1997 McLaren F1

The buyer wouldn’t be beaten. He replied “Yo” to each raise of $150,000, all the way to $4 million, winning a lot of affection from the crowd

No ABS. No traction control. No power steering. No airbags. No add-on spoilers. The McLaren F1 didn’t need them. The thinking man’s supercar was conceived in 1988, when McLaren bosses Ron Dennis, Mansour Ojjeh, Creighton Brown, and designer Gordon Murray were discussing production cars in an Italian airport lounge. When their plane finally took off, it had been decided that McLaren, already a dominant force in Grand Prix racing, would build the finest performance car in the world.

Built around a carbon fiber chassis tub-the first roadgoing car to be built this way-with a central driving position, it was on the road by 1992, powered by a 6.1-liter BMW V12 engine producing 627 hp, and it incorporated active ground-effect aerodynamics by fans. Exotic materials were chosen for their suitability for the job, regardless of cost: for example, gold foil is used as engine cover heat shielding.

The attention to detail was exquisite. Simple things like the pedal linkages are works of art. Though it could seat three, the F1 was small by supercar terms. Designer Gordon Murray is a big fan of minimalist cars, owning a Lotus Elan and designing the tandem-seat Rocket, so the McLaren F1 did not feature much that didn’t need to be there.

Steve Randle engineered the chassis, cleverly minimizing weight transfer so that anti-roll bars were not needed. This was to be the ultimate road car, not a track special, and the result was a forgiving car that was very easy to drive. But 627 hp and a curb weight of only 2,500 lb also meant it was seriously quick. The F1 was for a decade the fastest production car ever built, eclipsing the Jaguar XJ 220.

Not merely super

A standard version achieved a top speed of 231 mph in 1994, and in 1998 ran 240.14 mph, holding this record until it was finally eclipsed in 2005 by the Koenigsegg CCR at 245 mph. Its power-to-weight ratio is still head and shoulders above “regular” supercars: 550 hp per ton, against a Ferrari Enzo at 434 hp per ton, or the Bugatti Veyron’s 530 hp per ton. The McLaren F1 reaches 180 mph from standstill in 20.3 seconds, while the 4,000-lb, 1,001-hp Bugatti does 0-187.5 mph (300 kph) in 16.7 seconds. By comparison, the Enzo does 0-187.5 mph in 26.8 seconds.

For all its performance, there were creature comforts. Standard equipment includes air conditioning, SeKurit electric defrost/demist windscreen and side glass, electric window lifts, remote central locking, Kenwood CD stereo system, plus tailored luggage, including a golf bag.
All F1s carried a modem so that the factory could “talk” to the cars remotely in case of any problems, and McLaren still maintains an extensive support and service network. Primary support is provided by one of many local authorized service centers throughout the world (two are in the U.S.). If necessary, McLaren will fly a more specialized technician to your car or service center.
McLaren ceased production of the F1 in May 1998. Of the 107 cars constructed, seven were pre-production prototypes, 65 were road cars, five were F1 LM road versions built to commemorate victory at Le Mans in 1995 (where five GTRs finished), and three were F1 GT roadgoing versions of the longtail 1997 F1 GTR race car. The remaining 28 were F1 GTR race cars built for private customers competing in the FIA GT series and 24 Hours of Le Mans. The McLaren F1 offered here is a road car, and the last customer car built.

Paul Hardiman

Paul Hardiman - SCM Senior Auction Analyst

Paul is descended from engineers and horse thieves, so he naturally gravitated toward the old-car marketplace and still finds fascination in the simpler things in life: looking for spot-weld dimples under an E-type tail, or counting the head-studs on a supposed Mini-Cooper engine. His motoring heroes are Roger Clark, Burt Levy, Henry Royce and Smokey Yunick — and all he wants for next Christmas is an Alvis Stalwart complete with picnic table in the back and a lake big enough to play in.

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