the turns than a Porsche 997. I figured you wouldn’t find a more confident feeling than that found when sitting at the helm of a C8 Corvette. That you wouldn’t ever feel more conspicuous than you do cruising around town in a Fast and Furious import coupe complete with a body kit, neon lights, and a 4-cylinder engine carrying a turbocharger big enough to create its own gravity. I assumed a lot of stuff about cars. And the Mclaren 650s proved me wrong.
The tale of the tape will offer a bit of context here. The Mclaren 650S, which is the predecessor to the current top-of-the-line 720S, is considered by many to be the most potent supercar in its price range, but its price range alone is an important distinction. A brand new Mclaren 720S will run you around $300,000… but the just slightly slower 650S will only cost about $150,000.
Sure, that’s the sort of loan you usually reserve for mortgages, but hey, no one says you can’t team up with your whole squad to throw in on one car (but you’ll want to make a duty roster to break down who gets to drive it on which days).
The 650S Spider comes powered by a twin-turbocharged 3.8 liter V8 that I can personally attest doesn’t hit redline until an absolutely bonkers 8,500 RPMs. On its way there, this engine will produce 650 horsepower and 500 lb-ft of torque—which, I can already hear you saying, is less than the Hellcat your platoon sergeant drives. That’s true, but the Charger Hellcat weighs in at 4,586 pounds (without your gear in the trunk). That’s more than 1,300 pounds heavier than the McLaren. The resulting combination of power and lightweight sends the 650S to 60 miles per hour in just three seconds and makes it wrap up a quarter mile in just over 10. Not too shabby for a car that can do 207 miles per hour and carry a full-sized suitcase (or maybe your full kit) in its trunk.
Should you really buy a Mclaren 650S if you live in the barracks? Absolutely not.
But it would feel pretty cool to ride through the gate in one of these on Friday afternoon, that’s for sure.
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