This LM Specification F1 May Well Be The Ultimate Version Of McLaren’s Masterpiece
Throughout history, there have been moments when the conditions were just right to enable the creation of a machine that not only transcended beyond anything else in its category but also came close to that elusive goal of achieving perfection. The SR-71 Blackbird is one such machine: this extremely advanced strategic reconnaissance aircraft was unmatched in its era and at 2193.2 mph remains the fastest manned air-breathing jet aircraft ever made.
In the automotive world, just a handful of cars have been built that have achieved a similar feat. In the past 30 years the McLaren F1 is the only one that has done so. Gordon Murray’s vision in creating what was to become the ultimate analog performance car has been well documented. Having been given the task of creating the best road-going sports car by McLaren boss Ron Dennis, Murray designed a vehicle that moved the performance and technological yardsticks so far ahead of anything else out there that rival manufacturers needed decades to catch up.
Its 240.1mph record run may have been eclipsed (although it is still the fastest naturally-aspirated road car ever) but its purity of design is still a benchmark few come close to.
Of the 106 cars built (including seven prototypes), there were 64 production examples, 28 F1 GTR race cars, five F1 LM variants and two F1 GTs. Once production had been completed, two additional road-going examples were converted to LM specifications, but with a few subtle differences which arguably makes them the ultimate road-going variant of an already peerless road car. The original LM models were created to celebrate McLaren’s incredible racing successes at the 24 Hours of Le Mans where they took first, third, fourth, fifth and 13th in 1995. These five LM cars featured a number of the technical advancements found in the GTR race cars and were similarly spartan inside.
The car you see here was originally delivered to its first owner in 1994 as one of the batch of 64 standard production cars, chassis no. 018 was finished in Midnight Pearl Blue over black interior and remained unmodified until 2000 when its second owner returned the car to the factory to have it converted to LM specification.
Similarities to the five original LM variants include the upgraded 680hp 6.1-liter V12 engine, front air vents and 18-inch GTR wheels. Further mechanical changes include a transmission cooler, two additional radiators and a modified exhaust system. Where it and the only other LM-converted F1 differ are the addition of a high-downforce kit (HDK) which consist of a revised nose cone, front fender air vents and a massive rear wing giving them even more downforce than the LM cars.
Both LM-converted cars also retained their more comfortable interiors and chassis no. 018 underwent further changes a year later and now features an upgrade air-conditioner and radio. The exterior color was also changed to platinum silver metallic and the interior was completely re-trimmed in a mixture of beige and brown Alcantara, cream leather and carpets. To further maximize on-road driving safety and usability, gas-discharge headlamps replaced the originals and the race-spec dampers and springs were set to their softest setting.
Having accumulated just 21,439km (13,399 miles) in 25 years, this car has been meticulously maintained throughout its life latterly by the MSO division, it is also considered to be one of the most heavily developed F1s in existence according to F1 service program manager Harold Dermott. Being one of just two production road cars equipped with these extremely desirable upgrades in quite possibly the best color combination around, it is likely to fetch an impressive price when it goes up for auction at RM Sotheby’s Monterey sale between 15-17 August.
Yet it may still be the most cost-effective way to experience an LM-spec F1 as acquiring one of the five original LM cars is nigh on impossible. Three are owned by the Sultan of Brunei, one is parked in Ralph Lauren’s garage and the last one is in a private collection in the US. The other converted LM car, chassis no. 073, was sold by RM Sotheby’s in 2015 for $13.75-million (£11-m), while a standard road car sold for $15-million (£12-m) in 2017. That suggests that Chassis no.018 may well sell for a lot more. Then again, the SR 71 Blackbird of the automotive world was never going to be a bargain.
Images courtesy of RM Sotheby’s