The importance of the McLaren F1 is not that it was, for seven years, the world’s fastest production car, nor that it remains the fastest naturally aspirated production car. Its importance comes from its unique blending of innovative design, advanced materials and exceptional adaptability and drivability. The McLaren F1 is a pure driver’s car conceived and perfected without the myriad technical gimmicks that all of its competitors rely upon to supplement the experience of driving.
The depths of McLaren’s technical expertise and imagination is abundantly demonstrated in the F1’s unmatched technical specifications including its carbon fibre monocoque, active aerodynamics, lavish use of exotic lightweight metals and composites and its creative centre driving position flanked by two passenger seats.
Although it is technically advanced the McLaren F1 incorporates none of the driving aids now commonplace on ultra-high performance cars. There is no power steering, no power assist on the 4-pot Brembo brakes (332/ 305mm front/ rear discs), no electro-hydraulic selection for the six-speed transverse manual gearbox, no clutch pedal boost, no traction control (aside from the Torsen 40% limited slip differential) and no electronic stability control. Only the aerodynamics have any kind of power assist. A pair of fans draw air from under the body in a driver-controlled ‘High Downforce’ mode (recalling Murray’s precedent-setting Brabham-Alfa Romeo BT46 ‘fan car’ of 1978), and the spoiler on the rear deck deploys when the brakes are applied to move the aerodynamic centre of pressure forward to enhance braking balance with the F1’s designed 42%/ 58% static weight distribution.
Deliveries began in 1993 and only 65 examples of the definitive road version were built from a total of 107 F1s, which includes six prototypes, five LM versions, three GT long tail road cars and 28 GTR racing cars. Of course, the racing cars do not feature the distinctive three seater configuration and nor can they be modified to such as the electronics occupy the right hand passenger seat. Aside from the ultra rare F1 LM (now valued at over $10m) the F1 road car remains the one to have and the model which every enthusiast and collector covets.
Performance is breathtaking. In addition to a top speed of 372 kph (231 mph) in its standard configuration with 7,500 rpm rev limiter, one of the prototypes with the rev limiter disabled clocked 391 kph (243 mph) at 7,800 rpm. Acceleration has been timed at 3.2 seconds, 0-60 mph, and 6.3 seconds to 100 mph. It will swallow a standing kilometre in 19.6 seconds with a terminal velocity of 285 kmh (177 mph).
Chassis ‘012’ was built for the president of the Japanese importer for TAG-Heuer watches, a company with close historic links to McLaren which will have doubtlessly carried a certain weight when F1 customer priorities were decided: chassis ‘001’ went to TAG-Heuer. The history file of ‘012’ gives a fascinating glimpse into the level of customer service which has always been a McLaren hallmark: the owner was asked his weight and height in order to optimize the seating, and he was kept fully informed of the build process by McLaren Sales and Marketing Director (and ex-F1 driver) Jonathan Palmer. Although the F1 was well equipped- as one would expect given that it was the most expensive new car the world had ever seen- owners could specify additional luggage pieces should they wish to supplement those offered as standard. It appears the Japanese owner requested everything available- known as options A,B,C,D and E. Stick-on TAG-Heuer body graphics were also supplied, and the beautifully appointed FACOM workshop tool chest, titanium in-car toll roll, leather cased owners manuals and vanity mirror delivered with every F1 also remain with ‘012’ today (we have drawn up a detailed list). The speedometer was calibrated in km. Although the buyer initially contemplated coachwork in Magnesium Silver, he finally chose a rare Dark Silver (code RMG245C) with grey/black upholstery and contrasting red insert for the drivers seat, an F1 trademark reinforcing the notion that the person at the wheel is, well, special.
Delivered in August 1994, in the original 14 year Japanese ownership ‘012’ was used sparingly and, apart from a road mishap which required some repairs mostly to the underside by the McLaren factory in 2001, the car had covered barely one thousand cosseted miles when acquired by the present (second) owner, a longstanding European business partner of the Japanese firm, in 2008. The last service was performed by McLaren’s official Japanese maintenance centre in 2006 for a total of ¥4,401,344 (circa €40,000). Since acquisition the car has not been driven except a recent test run by McLaren staff, taking the total mileage to 1,641km.
Offered exclusively by Kidston SA, this is a well documented, exceptionally well equipped and very low mileage example of arguably the greatest supercar of all time. Every great collection should have one: sadly for the others, only 65 ever will.