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.

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1997 McLaren F1
Number Produced:65
Tune Up Cost:$7,500 at one of two U.S. McLaren service centers
Distributor Caps:Not used
Chassis Number Location:In right door jamb
Club Info:McLaren Technology Center Woking, Surrey GU21 5JY, United Kingdom
Investment Grade:A

This 1997 McLaren F1 sold for $4,048,000 at RM’s Automobiles of London sale at Battersea Evolution, London, on October 29, 2008.

After much to-ing and fro-ing between auctioneer Peter Bainbridge, RM boss Rob Myers, two telephones, and a party bidding remotely via a cell phone in the back row, this icon went to a buyer sitting center stage in the room who was simply not going to be beaten. He simply confirmed “Yo” to every suggested raise of $150,000, past the expected $2 million for yet another $2 million, until the car was his, winning a lot of affection from the crowd along the way.

The last customer car built and delivered

This car, chassis 065, is, as noted above, the final customer car built and delivered. Although it’s been half-way round the world and back, it has covered less than 300 miles under its own steam.
Sold only when McLaren closed its Park Lane showroom in 2004 and offered for sale for the first time since, it was practically as-new, with no discernible wear to any components, no scuffs to the body or wheels, and a very comprehensive service history over its short driving life. The floorpan is glossy and undamaged, and the rubberized stone chip coating on the bottoms of the sills feels pliant and fresh. Even the pedal pads are unworn. After its time at Park Lane, it was returned to the McLaren factory for a full service to ready it for its new Asian ownership.

A McLaren mechanic flew out to service the car twelve months ago, and it has just had another factory service on returning to the U.K. There are simply no issues, and it was offered with a clean bill of health.

One of the joys of the F1, apart from its beautiful looks and exquisite construction, is its compact build and user-friendliness. It needs no modern electronic inconveniences, because the inspired design concept translated with such purity. Your grandmother really could tool down to the shops in an 1997 McLaren F1.

My drive time in one came a few minutes after the same car’s throttle stuck open (pedal under the carpet) during some hot laps on a test track in England with John Surtees at the wheel. When he calmly declutched and let the V12 bang off the rev-limiter while he searched for the key and switched off before guiding us safely back to the pits, I realized I was in the presence of greatness. Not just the former world champ, but the car too, which never lost its composure.

The F1 remains the best supercar in the world, and, though prices are generally supposed to be somewhat north of the $2 million mark, this car shows just what an unrepeatable device the McLaren is, as well as the cost-no-object fever it induces when one hits the market. For a buyer determined to have the best, this price doesn’t look too far out of kilter. The market will stay relatively stable, as these 65 automotive icons will never wear out or rust away, remaining with us forever. Our buyer certainly seemed jubilant with the deal. Check again in ten years’ time to see whether he did the right thing. I think so.

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