The McLaren F1: It was 20 years ago this week
It was the final week of May, 1992. Location: The Sporting Club, Monte Carlo. The Principality was full of Lamborghinis, Porsches and Ferraris. For the Grand Prix, however, there was a new kid on the block – the McLaren F1 road car.
It’s hard to believe that Gordon Murray and Peter Stevens’ car was unveiled 20 years ago, but can you a more perfect location than Monaco on a Grand Prix weekend to unveil the ultimate – for the time – road car?
Work on the self-named ‘most desirable sportscar’ had begun three years earlier, in 1989. The McLaren design team was led by Gordon Murray, a legend who had become fed up with the restrictions of Formula One rules. So when Ron Dennis had suggested to him that he designed the ‘ultimate road car’, Murray had no second thoughts.
“I was told to start with a completely clean sheet of paper,” he recalls. “That included the engine, and to design the best sportscar I could.”
Three years later the innovative silver machine was unveiled, complete with ideas that Murray had stored in his head since the 1960s. “We were a small team,” continues Murray. “Thirty in all with eight designers, and we worked in a way that an F1 team would work. As soon as you get a ‘company committee’ or a big company structure, any ideas that look even remotely strange or new are squashed.”
Innovative ideas abounded in the McLaren F1. For instance; fan assisted aerodynamic system and ground effects (a throwback to Murray’s Brabham Fan Car?), and three seats – the driver sitting in the centre (“yes, I dreamed that up in the ’60s”).
Murray also called in some favours. BMW’s Paul Rosche and his team, who partnered Brabham to win the 1983 F1 title with Nelson Piquet, designed the V12 6.1-litre engine.
It was also practical; “It was designed to be a drivers’ super car that you could actually use,”.
Murray also added his own style to the car. A huge music fan, from Bob Dylan to the Sex Pistols, the stereo was an important part in his design. McLaren partner Kenwood came up with a 10-CD player that could drown out the glorious sound of the V12.
Then there was the icing on the cake. How about matching luggage to go with your £500,000 car? Or the titanium tool kit? Or the seat fitting on purchase to make sure the pedals felt right?
Yes, it was the ultimate sports car.