The wonderful world of 3D max. I didn't know a thing about it when I started. I now about about the same as then. Its was a clunky old thing. It might have got better but there are so many better apps out there IMHO. I seem to recall that for PS2 the cars that weren't central attractions to the scene where 1500 polys max. The final item consisted of half a model - the programmers generated the other half (saved on polys) and just one wheel. Most of the models ended up with 3 variants or levels of crash damage.
There are some very high resolution NASA images freely available for download and a few years ago I tried to crush cinema4D and my computer by applying 11000 pixel images to a sphere and trying to replicate a typical orbiter view...done in 2011.
2001 is worth a re-visit I think. I saw a photo of the model model languishing in a field near the studio. I believe it was 11 foot across. Only when you try to re-create this with polygons and textures do you appreciate the skill that went into making that model back then. Awesome.
This little horrible animation below, most probably shouldn't be here apart from the fact that its so old and was developed on a crazily slow mac with 96Mb of ram and 1Gb disk drive. Enjoy or have a laugh :)