McLaren F1: History and Evolution
We have no intention of producing a racing car for the road. Our car is going to be in every way the most refined and useable road car it’s possible to produce – compatible with it also being the finest sports car ever built.
— Ron Dennis | McLaren Automotive
The McLaren F1 is a sports car designed and manufactured by McLaren Automotive. Originally a concept conceived by Gordon Murray, he convinced Ron Dennis to back the project and engaged Peter Stevens to design the exterior and interior of the car. On 31 March 1998, it set the record for the world’s fastest production car, reaching 231 mph (372 km/h) with the rev limiter enabled, and 243 mph (391 km/h) with the rev limiter removed.
The car features numerous proprietary designs and technologies; it is lighter and has a more streamlined structure than many modern sports cars, despite having one seat more than most similar sports cars, with the driver’s seat located in the centre (and slightly forward) of two passengers’ seating positions, providing driver visibility superior to that of a conventional seating layout. It features a powerful engine and is somewhat track oriented, but not to the degree that it compromises everyday usability and comfort.
It was conceived as an exercise in creating what its designers hoped would be considered the ultimate road car. Despite not having been designed as a track machine, a modified race car edition of the vehicle won several races, including the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1995, where it faced purpose-built prototype race cars. Production began in 1992 and ended in 1998. In all, 106 cars were manufactured, with some variations in the design.
In 1994, the British car magazine Autocar stated in a road test regarding the F1:
The McLaren F1 is the finest driving machine yet built for the public road. The F1 will be remembered as one of the great events in the history of the car, and it may possibly be the fastest production road car the world will ever see.
In August 2013, at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, Gooding & Company auctioned off chassis #066 for a record sale price of US$8.47 million.
The McLaren F1 road car, of which 64 were originally sold, saw several different modifications over its production span which were badged as different models. Of the road versions, 21 are reportedly in the United States. One of the completed street cars remained in McLaren’s London showroom for a decade before being offered for sale as new in 2004. This vehicle became the 65th McLaren F1 sold. The showroom, which was on London’s luxurious Park Lane, has since closed. The company maintains a database to match up prospective sellers and buyers of the cars.
Prior to the sale of the first McLaren F1s, five prototypes were built, carrying the numbers XP1 through XP5. These cars carried minor subtle differences between each other as well as between the production road cars. XP1 was the first publicly unveiled car, and later destroyed in an accident in Namibia. XP2 was used for crash testing and also destroyed. Neither was ever painted.
XP3 did durability testing, XP4 stress tested the gearbox system and XP5 was a publicity car, all owned by McLaren; they were also used for publicity shots and tested by reporters. All were painted a different color, and each was able to be distinguished by its chassis code painted on the side rocker panel. XP3 is still owned by Murray, XP4 was seen by many viewers of Top Gear when reviewed by Tiff Needell in the mid-1990s, while XP5 went on to be used in McLaren’s famous top speed run.
The American model of the McLaren F1, the Ameritech McLaren F1 is a modified standard McLaren F1 to meet the U.S. regulations; to comply with said regulations the car had to meet stricter emission requirements which increased the weight and also reduced the power somewhat. Due to a lack of airbags for the passengers, the Ameritech edition only has the single driver seat in the middle.
McLaren F1 LM
Only five McLaren F1 LM (LM for Le Mans) cars were built in honor of the five McLaren F1 GTRs which finished the 1995 24 Hours of Le Mans, including taking the overall win.
The weight was reduced by approximately 75 kg (165 lb) over that of original, through the removal of various pieces of trim and use of optional equipment. The car also had a different transaxle, various aerodynamic modifications, specially designed 18-inch (457 mm) magnesium alloy wheels and upgraded gearbox. The F1 LM used the same engine as the 1995 F1 GTR, but without race-mandated restrictors, to produce 680 hp (507 kW; 689 PS).
It had a top speed of 225 mph (362 km/h), which is less than the standard version because of added aerodynamic drag, despite identical gear ratios. The LM is 76 kg (168 lb) lighter than the stock F1 – a total mass of 1,062 kg (2,341 lb) – achieved by having no interior noise suppression, no audio system, a stripped-down base interior, no fan-assisted ground effect and no dynamic rear wing. In the place of the small dynamic rear wing there is a considerably larger, fixed CFRP rear wing mounted on the back of the vehicle.
The LM has the following performance figures:
- Peak torque of 705 N·m (520 lbf·ft) at 4,500 rpm
- Peak power of 680 PS (500 kW; 670 hp) at 7,800 rpm
- Redline at 8,500 rpm
- Total weight of 1,062 kg (2,341 lb)
- 110.16 bhp (82 kW; 112 PS) per liter ratio
Officially recorded acceleration times are 0-60 mph (97 km/h) in 3.9 seconds and 0-100 mph (161 km/h) in 6.7 seconds. The LM was once the holder of the 0-100-0 mph record, which it completed in 11.5 seconds when driven by Andy Wallace at the disused airbase RAF Alconbury in Cambridgeshire.
The F1 LMs can be identified by their Papaya Orange paint. The F1 LMs were painted in this color in memory of, and tribute to, Bruce McLaren, whose race colour was Papaya Orange. Two of the chassis were painted in black with grey trim similar to the Ueno Clinic sponsored Le Mans 24 Hours winning car. These cars were bought by the Sultan of Brunei as such, also feature horizontial stripes down the sides in yellow, red and blue.
Although only five F1 LMs were sold, a sixth chassis exists in the form of XP1 LM, the prototype for modifications to the existing F1 to form the new F1 LM. This car is also painted Papaya Orange and is retained by McLaren.
McLaren F1 GT
The final incarnation of the roadcar, the F1 GT was meant as a homologation special. With increased competition from homologated sports cars from Porsche and Mercedes-Benz in the former BPR Global GT Series and new FIA GT Championship, McLaren required extensive modification to the F1 GTR in order to remain competitive. These modifications were so vast that McLaren would be required to build a production road-legal car on which to base the new race cars.
The F1 GT featured the same extended rear bodywork as the GTRs for increased downforce and reduced drag, yet lacked the rear wing that had been seen on the F1 LM. The downforce generated by the longer tail was found to be sufficient to not require the wing. The front end was also similar to the racing car, with extra louvers and the wheel arches widened to fit larger wheels. The interior was modified and a racing steering wheel was included in place of the standard unit.
The F1 GTs were built from standard F1 road car chassis, retaining their production numbers. The prototype GT, known as XPGT, was F1 chassis #056, and is still kept by McLaren. The company technically only needed to build one car and did not even have to sell it. However, demand from customers drove McLaren to build two production versions that were sold. The customer F1 GTs were chassis #054 and #058.
- McLaren Automotive
- Wikipedia: McLaren F1