- Chassis No.
“380 – 386 – 386 – 388 – 389 – 390 – 391… Three hundred and ninety-one! I still say this is the best car ever built – ever – and probably will never be beaten…” – Le Mans winner Andy Wallace describes hitting 391kmh (243mph) in a McLaren F1 road car in March 1998
When you can mention the model without needing to specify the maker – think ‘GTO’ – you know it’s something special. No car made in the last 40 years is more special – or valuable – than the McLaren F1.
The McLaren F1
“Why not build a road car? But not just a road car, a supercar… and if we’re going to do that, then why not create the best sports car in the world?” Unlike nearly all conversations between four car enthusiasts killing time at an airport, this one actually came to pass.
The result of a flight delay immediately after the 1988 Italian Grand Prix was the McLaren F1, a 243mph supercar comfortable enough to drive through central London, yet able to effortlessly spear down de-restricted Autobahns three-up at 200mph+. Launched as a road car in 1992, three years later modified (but not by much) versions came first, third, fourth, fifth and 13th at the Le Mans 24 Hours. Overall, not in class...
The quartet kicking their heels at Linate were TAG-McLaren Group bosses Ron Dennis and Mansour Ojjeh, with McLaren’s Technical Director Gordon Murray and Creighton Brown, the company’s head of marketing. Ironically, although Murray and stylist Peter Stevens had been given a ‘clean sheet of paper’ to create the F1, Murray had been filling exercise books with doodles of ‘arrowhead’, three-seater sports cars since the late-1960s.
Cosmopolitan entrepreneur Mansour Ojjeh summed the informal meeting up with the words “Well, let’s do it then!” and Murray and Brown set to. By 1990 the car had a name – F1. The programme would be based in buildings at Genesis Park virtually opposite the GP team and a growing number of staff had been recruited. They even had orders – one was placed as the press release went public and three more came in in February 1989 as the Sunday papers ran the story.
The car eventually revealed in May 1992 at Le Sporting Club Monaco was a technical tour-de-force: a no-compromise mix of carbonfibre, titanium, gold, magnesium and Kevlar, powered by a bespoke BMW Motorsport V12 unique to the McLaren F1. The four-cam, 48-valve motor was dry-sumped and bore no relation to any production unit. When chief engineer of BMW Motorsport Paul Rosche called Murray to reveal the eventual displacement of the engine, 6,064cc, Murray – with a 5.3-litre motor in mind – was impressed: “Cor, that sounds good…”
It was. The engine, quite literally, is the heart of the McLaren F1, giving the car its colossal performance and, more than that, its character. Effortlessly powerful from just 1,500rpm, the unit yielded 479lb/ft torque from 4,000rpm to 7,000rpm. Its maximum power of 627bhp equated to over 100bhp per litre and the F1 road car had a power-to-weight ratio of 550bhp/tonne.
Built around a carbonfibre monocoque (a world first), with its unique central driving position the F1 was intended to be the ultimate driver’s car. Engineering excellence and beauty of design without regard to cost were paramount: even the exquisite gear lever was honed to the gramme to match a prototype turned from rare African blackwood.
However, launched into the storm of the early 1990s worldwide recession at a price of £540,000 plus VAT in the UK, the planned-for sales of ‘no more than 300’ proved all too accurate: only 107 McLaren F1s were produced. Seven were prototypes, 64 were regular road versions, five were F1 LM road cars built to celebrate the win at Le Mans and two were long-tail F1 GTs, street-legal homologation specials. The other 28 F1s were F1 GTRs built purely for racing.
Just 100 survive worldwide.
This Motor Car
The first owner of ‘048’ took delivery of the car from McLaren on 4 December 1996. It was, in fact, a 50th birthday gift from his wife and was finished in the elegant and subtle Brilliant Metallic Blue with blue interior in which it is presented today.
The official inside story of the McLaren F1, Driving Ambition by Doug Nye with Ron Dennis and Gordon Murray, confirms that ‘048’ was the only F1 completed in this distinctive colour.
After delivery the car was immediately imported and registered in Switzerland, where it has lived ever since. A seldom-seen F1, the first owner kept it in climate-controlled storage with only rare outings including a holiday in the South of France. During this time McLaren Special Operations (MSO) maintained ‘048’ with regular servicing shown today by a fully stamped book. Prior to the car’s sale in 2013, in October 2012 ‘048’ was sent to MSO for work totalling £20,438.74. The technicians at Woking had also installed, in carbonfibre to match the cabin trim, a neat GPS system.
The current owner purchased the car through Kidston SA in 2013. At that time the odometer reading was just over 10,000km. Today, the total distance from new is c.12,000km. The owner has enjoyed it sparingly – barely 2,000km – including participating in the official McLaren F1 tours in Tuscany (2014) and Bordeaux (2017). It has never suffered accident damage.
Since purchase in 2013, the car has returned to McLaren Special Operations for significant service work three times:
31 December 2013: £23,429.25 (including new fuel cell)
31 January 2014: £14,686.36
23 February 2017: £24,139.00 (including new clutch and major service)
The latest stamp in the service book is dated 23 March 2017 at 11,368km.
McLaren F1 ‘048’ remains in Switzerland, road registered and tax paid – one of only two such cars in the country.
It comes with its factory books and tools, including both the fitted pouch of magnesium tools for the front compartment and the large Facom workshop tool chest. Other accessories remain with it, such as the engraved TAG Heuer watch given to every owner at delivery.
The F1 was the most expensive car in the world by some margin when new, and it is often considered to be the heir to the Ferrari 250 GTO. Several lucky collectors own both. The opportunity to join either club becomes harder every year. This well cared-for McLaren F1, Swiss registered, accident-free and in a unique and attractive livery, is a rare chance to gain membership. The next owner is unlikely to ever regret it.