There have been many pretenders to the title of ‘ultimate road car’, but few have actually managed to grab the crown for long, as a new monarch invariably awaits just around the corner with more horsepower and a higher top speed. But the McLaren F1 delivered in spades, and remained unchallenged king of the road for longer than most.
McLaren Automotive’s chief engineer Gordon Murray sketched out the concept on the way home from the 1988 Italian Grand Prix. McLaren boss Ron Dennis liked the audacious three-seater sports car and – yes – they did indeed decide to build it as the ultimate road car. After Murray shopped around for an engine without success, BMW offered to build a 6.1 litre aluminium-alloy power plant. This big 48-valve engine with quad overhead camshafts was fuel injected.
The engine was teamed with a light chassis and body fabricated with modern materials like kevlar and titanium. The F1 was constructed using a carbon-fibre monocoque derived from McLaren’s racing expertise. The XP1 prototype was almost unchanged for the production run, and was one of the most visually attractive supercars ever produced. The driver sat in the middle with the two passenger seats slightly further back on either side. Entry was via two butterfly doors – effectively each side of the cockpit down to floor level lifted to allow easy access. The interior featured air conditioning, custom Kenwood stereo, auto defrosting, electric windows and remote central locking. This and numerous other useful features helped justify that ‘ultimate road car’ tag.
Fewer than 70 Fl1road cars were built from 1992, though five F1 LMs were made to celebrate the 1995 Le Mans win, plus two evolution F1 GTs and 21 GTR racing models. Numbered amongst the most desirable supercars ever made, they have all appreciated considerably in price.
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
1992 (until 1998)
6,064 cc V12
Top speed (with rev limiter) of 231 mph (372 km/h); 0-60 mph (97 km/h) in 3.2 secs
YOU SHOULD KNOW:
The McLaren F1 was the world’s fastest-ever production car (achieving a phenomenal 240.1 mph/386.7 km/h) until the Bugatti Veyron came along in 2005 — an enduring record that is all the more impressive because the F1 had a normally aspirated rather than a turbocharged engine.