Entrepreneur and the owner of one of the most enviable garages in the world; famous car collector Richard Griot talks to us about his love of cars, and McLaren.
Car-collectors and speculators have an uneasy relationship with enthusiasts. One sees an asset or museum piece, while the other sees a captivating tool, something to be driven and enjoyed. People with a foot in both camps are truly a rare breed.
Richard Griot is one of those few. Based out of an incredible 15,000sq foot garage built inside an old Coca-Cola bottling factory, he owns some of the rarest and historically significant cars McLaren has ever made, and isn’t afraid to use them.
His passion for cars started young: “I was probably 14 years old when I bought my first Jeep for $500 with my sister. It was a 1953 and looked like it had been thrown out the back of a transporter and landed in Korea somewhere.”
But the days of $500 Jeeps are a long way behind him now. His collection of vintage racing cars includes the MP4 1B and M23 Formula One cars, Bruce McLaren’s own Cam Am car, a customer Can Am car and a Formula Two M4A.
He’s not afraid to drive, and indeed race them, either: “The experience of driving the M23 McLaren at the historic race in Monaco was just unlike anything I’ve ever done. I was in love with the whole feeling. Even though I finished last, I think I moved up 13 places. As Bruce used to say, “to finish first, first you have to finish”.
Griot recalls hanging on to the fence at the Long Beach Grand Prix in the 70s and seeing the McLaren M23 come flying by. “It was this bright day glow red and I just opened my mouth and pointed at the car and I think I said ‘that’s cool’”.
It was these memories that led him to paint his 675LT the classic red and white livery. “You look at how it was painted and its flawless. The attention to detail is just phenomenal. Everybody who comes through the collection stops at the LT.”
The jewel in the crown of his collection is undoubtedly Bruce’s M6A Can-Am car. It was this car’s tremendous success that bankrolled the fledging McLaren F1 team, and its worth is almost too great to calculate, it should be sat in a museum.
Except, then no one would ever get to see (or hear) it; as Richard explains: “I drive it every opportunity I can, and you drive it with a lot of respect because I don’t want to be the one that tears the nose off the car when Bruce never did.”
Even 50 years on, the quality of the engineering on this machine shines through: “You could tell why McLaren was successful with the Cam Am car. I’ve driven others and hopping in the M6A, it is night and day. He really knew how to set up a car, and for somebody like myself, to get in these cars and still have the confidence that you can drive them is absolutely mind blowing.”
The modern cars hold just as much appeal as our heroes of motorsport too. With the 12C and 675LT taking pride of place alongside the stars of the track:
“The first time I slipped into the 12C reminded me of the first time I sat in the M4A - somebody had really thought through the driver cabin. It was just such a wonderful driving experience and it’s probably one of my all time favourite cars, especially when you put the top down and drive 100mph…actually I don’t recommend that!”
His lifelong love of cars runs right through his business, too: “We live cars, we breath cars, we provide products for cars, and if I was just sitting in an office and if I hadn’t gone out do a 2000-mile road trip I would be a total fake.”
His M6A will appear on our stand at the Goodwood Festival of Speed, so if you want to take a look, you’ll find it there in late June. So what’s next for Richard?
Another McLaren of course: “I’m always looking for the next McLaren. I know you’re going to make a better McLaren next year and that’s the one I’ll buy.”