's Great British Cars – McLaren F1

Fri 19th Apr 2019

Great Britain, great cars. The UK motor industry is respected the world over, and though many of the vehicles are actually owned by foreign manufacturers, there can be no doubting of the fantastic heritage of the British motor.

To celebrate Britain’s famous history is launching a series looking back on some of the most famous vehicles the UK has ever seen.

McLaren F1
Paying more than half a million hard earned pound notes for a car may have seemed a little extravagant way back in 1992, but those who knew, simply knew that the F1 wasn’t just a car. The McLaren F1 was a historical artifact.

Let’s consider the fact that this was, and still is, the fastest ever production road car ever to roll off a factory line. With a top speed of 240 miles per hour, the F1 wouldn’t look out of place driving around Silverstone for the British Grand Prix. When the McLaren actually officially broke the record in March 1998, it surpassed the previous record by some 23mph, knocking the Jaguar XJ220 into the distance, amazing stats considering the XJ220 had only set the record some six years earlier - a mere blink of an eye in the grand scheme of motoring speed records.

We have Gordon Murray, a South African born Brit, to thank for the F1’s inception. Initially a concept, the story has it that Murray had been dreaming of a three-seater sports car since his youth and after drafting a rough sketch in 1988 he pitched the idea of creating the ‘ultimate road car’ to McLaren’s Formula One boss, Ron Dennis.

At the time, McLaren were the major force in Formula One, and with the world’s best driver Ayrton Senna in the hot seat, the company were reliant on the highest spec Japanese engines from Honda. It was a trip to Honda that helped push Murray’s vision forward.

"During this time, we were able to visit Honda's Tochigi Research Centre with Ayrton Senna. The visit related to the fact that at the time, McLaren's F1 Grand Prix cars were using Honda engines. Although it's true I had thought it would have been better to put a larger engine, the moment I drove the Honda NSX, all the benchmark cars—Ferrari, Porsche, Lamborghini—I had been using as references in the development of my car vanished from my mind. Of course the car we would create, the McLaren F1, needed to be faster than the NSX, but the NSX's ride quality and handling would become our new design target. Being a fan of Honda engines, I later went to Honda's Tochigi Research Centre on two occasions and requested that they consider building for the McLaren F1 a 4.5 litre V10 or V12. I asked, I tried to persuade them, but in the end could not convince them to do it, and the McLaren F1 ended up equipped with a BMW engine."

Low weight and high power were the aims for McLaren, and even with that huge 6.1-litre V12 BMW strapped in, the F1 was very light, just 1,138kg.

Only 106 F1s were built during the six year production run, with a list of famous owners including Elon Musk, George Harrison and the Sultan of Brunei. The £540,000 proved to be a sound investment, today the F1 can fetch almost £8m at auction and is held in the highest regard as the forerunner for a generation of ultimate sports cars - though none get near the original.

Years of manufacture: 1992-1998
Price when new:
Price now:
Engine: 6,064cc 12cyl petrol, 627bhp