It’s the rarest of the rare, one of 64 McLaren F1 road cars built but one of only two of them converted in period to Le Mans-spec. And it just sold for $19.8m.
Auctioned at RM Sotheby’s Monterey sale in California, $19.8m (£16.3m) is slightly less than RM expected, with a pre-sale estimate of between $21-$23m, but it’s still a lot more than any F1 has sold for before.
“The ownership exclusivity and ‘holy grail’ admiration associated with the F1 is second only to the Ferrari 250 GTO,” said RM Sotheby’s Alexander Weaver. “No other car stirs more emotions and evokes more excitement.”
So who was selling this ultimate street-legal version of Britain’s, indeed the world’s, most celebrated modern supercar, what is in effect the Le Mans-winning F1 GTR in a form you could drive to the shops? That would be Andrew Bagnall, a Bruce McLaren fan and New Zealand entrepreneur who’s raced at Le Mans and used to compete in touring cars in Australia.
Andrew bought his F1 LM-spec, or High Downforce, McLaren in 2007. He drove it regularly at home in New Zealand and in events around the world, having it fettled religiously by McLaren Special Ops in Woking.
What makes F1 chassis number 18 so special? This particular car, an F1 LM, is essentially a go-faster version of an already blindingly fast and accomplished car, not just a famous Le Mans winner in GTR form but also a top-speed record holder. Crucially all the mods – new front spoiler, new suspension, wider wheels and tyres, fixed rear wing and unrestricted GTR race engine putting out 780bhp at 8,500rpm – were done by McLaren in period. While there are F1 LM race cars, only two road cars were ever upgraded to LM spec by the factory in period.
Its sale price breaks the previous F1 auction record of $15.62m and it has become the most valuable modern-era supercar and most valuable British car ever sold at auction, pipping even the Aston Martin DBR1 (£16.9m) and Jaguar D-Type (£16.4m).
McLaren Special Operations, which has looked after the car all its life, reckons this car has even more downforce than the Le Mans winning 1995 GTR race car. As RM says, it is “the best imaginable iteration of an already perfect machine.”
“The modifications have turned it from a comfortable, easy road-going car to a very taut quasi-racing machine for the road,” said Andrew Bagnall. “One of the most enjoyable things about driving this car is just how the motor acts as a racer would on the road. It has almost no flywheel, so it changes gear with a snap, like no other car on the planet.”
All that and a cream leather interior highlighted by beige and brown Alcantara, cream Wilton carpets, and a beige Alcantara headliner. It might be race car underneath but there’s no skimping on the luxury here.
Whoever has bought it, we hope that they’re as an enthusiastic owner as Andrew Bagnall has been. The car, finished in platinum silver metallic, has covered 13,352 miles and, says Andrew, gets exercised once a month. “Bruce McLaren was a hero of mine, and I have had the pleasure of owning this amazing car for many years… I’ve thoroughly enjoyed driving it as intended throughout my entire period of ownership.”