Pawel Litwinski, courtesy of Bonhams
  • Single-owner McLaren F1 Chassis 044, 37th off the assembly line
  • The first fully federalized McLaren F1 to be imported to the U.S.
  • One of seven U.S. F1s.
  • Original Base Silver paint and black/gray Connolly leather
The car was purchased new by the consignor in July 1996. He then embarked on a European road trip covering about half of the 9,600 miles on the car’s odometer. From the factory, 044 was shipped to New York, where it was converted to meet federal specs by Ameritech and delivered to the consignor. During the conversion, no part of the car was physically altered in any way that could not be put back to its 100% original form. All of the Ameritech conversion items have been carefully removed from the vehicle, leaving it in its original, as-delivered specification. The car was serviced in May 2002 (7,071 miles) and in October 2009 (8,731 miles) and prior to sale at McLaren of Philadelphia. It comes with a complete toolkit and many other original extras including full luggage set, F1 Autoglym detailing kit, complete tool roll, car cover, Heuer watch, owner’s books and manuals. It also has all the major, original components that were removed from the car during services such as the fuel cell and tires.

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1995 McLaren F1
Years Produced:1994–98
Number Produced:64 road cars, seven prototypes, 28 GTR racing cars, five LM road cars, two GT road cars. Total 106
Original List Price:£540,000 ($800,000 equivalent) in 1994
SCM Valuation:$12,250,000
Tune Up Cost:$10,000
Chassis Number Location:Below carpet on right-side cabin floor
Engine Number Location:On right hand bank (cylinder 1 to 6) towards the rear section of the block
Alternatives:1995–97 Ferrari F50, 1992–95 Bugatti EB110, 1991–93 Jaguar XJ220
Investment Grade:A

This car, Lot 73, sold for $15,620,000, including buyer’s premium, at Bonhams’ Quail Lodge sale in Carmel, CA, on August 18, 2017.

Right, full disclosure first: I’ve personally owned an F1 for many years and was the underbidder in the auction, on behalf of a client for whom we’re building a unique collection.

How times change. I remember showing one of the world’s most celebrated Ferrari collectors around a delivery-mileage F1 I was auctioning in 1998. “I don’t see how you can ask this much,” he frowned, adding, “After all, it’s just a road car…” The price? $500,000.

Parallels are often drawn between the F1 and 250 GTO, and we’ve all heard the stories of GTOs being traded for peanuts when just a few years old and of no practical use. Both wiped the floor with the opposition in GT racing, the F1 even winning the Le Mans 24 Hours outright on its first attempt, and both had impeccable pedigree from Day One: marque, designer, specification, sex appeal and rarity.

The F1 was the fastest, most expensive production car ever offered for sale when it appeared to worldwide amazement back in May 1992. A top speed of 241 mph, barely 3.0 seconds from standstill to 60 mph and a price tag of almost $1 million captured the headlines, but the global economy was on its knees, the collector car market had collapsed, and F1 sales never fulfilled its makers’ hopes.

Demand for a racing GTR version added a few sales, but total production amounted to just 106 cars (100 survive). Bad for McLaren, good for collectors.

Still unique, still dominant

What’s happened since? Perspective. Rivals have built faster, arguably better cars for both road and track, just as any great design is superseded, but nobody has yet convinced the collecting elite that they’ve come up with a more single-minded, well-executed and utterly dominant package than the F1.

All the combined might of Ferrari and Porsche, not to mention latter-day McLaren, hasn’t yet delivered a car capable of the same spine-tingling driver involvement, unique layout (the three-seater, owner-on-his-central-throne configuration) and, most unrepeatable and credibility-enhancing of all, “beat that” racing supremacy.

Taking a further step back, you could argue that nothing else built since the GTO of 1962 boasts that combination, hence why collectors woke up to the F1 a decade ago and prices have “steadily rocketed.”

It’s often a self-fulfilling prophecy: Aspiring collectors covet what opinion leaders own, and when the Laurens, Masons, Sachs and Strolls of this world set an example, others take notice.

Surging values since 2015

Auction sales haven’t always been the best barometer for F1s, but in 2008, RM sold the ex-Park Lane showroom car for an unheard-of $4.2 million.

Prices quickly climbed to $6 million, then $7 million, crossing into eight figures around 2013. In 2014, Gooding offered a white F1 that wasn’t entirely fresh, and its non-sale halted the market in its tracks.

Not until RM Sotheby’s 2015 sale of the modified orange “Pinnacle Collection” F1 did it take off again.

We’ve handled five in the past 12 months at prices ranging from around $10 million for a long-tail GTR (the “value” F1 due to limited usability) to well over $20 million for unique examples. After lagging for years, short-tail GTRs now command the same as road cars. One of the best GTRs changed hands two years ago for just over $20 million, and another iconic GTR has recently done the same.

A very low-mileage road car in a livery that might not suit everyone is available currently for $25 million.

History, care and completeness count

Factors determining value are history (accidents are very harmful — ask Mr. Bean), mileage, color, maintenance record and completeness (good old books, tools, plus tool chest, luggage and the cheap Heuer watch owners received).

For GTRs, it’s all about a car’s racing record. Uniquely important for F1s, given their high value and relative youth (they don’t qualify for historic-car import tax reductions in most countries) is whether they have EU taxes paid. If they don’t, that’s another 20% to 30%…

The auction car was a one-owner F1 in a safe color scheme, with normal mileage (9,600), all its accessories and no prangs. On the minus side, it hadn’t been serviced frequently, will need a new clutch, fuel tank and tires soon (the vendor is paying some costs but not installation) and it had received a second, non-factory serial number when imported to the U.S. in ’98, which is no longer required.

Our instructions were to bid if it were keenly priced. The client wasn’t crazy about silver or paying import taxes for the EU, its final destination.

Bidding started below $10 million, with a Hong Kong-based collector, a German on the telephone, a Brit dealer and I fighting it out. I stopped at $14.1m, the reserve was lifted and the dealer got it, presumably for a client, at $14.2m, or $15.62m with premium.

The seller was rumored to want $17m before the auction. I doubt he’s too unhappy about the return on his 1996 investment: fairly bought, fairly sold. ♦

(Introductory description courtesy of Bonhams.)

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