In the new world order, supercars have become a hugely profitable commodity, more valuable in fact than ever before. After the previous choices of the Porsche 911 GT3 RS, the McLaren 675 LT and the mind-blowingly expensive Ferrari 458 Speciale Aperta, we now get to the daddy or all supercars, the car that in 1992 set the benchmark so high that it would see off all rivals until the arrival of a certain Germanic hypercar came along and blew the bloody doors off, The McLaren F1 is the final car and the only car here that does actually contain some real gold within its components.
The McLaren F1 was conceived by McLaren’s chief engineer Gordon Murray, the unique three-seat design had been an idea of Murray’s since youth, in 1988 while awaiting a flight home from the Italian Grand Prix, Murray drew a sketch of a three-seater sports car and pitched to McLaren F1 supremo Ron Dennis, the pitch was the idea of creating the ultimate road car, the conception would be heavily influenced by the company’s Formula One experience and technology.
As an inspiration Murray drove a Honda NSX which was the McLaren F1 teams engine supplier at the time, during this test drive Murray confessed that all of the benchmark cars he had been using such as Ferrari, Porsche and Lamborghini, simply vanished, instead Murray theorized that the McLaren F1 had to be faster than the NSX, but the NSX’s ride quality and handling would be a design target for the F1.
Murray later visited the Honda’s Tochigi Research Centre on two occasions and made the request that they consider building the engine for the McLaren F1 which was requested to be either a 4.5 litre V10 or V12. Honda, however, remained unconvinced and the McLaren F1 ended up with BMW V12 engine, whatever history says about this eventual choice of engine, let’s be honest it ended up being the right choice.
Murray also insisted that the F1 be naturally aspirated, the reason for this was to increase reliability and driver control as Murray felt that turbocharging and supercharging would increase power but would result in a decrease in reliability while introducing an amount of latency and a loss of feedback from the engine, after failing to get Honda onboard with his request for a 550hp V12 engine measuring at 600mm block length (in order to fit in the F1’s svelte chassis), all of this power needed to weigh in at 250kg in order to meet the F1’s weight specs.
After failing to get Honda onboard, Murray approached BMW who took a keen interest in the project, the BMW M division designed and built Murray a 6.1 litre , V12 engine called the BMW S70/2, the engine produced 618hp and weighing in at 266kg, these specs yielded 14% more power whilst only suffering a weight penalty of 16kg. The BMW engine featured quad overhead cams and variable valve-timing which was a new and unproven technology at the time.
In order to get all that power to the road, the standard McLaren F1 was equipped with a transverse mounted 6-speed manual gearbox mated with an AP carbon triple-plate clutch which is contained in an aluminium housing. The second generation GTR edition features magnesium housing.
Murray’s design concept was a simple one, low weight and high power. This was achieved through the use of high-tech and expensive materials such as fibre, titanium, gold, magnesium and Kevlar which was unheard of at the time outside of a race environment. The F1 was also the first production car to use a carbon-fibre monocoque chassis set-up.
The F1 features a centred driving seat – the driver’s seat is located in the middle, in front of the fuel tank and ahead of the engine, essentially likened to the way a F18 is laid out, the F1 also has a passenger seat slightly behind the central driver sear on each side, a unique set-up that has never been repeated successfully in any other production road-legal car.
The overall drag coefficient on the standard McLaren F1 is 0.32, when you compare this with 0.36 for the Bugatti Veyron that came many years later, and 0.357 for the SSC Ultimate Aero TT, The F1 was way ahead of its time.
During the brief production run from 1992 to 1998, a total of106 cars were built: these consist of a total of 5 prototypes (codenamed XP1, XP2, XP3, XP4, XP5), a total of 64 road versions (F1), 1 tuned prototype (XP1 LM), 5 tuned versions (LM), 1 longtail prototype (XPGT), 2 longtail versions (GT), and a total of 28 racecars (GTR). Each car took around three and a half months to build at McLaren’s Woking base.
An interesting fact about the standard F1 model is that it has a modem installed, which allowed the McLaren customer care to remotely fetch information from the ECU of the car in order to assist the customer in the event of a mechanical failure, this was so way ahead of its time it’s unreal.
The standard F1 roadcar was capable of 0-60mph in 3.2 seconds, 100mph was achieved in a staggeringly quick 6.3 seconds, all of this led to an ‘estimated’ top speed of 230 mph. You have to remember this was the 1990’s, a car that could easily break the 200mph barrier and then some while wearing a tax disc and number plates was simply unheard of.
In order to prove this top speed in April 1998, McLaren unleashed Andy Wallace in the prototype XP5, he attacked the 5.6 mile straight at Volkswagen’s test track in Ehra-Lessien, Germany. The XP5 with a rev-limiter raised from 7,500rpm to 8,300rpm set a new world record for a production car with a speed of 240.1mph, this records stood until 2005 when the Bugatti Veyron beat it with a top speed of 253.81mph.
The price of one of the 64 road going F1’s when new, give or take £540,000, in today’s 2016 money this would be around £1.047,000. Oddly enough there are no McLaren F1’s on Autotrader at this time, at auction recently a concours condition car, chassis no 69 was for sale for an estimated £9.5 Million with only 2,800 miles on the clock. Actor Rowan Atkinson sold his 1997 F1 for close to £8 million in 2015, this for a car that had covered 41,000 miles and been crashed rather dramatically no less than twice.
Clearly here, the actual sale amounts are tough to confirm, there have been rare instances where F1’s have remained unsold at auction. However, based on chassis 069, if you had invested the £540k asking price in the early 1990’s the percentage increase in value would be……..wait for it…….. a truly whopping 1,659% increase in price, if you’re name is Rowan, again based on the £540k base cost, the percentage increase in value is a whopping 1,381%, not bad for a car with some miles and some crashes within its history.