McLaren F1


McLaren F1 (missing headlight covers)

Chief engineer Gordon Murray’s design concept was a common one among designers of high-performance cars: low weight and high power. This was achieved through use of high-tech and expensive materials like carbon fiber, titanium, gold and magnesium. The F1 was one of the first production cars to use a carbon-fiber monocoque chassis.

The idea was first conceived when Murray was waiting for a flight home back from the fateful Italian Grand Prix in 1988; Murray drew a sketch of a three seater supercar and proposed it to Ron Dennis. Later, a pair of Ultima MK3 kit cars, chassis numbers 12 and 13, ‘Albert’ and ‘Edward’, the last two MK3s, were used as “mules” to test various components and concepts before the first cars were built. Number 12 was used to test the gearbox with a 7.4 litre Chevrolet V8 to mimic the torque of the BMW V12, plus various other components like the seats and the brakes. Number 13 was the test of the V12, plus exhaust and cooling system. When McLaren was done with the cars they destroyed both of them to keep away the specialist magazines and because they did not want the car to be associated with “kit cars”.

The car was first unveiled at a launch show, 28th May 1992, at The Sporting Club in Monaco. The original prototype (XP1) remained the same as the production version except for the wing mirror which, on the XP1, was mounted at the top sill of the door. This car was deemed not road legal as it had no turn signal indicators at the front; McLaren was forced to make changes on the car as a result (some cars, including Ralph Lauren’s were sent back to McLaren and fitted with the prototype mirrors). The original wing mirrors also incorporated a pair of indicators which other car manufacturers as well as an aftermarket company would adopt several years later.

The car’s safety levels were first proved when during a testing in Namibia in April 1993, a test driver wearing just shorts and t-shirt hit a rock and rolled the first prototype car several times. The driver managed to escape unscathed. Later in the year, the second prototype (XP2) was especially built for crashtesting and passed with the front wheel arch untouched.


McLaren insisted that the engine for this car be normally-aspirated to increase reliability and driver control. Turbochargers and superchargers increase power but they increase complexity and can decrease reliability as well as the ability of the driver to maintain maximum control of the engine. BMW’s motorsport division BMW M custom-built a 6.1 L (6064 cc) 60-degree V12 based on BMW’s M70/S70 BMW S70/2 engine with aluminum alloy block and head, 86 mm x 87 mm bore/stroke, quad overhead camshafts for maximum flexibility of control over the four valves/cylinder and chain drive for the camshafts for maximum reliability. At 266 kg, the resulting engine was slightly heavier than Murray’s original maximum specification weight of 250 kg but also considerably more powerful than he had specified, which effectively cancelled out the weight gain.
The McLaren F1’s engine compartment contains the mid-mounted BMW S70/2 engine and uses gold foil as a heat shield in the exhaust compartment.

The carbon fiber body panels and monocoque required significant heat insulation in the engine compartment and so Murray’s solution was to coat the engine bay with the most efficient heat-reflector: gold foil. Approximately 25 g (0.8 ounce) of gold was used in each car.

The road version used a compression ratio of 11:1 to produce 620 horsepower at 7400 rpm – considerably more than Murray’s specification of 550 horsepower. Torque output 480 ft·lb (651 N·m) at 5600 rpm.[1] Other, more highly tuned, incarnations of the F1 produced up to 640 hp. The engine has a redline and rev limiter at 7500 rpm.

From 1998 to 2000, the Le Mans winning BMW V12 LMR sports car used a similar S70/2 engine.


There is some disagreement on the topic of power output. Most sources, including McLaren themselves, report output at “627 horsepower”. However, it is unclear whether this is metric horsepower (often represented as “PS” from the German Pferdestrke) or imperial horsepower. Since the McLaren’s engine was built by BMW, either unit could have been used – European carmakers tend to measure output in metric horsepower while their British counterparts tend to use Imperial horsepower. Therefore, the German company BMW may have used either measurement for an engine to be delivered to British company McLaren. The kilowatt (kW) is sometimes used as a reference, as it is unambiguous, but in the case of the McLaren, output in kilowatts has been given as both 461 kW (equivalent to 627 PS or 618 hp) and 468 kW (equivalent to 636 PS or 627 hp) – thus the various quotes of horsepower output given as 618, 627 or 628 horsepower.


