Car enthusiasts today live in an era where they are spoiled for choice with, one new exotic supercar after another being released, several times a year, from so many different manufacturers around the world. We all know the big names like Ferrari, Lamborghini, McLaren and Porsche among many others. What’s more, these cars seem to be getting lighter, faster, stronger and more advanced with every new model released.
There is one car however which was far ahead of its time when it was released back in the early 1990s and can still rival the performance of the best of today’s supercars, the McLaren F1. The F1 was far ahead of its time and is still considered one of the fastest naturally aspirated super cars ever built. The McLaren F1 was the brainchild of design genius Gordon Murray known for his design work for the McLaren Formula One racing team.
When Murray embarked on the mission to create the finest road going supercar ever built, he had a simple idea in mind: create the absolute best handling, fastest and most ferocious car ever seen. The performance figures as well as the price tag certainly reflected the haughty goals that he had in mind. Powered by a mid-mounted 6.1-liter BMW V 12 engine which was virtually made up of two BMW M3 in-line six-cylinder engines mated to each other to form a V 12 with a naturally aspirated output of 618 bhp and 479 lb. ft of torque, which may not seem like a massive amount compared to today’s supercars, but was definitely the stuff of dreams a few decades ago.
The engine is only one aspect of what you need to attain superior performance and Murray new this. He decided to use a complete carbon fibre reinforced polymer (CFRP) monocoque chassis structure with aluminum and magnesium used for attachment points for the suspension system. All of this added up to a ridiculously low kerb weight of just 1,138kg (2,509 lb)! No wonder it was able to rocket from 0-100 km/h in just 3.4 seconds! If that doesn’t sound crazy enough, then the 1998 Guinness world record braking top speed of 386.4 km/h should definitely grab your attention. Since then, other cars such as the Bugatti Veyron have exceeded the F1’s acceleration and top speed however it is worth bearing in mind that the Veyron’s engine uses forced induction, and was not a raw, naturally aspirated engine like the F1’s.
The F1 also had some design features that were unique to it, including a center of the chassis driving position with two flanking passenger seats, making it the only 3 seats two door supercar in the world. The carbon fibre monocoque required significant thermal insulation in the engine compartment which led the design team to use gold foil as a heat shield due to its highly efficient heat reflecting ability. Another quirky feature of the F1 is its side luggage compartments located near the side skirts of the car.
Only 106 cars were ever manufactured, with several of them being dedicated to racing, design study or concept prototypes. 64 of the 106 were road going versions. Notable past and present owners of the F1 include the Sultan of Brunei, Rowan Atkinson, Ralph Lauren and Elon Musk. Production lasted only six years, from 1992 to 1998 while each car took a whopping three and a half months to build by hand. Cost when new was between $800,000 and 1 million. More recently, an F1 was sold at auction for $20.5 million! So if you’re ever lucky enough to see one of these on the road, make sure you get a fair amount of pictures!
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