It was what the Bugatti Chiron is to cars today. Something that pushed boundaries, achieved things no other car had before, a real game changer in the world of supercars. The McLaren F1 made its mark in automotive history.
Here is everything you need to know about the McLaren F1.
From racing to the road
Gordon Murray is a very talented designer and has penned everything from championship winning F1 cars to compact city machines. Back in the early 1990s, he was McLaren’s main man. His talent had delivered the team a lot of racing success, but Murray wanted to push himself further. After a bit of persuading McLaren boss, Ron Dennis, signed off on the idea of build a road car.
McLaren is one of the most successful Formula One teams in motorsport history, but they had never built a road car. They clearly had the engineering talent, however, a road car has very different demands to a racing car. Components need to last years, not hours.
On top of the challenge of building a car from scratch, Murray wanted it to be the finest performance machine the world had ever seen. This meant using exotic materials, Formula One science, and unconventional design.
In 1992, the McLaren F1 was revealed to the world as the first totally carbon fiber car. Murray frequently said that its direct ancestor is a Formula One car.
The Midas touch
The F1 is a tightly packaged car to keep the weight low. However, putting a great big V12 engine in the middle means there is a lot of heat — and heat likes to melt things.
Murray’s solution was gold. No, it actually was gold! The precious metal is a very good heat reflector and so every McLaren F1 contains 0.56 ounces (16 grams) of gold in its engine bay.
A BMW heart
The F1’s heart was something debated at great length. How big should the engine be? Turbocharged or not? Who would build it?
Murray approached McLaren’s Formula One engine supplier, Honda, for something that was closely related to what they use in racing. Honda said no. Isuzu offered up a 3.5-liter V12 that they intended to take racing, but this time it was Murray that said no. McLaren wanted something with proven racing pedigree.
So what now? A car is no good without an engine. Enter BMW M division boss Paul Rosche with a 6.1-liter V12. This gave the McLaren F1 627 horsepower (468 kilowatts) and a 0-60 miles per hour time (97 kilometers per hour) of just 3.2 seconds. These are performance figures that still make modern-day cars blush.
The McLaren F1 was a technological marvel but it wasn’t until 1998 that it realized its full potential. Relieved of its rev limiter, the only thing that capped the top speed, it clocked 240.1 mph (386 kph). This was substantially faster than the 213 mph (343 kph) Jaguar XJ220.
It was a record the F1 would hold for many years. In fact, it took until 2005 for the Bugatti Veyron to take the crown.
Three isn’t a crowd
There were many unique elements about the McLaren F1, yet the thing that still stands out today is how the driver sits. Instead of being right- or left-hind-drive the F1’s driver sits in the middle and is flanked by two passengers. This not only gives it unusual practicality for a supercar, but also increased visibility for the driver.
British law wasn’t prepared for such a radical car and so McLaren actually had to request that the rules be changed for the F1.
It won Le Mans
The legendary Le Mans 24 hour race is the ultimate punishment for any car. Twenty-four hours of race pace driving is enough to break just about anything. In 1995, McLaren supplied a few teams with a racing variant of the F1.
Just like today, the endurance race was broken up into several categories. The fastest are always the prototype cars – machines built purely for racing. The F1 might be of road car fame, but it was adapted to be a racing car and so the only expectation was to win its class.
The race was one of stormy skies and tricky conditions. Against all odds and cars perceived to be much faster, the F1 took outright victory. This historic win was far from a given, though. The F1 that actually won was a modified test car entered into the race at last minute by a chap named Paul Lanzante.
McLaren F1’s continued to race and spawned the iconic Longtail GTR variants.
Just 106 McLaren F1s were built between 1992 and 1998 including prototype and racing cars. Only 64 road cars were made, making the McLaren F1 one of the rarest modern classics out there.
The first F1 imported into America is soon to go up for auction. Experts speculate that it could sell for around $10 million.