In 1994, the British car magazine Autocar stated in a road test regarding the F1, “The McLaren F1 is the finest driving machine yet built for the public road.” They further stated, “The F1 will be remembered as one of the great events in the history of the car, and it may possibly be the fastest production road car the world will ever see.”
While a bold statement, it held true from August 1993 through to March 1998, when the XP3 prototype and XP5 prototypes respectively, returned top speeds in excess of 371 km/h and 386 km/h, until it was dethroned by the Koenigsegg CCR in 2005 with a top speed of 388.87 km/h, and in April 2007 by the Bugatti Veyron 16.4 that clocked 408.47 km/h.
Originally conceived by chief engineer, Gordon Murray – who convinced McLaren’s Ron Dennis to back the project, and engaged Peter Stevens to design the exterior and interior of the car – the McLaren F1 debuted many ‘firsts’ for production cars, including the use of a complete carbon fibre reinforced polymer (CFRP) monocoque chassis structure.
Although Murray initially wooed McLaren’s then Formula One partner, Honda, to supply the naturally aspirated engine that Murray envisaged for the F1, the Japanese manufacturer refused, ultimately leading to him approaching BMW M who designed and built Murray a 6,064 cc 60-degree DOHC V12 engine called the BMW S70/2.
Only 106 cars were manufactured: five prototypes (XP1, XP2, XP3, XP4, XP5); 64 road versions (F1); one tuned prototype (XP1 LM); five tuned versions (LM); one longtail prototype (XPGT); two longtail versions (GT); and 28 racecars (GTR). Production began in 1992 and ended in 1998, during which time, each machine took around three and a half months to build.
The F1 remains one of the fastest production cars ever made; although several cars have succeeded it since then, including the SSC Ultimate Aero TT, the Hennessey Venom GT and the Bugatti Veyron Super Sport. Considering that all of the higher top speed machines use forced induction to reach their respective top speeds, while the McLaren F1 is naturally aspirated, it is no wonder why it remains one of the most sought after hyper cars in the world.