The Mclaren F1 can do 0 to 60 mph (97 km/h) in 3.1 seconds and has an official top speed of 240.14 mph (386.4 km/h), although with the rev limiter removed, the F1 remains one of the fastest “production” cars ever made.

While most car manufacturers rate their cars in terms of raw engine power, in terms of overall performance (acceleration, braking, and agility) a car’s weight is a more important factor. The power-weight ratio is a better method of quantifying performance than the peak output of the vehicle’s powerplant. By this measure, the F1 was one of the most powerful production cars ever made. The F1 achieves 501 hp/ton, or just 4 lb/hp, while the Ferrari Enzo (even with its significantly higher raw output) measures behind the F1 at 434 hp/ton (4.6 lb/hp) due to its greater weight.

McLaren F1

* 0-60 mph 3.2 s
* 0-100 mph 6.3 s
* 0-150 mph 12.8 s
* 0-200 mph 28.0 s

Bugatti Veyron

* 0-60 mph 2.5 s
* 0-100 mph 5.5 s
* 0-150 mph 11.3 s
* 0-200 mph 22.2 s

The McLaren F1 has a top speed of 231 mph, restricted by the rev limiter at 7500 rpm. The true attainable top speed of the McLaren F1 was reached on the 31st of March, 1998 by the (then) five-year-old XP5 prototype. Andy Wallace piloted it down the 9 km straight at Volkswagen’s Ehra-Lessien test track in Wolfsburg, Germany, setting a new world record of 386.5 km/h (240.14 mph) at 7800 rpm. As Mario Andretti noted in a comparison test, the F1 is capable of engaging a seventh gear, thus, with a higher gear ratio or addition of a seventh gear, it is possible for the McLaren F1 to attain an even greater top speed. This is something which can also be observed by noticing that the top speed was reached at 7800 RPM while the poweplant’s peak output is at 7400 RPM.

Some claim the record is not true nor official due to the fact the car can be considered to be modified prior to the test — the rev limiter was removed. However making minor modifications is common when testing the top speed of supercars, for example removing mirrors, covering up air ducts and using different tires has been seen before.

Record claims

The title of “world’s fastest production road car” is constantly in contention, especially because the term “production car” is not always well-defined by the media. Critics of the F1 will point to the relatively tiny number of cars produced and the extremely high price and contend that a car available to so few is hardly a “production car”.

Callaway’s Sledgehammer Corvette[citation needed], the road going version of the Dauer-Porsche 962 (winner of the 1994 24 Hours of Le Mans as a GT) and most recently a version of the 911 Turbo produced by German tuner ‘ 9ff ‘ have all proven in testing that they’re capable of top speeds matching or in excess of 240 mph, although none of them are considered production cars, and hence cannot displace the McLaren’s record. More recently, the Koenigsegg CCR recorded a speed of 388 km/h (241 mph), a record which has in turn been broken by the Bugatti Veyron, with a top speed of 407 km/h (253 mph). Both of these are considered to be production cars, and have therefore each beaten the McLaren’s record.

As a sidenote, the 962, Veyron, Ariel Atom, Koenigsegg CCX, the turbocharged version of Saleen’s S7 and RUF’s Rt 12 can hit 60 miles per hour in 3.2 seconds or less, meaning that even while certain cars can’t break the McLaren’s top speed, they are capable of matching or beating its 0-60 time.

In response to this, however, designer Gordon Murray has repeatedly stated, usually in his column in Evo Magazine, that the F1 was never meant to break records, but rather perform as the ultimate driver’s car. The Autocar magazine also stated in their review (Autocar is the only car magazine, other than Road & Track 12/97, to have done an official road test/review on the McLaren F1) that the McLaren F1 will remain the best supercar ever produced, which helps reinforce what Gordon Murray had said. Further evidence of it being the ultimate driver’s car is its light weight. It weighs only 1138kg while the Bugatti Veyron 16.4 weighs in at 1888kg. Gordon Murray’s target for the McLaren F1 was a curbweight of 1000kg, but ended up being 1138kg. It remains one of the lightest supercars ever built.

Scribbled on January 5th 2009 in Miscellaneous, News, Pictures
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