1998 McLaren F1

The idea of creating the ultimate and most exciting road car was conceived as early as 1988. Following a meeting of minds led by designer Gordon Murray, McLaren declared its intention to build the F1 using technology generated in its Formula One racing program, “regardless of cost.”

The result was a most sensational combination of styling and performance. The car featured a 60-degree, 6.1-liter V12 engine with four valves per cylinder and continuous variable inlet valve timing. The dry sump magnesium-cast engine fed power through a transversely mounted six-speed gearbox mated to a triple-plate carbon clutch with aluminum fly wheel. Aside from the mechanical specifications, the body was unique, fabricated entirely in carbon fiber, a three-seater that placed the two passengers to the sides and slightly aft of the center-positioned driver, with luggage space in side compartments on both sides of the car.

With a power-to-weight ratio of 560 hp per ton, or 3.6 pounds per horsepower, the F1’s performance was electrifying: 0–60 mph in 3.2 seconds and a top speed of 231 mph, as reported by Autocar.

The prototype was launched in Monaco in 1992, where potential customers were able to choose their personal options and even specify their preferred steering wheel and pedal locations. From this debut it then took nearly two years for the first customer-ordered cars to be delivered. Praise was unanimous.

The car on offer here has been stored in the custody of McLaren Cars since new, and all service and upgrade options have been carried out in its Customer Care Workshops. Its LM-spec engine has covered just over 5,000 km (3,000 miles) since installation and less than 500 km (300 miles) since the last thorough service. The odometer reads just 18,540 km (11,500 miles), but if one takes into account that the chassis is unperishable and the engine is so fresh, it can be regarded as virtually new.

Presented in immaculate condition throughout, this particular McLaren F1 is the “ultimate” example of the model, and with its comprehensive specification and knockout looks should not be missed.

The SCM analysis: This car was sold at the Christie’s auction in London on December 2, 2003, for $1,257,750, including buyer’s premium, against a top estimate of $1,000,000.

The McLaren F1 has continued to hold its title as the ultimate supercar since the first ones rolled out of Woking in 1994. McLaren built a grand total of 106 F1s, of which only 64 were road cars, guaranteeing the F1’s status as not only the best, but also the most exclusive modern sports car.

Power is provided by a 6.1-liter V12, designed and built by BMW’s M Power division exclusively for the F1. Putting out 627 hp at 7,500 rpm and fitted to a 2,500-pound carbon fiber chassis, the combination was good for a top speed of 240 mph at Volkswagen’s proving grounds at Ehra-Lessien, Germany, in 1998. In the capable hands of Le Mans and Daytona winner Andy Wallace (and with the rev-limiter disconnected, allowing the engine to spin to 7,800 rpm), this was a top-speed record for a road car—and it remains unbeaten today.

Each McLaren F1 was delivered to its new owner with a TAG-Heuer watch with the serial number of the car engraved on the face, a goldplated Facom all-titanium tool-kit, a full-size Facom mechanic’s roll-around tool chest, matching hand-crafted luggage trimmed to match the chosen color of the driver’s seat, the usual service and owner’s handbooks, and a track day at Bruntingthorpe proving grounds in Leicestershire, England, with none other than Wallace himself as the instructor.

Envision poor Andy having to ride next to a super-rich car freak with far more money than driving skill, as the excited new owner got behind the wheel of the fastest car ever built for the street for the first time. As you might imagine, the McLaren F1 is a wreck just waiting to happen. While names can’t be named, over a dozen F1s were crashed by their over-exuberant owners soon after delivery. This is unsurprising, as the car is such a well-balanced package that it invites an unsuspecting pilot to go faster and faster until the limits are reached—and inevitably exceeded. Just how do you prepare yourself to drive a street car that’s faster than most race cars, anyway?

McLaren claimed that the F1 was never designed for racing, though it must have had the most racing success of any non-race car ever built. The long-tail McLaren F1 GTR scored a debut win at the 24 hours of Le Mans in 1995, and the F1 went on to numerous victories in GT events, including two much-coveted BPR championships.

To commemorate the 1995 Le Mans victory, McLaren made five special “LM” models, each with horsepower increased to 691, a “high downforce” package, improved handling package, larger radiators, and a less restrictive exhaust system.

The F1 pictured here was first delivered in 1998 to one of two brothers from Venezuela who both owned McLaren F1s (the other was S/N 011) and kept their cars at the factory in England. S/N 073 features the 691“hp LM-spec engine and performance package. Painted in a dark tangerine metallic, its nose is protected from stone chips by Armourfend (a thin, transparent film).

The interior is finished in a combination of leather and Alcantara in beige, magnolia and black. The car has the usual ultra-high-end stereo, an improved air-conditioning system, a satellite navigation system contained within a custom-made carbon fiber casing in the left footwell, and a helicopter-rated intercom system with Peltor headsets. Gordon Murray himself hand-signed the carbon fiber area in between the chassis plate and the shifter in silver permanent marker. All combined, the interior treatment redefines decadent excess and guarantees ultra-high maintenance costs on the interior and accessories alone.

Priced at £600,000 (about $1,000,000) when new in 1994, the F1 is one of the few supercars that have gone up in value while still nearly new, and it is extremely unlikely that we’ll ever see these cars depreciate. Very few have traded hands publicly, and acquiring one is far more difficult than scoring any of the new supercars, the Ferrari Enzo, Porsche Carerra GT, or Mercedes SLR McLaren.

Of the 64 McLaren F1s built, about 20 are currently American-owned—this one now joins those ranks. The new owner is a motor home dealer in Florida who is also on his second Enzo (the first was written off). Hopefully he has Mr. Wallace’s cell phone number handy to schedule a bit of practice before taking delivery of his new toy.

He will assuredly have his checkbook at the ready. Because S/N 073 is a 1998 model year car, it must conform to the very tough OBDII on-board diagnostic tests required of all cars sold in the U.S. after Jan. 1, 1996. Assuming that this EPA compliance can be met, the new owner can expect certification costs to exceed $100,000, if it can be done at all—there is no proof that a 1996 or later F1 has ever passed the OBDII standard.

Add in air-freight shipping, U.S. Customs bonding fees, insurance, and all the other potential costs and you are talking well over $1.4m before this car arrives in the new owner’s garage in Florida. Consider this enormous sum a tribute to the lasting desirability of the McLaren F1.—Michael Sheehan