The 20 Million Dollar Supercar
The McLaren F1 is that rare supercar that knows no critic. From its aesthetic appeal to its technical merit and competition record, the F1 is nothing short of perfect. So seldom achieved, perfection in design almost always commences with a singular vision, and the F1’s vision belonged to Gordon Murray, the former Brabham Formula 1 designer poached by McLaren in 1987. Murray received a rare dictum from McLaren boss Ron Dennis that would have prompted great envy from any other automotive designer: to build the perfect production sports car, without limitations.
With input from Dennis and TAG principal (and McLaren co-owner) Mansour Ojjeh, Murray created one of automotive history’s most successful designs, a perfect harmony of form and function. In true racing fashion that has since become an industry standard, a carbon-fibre-and-aluminium honeycomb cell was the basis of a lightweight monocoque chassis that was mounted with breathtaking carbon-fibre bodywork, in this case penned by Peter Stevens. The F1 famously featured a three-seat configuration with centre driver’s position, vertical dihedral scissor doors, a roof-placed engine intake, and distinctive diagonal side-vent diffusers.
Considerable discussion with the manufacturer’s F1 racing partner and engine supplier, Honda, eventually fizzled when McLaren remained steadfast in the pursuit of a naturally aspirated engine of larger displacement. BMW was eventually contracted to design and build a bespoke V12, which was tuned to develop 627 hp and 479 foot-pounds of torque. Rather than being a continuation of BMW’s concurrent 8 Series–based 12-cylinder units, this V12 was a purpose-built engine that shared more in common with the inline-six the company had raced so successfully over the years.
McLaren built just 64 production examples of the F1 road car through 1997, and they have enjoyed favoured ownership among the world’s most accomplished and discriminating collectors. Despite the presence of so much advanced technology in the F1, their owners generally agree that the design’s emphasis on pure road connectivity makes it particularly rewarding to drive, as the car lacks anti-lock brakes or modern traction control systems.
While it was designed as a street machine, the F1 was nonetheless built with specifications worthy of racing, prompting several early buyers to approach McLaren about factory support for privateer outings. After initially attempting to dissuade the owners from competition, Dennis soon decided to join the fray properly, and an F1 GTR version was developed with enhanced racing specifications.
Dennis’s goal was to win the BPR Championship and take victory in the ultimate barometer of sports car success, the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The F1 GTR achieved this rather effortlessly, winning the BPR Championship three consecutive years from 1995 to 1997, and winning the 1995 Le Mans outright, along with 3rd, 4th, and 5th-place finishes. Results at the Circuit du Sarthe over the following years proved nearly as successful, with the GTR finishing as high as 4th in 1996, 2nd in 1997, and 4th in 1998, a testament to its longevity in the face of more freshly developed competition.
Following the F1’s victory at Le Mans in 1995, the manufacturer launched a short batch of commemorative road-capable cars that were dubbed the F1 LM. Among other improvements, these cars were equipped with full-specification, unrestricted GTR racing engines good for 680 hp, and a High-Downforce Kit (HDK) of aerodynamic effects consisting of a revised nose with front wing vents and a huge rear wing.
With a total output of 106 examples, including 64 production road cars, 28 F1 GTR race cars, five F1 LM examples, and two F1 GTs (as well as seven prototype and development cars), the McLaren F1 boasts a degree of rarity that is commensurate with its other sterling qualities. It also claims the distinction of being the world’s fastest naturally aspirated production model after setting a record at the Ehra-Lessien Proving Grounds in Germany in 1998 at 240.14 mph.
Following completion of the full production run in 1997, McLaren upgraded two “standard” F1 road cars to LM specifications, including upgrading the engine to unrestricted 680 hp GTR specification. Serial no. 073 and the car featured here, serial no. 018, were additionally equipped with the Extra-High Downforce Kit that included (and exceeded) the coachwork effects of the LM examples, including the front air vents and rear wing.
This F1 was built in 1994, and it was originally finished in Midnight Blue Pearl over a black interior and dispatched to its first owner, an enthusiast residing in Japan. In 1999 the F1 was sold to a collector in Germany, and he returned the car to the factory in Surrey in 2000 to commission a series of upgrades to LM specifications.
This work was conducted in two rounds, the first during 2000 and the second a year later, and also included the installation of the HDK, a transmission cooler, two additional radiators, and a modified exhaust system. The air-conditioning was upgraded, a radio was added to the CD player, the headlamps were changed to gas-discharge units, and the steering wheel was exchanged for a 14-inch unit. The exterior was refinished in the current livery of platinum silver metallic, and the interior was re-trimmed with cream leather highlighted by beige and brown Alcantara, cream Wilton carpets, and a beige Alcantara headliner. The dampers and springs were also upgraded to race-spec units and adjusted to their softest setting for comfortable road use. Finally, the standard 17-inch wheels were replaced by special 18-inch GTR wheels.
RM Sotheby's will be offering this 1994 McLaren F1 'LM-Specification' at their upcoming Monterey auction held between the 15-17th August. It’s expected to fetch over $20 million dollars. For more information on this and other vehicles at the sale, click on the link below. Photos: Andrei Diomidov ©2019 Courtesy of RM Sotheby's.