Dream Garage: McLaren F1
There are very few cars that are nearly universally beloved. Old muscle cars like the original Corvette Stingray, Dodge Challenger, and Ford Mustang were big hits in the U.S., while the Europeans can claim the Lamborghini Miura, Ferrari 250 and Jaguar E-Type as very significant as well. Auto manufacturers the world round were severely affected by the oil embargo of 1973-1974, with the public and government reaching the realization that fuel economy would be an important factor in the years ahead. As such, there were very few cars created in the ’70s and ’80s that are remembered fondly by automotive lovers, including the Porsche 959, Ferrari 288 GTO, and Buick Regal GNX. The ’90s were the first decade that really reversed the trend of performance-choked engines, and future classics were even making their way from Japan, including the Acura NSX and Nissan Skyline GT-R.
The most significant supercar from this era was not the Ferrari F50, Lamborghini Diablo, or Jaguar XJ220, although those cars were fine in their own right. That title belongs to the McLaren F1.
The McLaren Formula One team, founded by Bruce McLaren in the 1960s, was a dominant force in F1 along with Ferrari, with whom they shared a bitter rivalry. Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost, whose own competition repeatedly turned violent, were McLaren teammates in the 1980s (documented expertly in the 2010 film Senna). Although McLaren Automotive was created in the late ’80s to build road cars, the company’s first supercar didn’t debut until 1992. Its name was derived from the racing class that made McLaren famous: F1.
There were a number of unique features in the F1 that set it apart from other cars in its time. The most obvious was the center driving position flanked by two extremely deep bucket seats. The driver sat in the center of the car, with the 6-speed manual transmission to the right. Although driver aides like traction control and ABS were not present, other accommodations, including a 10-CD changer and air conditioning, were standard offerings to make the F1 more usable in real life conditions than its counterparts. Under the skin, the F1 was the first road-going car whose unibody was made of carbon fiber, a setup aped in supercars today. Under the hood, extensive use of gold foil helped divert the intense heat generated by the monster 6.1L V-12 engine. That engine was created specially for McLaren by BMW’s M motorsports division, and developed an insane 627hp. This was enough to send the F1 rocketing to 60mph in 3.2 seconds, and the car would set a production car top speed record in 1998, at 243 mph.
The McLaren shows off its unique seating layout
Although production ceased in 1998 and only 106 F1s were ever produced, its legacy continues today. Although it no longer owns claim to the fastest car in the world (McLaren seems content to let Bugatti and SSC duke it out for now), it remains the fastest naturally-aspirated car in the world (that is, without turbo- or superchargers). Its uncompromising performance and extremely limited production run almost immediately made it an investment-quality vehicle. Although originally priced at about $1,000,000, an F1 sold just last week commanded a price of $5.5 million, a figure that was, to say the least, unexpected.
The F1 will remain one of the most significant cars ever created; for that reason, it rightly earns a top spot in the Dream Garage.