This Brand-New Dandelion Yellow McLaren F1 Still Wears Its Plastic Seat Covers
Photography courtesy of Tom Hartley Jnr
Let’s say you were a kid looking wide-eyed at the McLaren F1 when it shifted the production car paradigm so drastically back in 1992. Now suppose you continued pining for it and have since come into an incredible amount of disposable wealth that you’d like to allocate to the purchase of a special car. What do you choose?
This is a good option: a 1997 McLaren F1 in Dandelion Yellow that’s clocked just 239km (149mi) and still wears its factory-applied sheath of plastic over the Alcantara interior. This is as close to buying the car brand new from McLaren in the ‘90s as you’re going to get, and if you’re the kind of person who geeks out deeply over OEM accessories, prepare to have this car stuck in your head for a while. Offered for sale by Tom Hartley Jnr, the next owner of this perfectly preserved F1 (the scant mileage that does exist is explained by the factory’s pre-delivery break-in cycle) might not risk what could be the largest drive-it-off-the-lot depreciation ever recorded by taking a turn at the wheel, as it has never been registered in its life, let alone used on the street. That said, there are plenty of included extras to play around with, though it looks as if nobody has undone one strip of McLaren-branded packing tape on any of these items either.
It’s one thing to grasp the notion of an amazing car like this being socked away for a few decades by foresight-blessed investors, but rarely do such cars include the details like this one. Everything is here, including the pieces you didn’t know came with the car when new: the gold-plated titanium tool set that travels with the car; the additional Facom tool chest that doesn’t (unless you drive with a support car in tow, which if you have the bankroll to call on the price of this F1, it’s not unlikely); the still-sealed collection of luggage; the special edition TAG Heuer watch engraved with the car’s chassis number (060); and a number of other goodies including those as wonderfully nuanced as an unopened strip of windscreen film. The original Japanese owner also ordered the car with a number of interesting spares, including an LM-style exhaust and a GTR-style steering wheel, and optioned it with desirable pieces like a carbon driver’s seat and color-matched interior trim pieces. As if the car could further elevate its status as the ultimate road-going F1, it also bears on its rear flank the hand-painted signature of the man responsible for its conception and design, Gordon Murray. You couldn’t conceive of a better F1 to represent the model.
The car is remarkable—you don’t need anything but the photos to tell you that—but the person who purchased and preserved this car is intriguing in his own right. It’s a funny concept; unless instructed to do this by some savvy investment planner, the original owner of this car must have had more than a passing interest in the McLaren in order to consider it a sound investment option in the first place, which means he had to restrain himself from driving what is almost universally considered to be the ultimate driver’s car ever built. That’s a level of chastity difficult to fathom, and I only hope for his sake that he bought himself another F1 to enjoy—with the price this car is selling for, I’m sure he can afford to do so now at any rate.
It’s fitting that the lowest-mileage F1 in existence would be offered for sale in an anniversary year, though “25 years” doesn’t jive with the image presented by the McLaren F1. Timeless cars like this never look their age, and this Dandelion Yellow example of the greatest supercar of all time (it’s just true) represents the enduring and growing interest in the F1. But more than that, from the perspective of those of us without the means to live out a dream like this one, this kind of story adds another piece to the mythos around the F1. It will be another staple in the conversations enthusiasts have about this car (“Remember that yellow one a few years ago with the plastic still taped over the dash?”), and I’m sure if the price is ever revealed it will be a number both stratospheric and appropriate, given just how important this piece of history already is.