But now his 21-year-old son is moving into F1 with the British grandee McLaren, who gave the then chaotic Jan Magnussen a one-off F1 drive back in 1995.
He is keen for Kevin to avoid his mistakes.
"I wish I'd had another chance," Jan told the Guardian, "but Kevin is where he is today because of what happened to me.
"In fact there are no similarities," Magnussen explained. "He's super hardworking and much more organised than I ever was.
"I was a smoker, I didn't train properly and was not at all organised."
Magnussen Snr will not be in Melbourne for his son's grand prix debut in March, because it clashes with his own driving duties.
"But I will get to eight or nine races, about half," he said.
"Now Kevin is in formula one I've thought a lot about how long my career will go on. I've got to decide whether I can focus on what I'm doing or whether I'd rather be with Kevin.
"But I don't want to be his manager. I want to be his dad, and that's it.
"Kevin used to be the son of Jan Magnussen," he smiled. "Now, suddenly, I am the father of Kevin Magnussen."