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1997 McLaren F1 : Classic Cars

You've heard it before and you'll hear it again, the McLaren F1 is world's best supercar. It's currently the most expensive modern supercar in the used market and it has a performance pedigree to backup up the heavy price tag.

The story begins in 1988 when partners of the McLaren Cars Ltd - the world's leading Formula One team, winning 15 out of 16 races - finished their successful season and decided that they should move beyond their current program and go one step further by building the finest road car possible. To them, this meant developing a no comprise supercar, built with nearly endless funds to achieve the highest power to weight ratio but retain usability for everyday driving.

To meet these goals, technical director of McLaren Gordan Murray and stylist Peter Stevens realized that the car had to be small, use the lightest components available and have a large capacity, normally aspirated V12 engine. Little did they know, this design philosophy would break many speed records and win championships it wasn't even originally intended for.

Four years after the McLaren's costly development, the first car made its official debut at the 1992 Monaco F1 week where McLaren could finally reveal to world what they had been doing. At Monaco, the targeted customer base learned that only 100 examples would be made, and that the McLaren would be the fastest, most exclusive car in the world. These attributes and gorgeous styling helped potential clients look past the 634 500 GBP price tag and beyond competitors like the Ferrari F40, Porsche 959 and Jaguar XK220.

After its release, the F1's potential was immediately realized when it reached 0-100-0 in 11.4 seconds and a record top speed of 240.14mph in its XP5 pre-production trim. Although, the success didn't stop in the record books, as special GTR versions won Le Mans outright in 1995 and took two FIA GT World Championships.

The F1's success can be attributed the McLaren's Formula One expertise. The small dedicated team picked by Gordan Murray designed 5000 individual pieces which were predominantly carbon fiber, magnesium, titanium to keep minimum weights. The car's carbon fiber monocoque was the world's first and supported BMW's impressive BMW S70/2, 620 horsepower engine. This engine produced considerable heat, so the engine compartment was lined with pure gold and air conditioning came as standard. But the greatest innovation was its seating arrangement.

To show off McLaren's dedication and Formula heritage, Murray used a central drivers seat and provided an option for two seats on either side. Like a race car, this provided the best possible view and was the good example of how uncompromising the F1 was. Additionally the McLaren wasn't equipped with any driving aids which meant it lacked traction control, ABS, power brakes and power steering.

Included with the purchase of every McLaren was bevy of lush appointments including a specially designed lightweight stereo, a tailored golf back, custom fitted luggage and the mother of all full tool boxes, used for McLaren personal to use if they needed to do remote work on the customers car. Included was a modem, which could send data directly to McLaren. With this, one customer in Germany was found to reach 200 mph almost daily on his way to and from work!

After delivering 100 customer cars McLaren stopped production after seven prototypes, 64 road cars, 5 special F1 LMs (built to commemorate victory at Le Mans in 1995), three F1 GTs (road going versions of the long tail 1997 F1 GTR race car) and 28 F1 GTR road cars. Of these, the Sultan of Brunei owns the most, and has two very special black F1 LMs with striking Pininfarina graphics as well as an exact replica of the F1 GTR that won LeMans.

Since delivery, McLaren have stayed committed to the F1 and continue to service the many cars. Almost every car has been returned to the factory and some have received custom modifications to suit the needs of their owners. The most radical of these are the few race cars which were converted back to road cars with the most minimal of changes. Other less daring cars have treatments that include new aerodynamic packages and custom interiors. As these cars get better, they keep the F1 up to pace with modern alternatives.


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Sources : 1997 McLaren F1 Photo | 1997 McLaren F1 Article

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