And how a simple phone call reminded me of why I chose this career.
Just this past week, a Facebook memory reminded me that a little more than a year ago, I spent just under half an hour on the phone with Christian von Koenigsegg, talking everything from the Gemera 4-seater hypercar to the Koenigsegg Jesko Absolut, and, because I couldn’t help myself, talking about Christian’s own Mazda MX-5. Perhaps fittingly, it’s just been announced the Koenigsegg is coming to South Africa, as Daytona Group – the same group officially responsible for local distribution of McLaren, Rolls-Royce, Aston Martin, Pagani, and Lotus – has been appointed the official South African distributor. Just one model will be brought into the country for the time being – the Koenigsegg Gemera.
To this day, that phone call has been the single greatest experience of my career in motor journalism, usurping a decade of driving phenomenal machines and experiencing hundreds of moments for which I will be forever grateful. The joy of such a memory might have been somewhat blunted by a somewhat unforgettable blunder on my part – a story for another day – but nothing will ever erase the bliss I felt on that day in 2020 when CvK and I had a chat, petrolhead to petrolhead. So what was it like?
Anyone who knows cars will know the story of Koenigsegg Automotive, the journey that started in the early 90s for one man to create and build a supercar company. That’s a dream that many men have had, but few have ever made a reality, and fewer still have been able to make it a reality that has established itself well enough to survive the test of time. By virtue of his achievements alone, Christian should’ve had every right to be pompous, arrogant, and self-entitled. And yet, he wasn’t. He was the furthest thing from it. Instead, when I answered the phone, a very polite Swedish accent awaited, “Hello Roger, this is Christian from Koenigsegg Automotive, how are you?”
As someone who has always had immense respect for the technical aspects of building a performance car, I have to admit that I’m a bit of a Koenigsegg fan boy. Here you have a slew of supercars from a boutique manufacturer, and the man on the other end of the phone with me was not only the creator of the brand, but is someone who is deeply involved in the creation of each and every new car that leaves the Koenigsegg factory. Despite this, he was remarkably humble, chatting to me as if we were two enthusiasts at a pub having a discussion about cars from adjacent tables. The moment I asked my first questions about his latest unveilings – the Gemera and Jesko Absolut – any pretense there may have been went out the window. I was not speaking to Christian von Koenigsegg – CEO of a global hypercar company who is au fait with dealing with the press – I was talking to Christian the car enthusiast.
Every word, every sentence, every description was dripping with passion and enthusiasm. I could hear his joy at being able to explain his creation to a fellow enthusiast, hear his smile as he spoke, and hear how much he reveled in his involvement in creating something as spectacular as the Jesko Absolut or Gemera. His passion fuelled mine, fed into my own giddy joy, and for those 25 odd minutes, I wasn’t working late on a Thursday afternoon, I was blissfully embroiled in a passionate discussion with a fellow petrolhead – just as I had been back in 2010 when my passion for all things automotive first began to flourish.
Here was the man who had built the world’s fastest production car, who had been responsible for the sheer madness that is the Koenigsegg One:1, a man who has pioneered engine development, carbon fibre integration in hypercars, and a man who developed a camless engine solution as well as a hypercar with no gearbox, and he had no air of supremacy, no over-inflated sense of self-worth.
Proof of this came when I brazenly went completely off-topic. Instead of talking about Koenigsegg’s newest duo of hypercars, I selfishly asked about Christian’s MX-5. For those who don’t know, CvK owned a first-generation Mazda MX-5 for some time, and his test drivers are notorious for owning them as well. As the owner of a 2nd-gen NB model I couldn’t help but ask, “did your ownership of an MX-5 influence the way Koenigseggs drive?” Christian was all too happy to answer, but more than this, he was happy to go off-topic and chat about a brand other than his own. He spoke to me about how he’d tracked down his old MX-5 and bought it back, how he still drives it on a regular basis.
I think that best summarises what it’s like to talk to Christian von Koenigsegg. Here is a man who can drive anything, create anything, and yet he still has time for a humble Mazda MX-5. More than this, here is a man who will take time out his day to talk about such a car with a fellow enthusiast. I got into writing about cars, not for the money or fame, but for the love of cars. I simply loved looking at cars, reading about cars, and talking about cars endlessly. Over the years, there have been moments when I forgot why I was doing this, when the financial gain or the privilege of driving nice cars overshadowed my reason for getting into this field, but chatting to Christian reminded me that it doesn’t matter what you achieve in this game, there is no purer joy than sharing your passion openly with someone who loves it as deeply as you do.
That’s why I’ll never forget that experience, and it’s why no matter how many fast cars I drive, a phone call from Christian von Koenigsegg will always be one of the best moments of my motoring life and my career as a motor journalist.