In the Beginning ... :
The concept for the McLaren F1 began in 1988, when McLaren's top brass and designer Gordon Murray decided to use what they'd learned in Formula 1 racing to build a roadgoing supercar -- regardless of cost. The results of their brainstorm, the first car to use a carbon fiber chassis, debuted as a prototype during the 1992 Formula 1 race weekend in Monaco. Interested buyers could order a McLaren F1 built to their specifications -- and wait another two years for it to be hand-built and delivered.
The Greatest Car of All Time:
According to many of the car mags at the time, anyway. The McLaren F1 had a 6.1-liter V12 engine with four valves per cylinder built by BMW. It kicked out 631 hp and had 479 lb-ft of torque on tap. But the F1's carbon body meant it only weighed 2500 lbs, meaning it only had to haul 4 pounds for every 1 horsepower. This gave it a 0-60 time of 3.2 seconds and top speed of 231 mph -- a roadgoing record that the F1 held for a decade, until the Koenigsegg CCR hit 245 mph.
The McLaren F1 put the driver front and center--literally. The driver sat in the middle of the car, with two passenger seats on either side and little behind him. The driver's seat was fashioned to order for each owner, and the steering wheel was positioned according to his preferences. The carbon-fiber body was new (and expensive), but the F1 was also the first to incorporate active ground effects with underbody fans that created downforce--negating the need for the more modern all-wheel drive.
Little Things Mean a Lot:
Though it was built for speed, comfort was not neglected. Luggage compartments ran along the sides of the car, and the available fitted luggage sets included a golf bag. Air conditioning, remote keyless entry, a Kenwood stereo, and a modem for connecting to McLaren HQ were all standard -- even in the mid-90s. Owners also received a Tag Heuer watch with their car's production number engraved on the face and a set of gold-plated titanium Facom tools in a full-sized rolling tool chest.
Production Numbers and a Special Edition:
From 1994 to 1998, McLaren produced 107 total F1s, 65 of which were street cars sold to customers. Depending on the exchange rate between dollars and British pounds, the car cost about one cool million when it was new. In 1995, the F1 scored a victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and to commemorate the event McLaren built five LM edition F1s. These extremely rare cars have 691 hp, more downforce, improved handling, larger radiators, and a more open exhaust system.