McLaren F1 buying guidehttp://www.classicandperformancecar.comClassic and Performance CarClassic and Performance Car
For more than a decade the McLaren F1 was hailed as the fastest production car in the world. On August 8, 1993, in the dry heat of southern Italy’s Nardo test track, Dr Jonathan Palmer nailed the throttle of prototype XP3 to record 231mph.
With the rev-limiter removed, the car would go even faster – Andy Wallace took XP5 to 244.5mph in 1998 – but to obsess about top speeds is to miss the point. The F1 was never intended to set records or win races. Its designer, Gordon Murray, had merely set out to build the best possible road-going driver’s car. He did that by following Colin Chapman’s famous dictum ‘add lightness’, but also by building-in a quality of engineering that the Lotus boss would never have countenanced.
The result was the F1, introduced in 1993 and a modern classic that has still to be displaced in many enthusiasts’ hearts by the even faster, yet less pure, Bugatti Veyron. Powered by a BMW-built 6.1-litre V12, the F1 had a fighter-pilot style central driving position and dramatic lift-up doors. Perhaps more significant was what it didn’t have – power assisted steering, power brakes, ABS or traction control. All for a price tag of more than half-a-million pounds in 1993.
You either got the F1, or you didn’t – but all true petrolheads did. McLaren built just 100 cars between 1993 and 1998. To own one, or just to aspire to one, marks you out as an enthusiast of the first order.
McLaren F1 specialist - Dean Lanzante
‘It’s just a car. Mechanically it’s very straightforward, almost basic. The brakes and steering aren’t power assisted and there’s no traction control. Everyone talks about it in hushed tones as being one of the ultimate supercars but it’s not really that complicated.’
Brave words, but Dean Lanzante can walk the talk. Lanzante Limited has looked after maybe 15 McLaren F1s since the car’s launch, and it’s the only company apart from McLaren itself that has this level of experience.
‘While our hourly rate is certainly very modest for, say, rebuilding an engine, the same rate applies if, for example, we’re transporting a car back from the Nürburgring. It all averages out to a bill that’s acceptable for the customer yet allows us to go the extra mile in making sure a car is properly presented.’
That casual mention of the ’Ring is a clue to Lanzante’s main focus, which is motorsport. The company was founded by Dean’s father Paul (who had previously worked at Maranello Concessionaires and for Tyrrell), and the F1 connection goes back to 1995, when the Lanzante- prepped Veno Clinic GTR won outright at Le Mans.
‘We don’t actually deal with many road cars,’ explains Dean. ‘We only really got involved when a customer asked us if we could have a go at sorting out a gearbox problem. We said OK, not knowing quite what to expect, and found it was relatively simple to repair. As I said earlier, the F1 is not an especially complicated car.
‘The one big job on the F1 is changing the fuel tank. It’s a bag tank and it has to be replaced every five years, for insurance reasons. That means removing the rear suspension, taking the engine and ’box out, and disconnecting the air conditioning, so it all adds up to a big bill: we usually estimate 100 hours labour, plus nearly four grand for the tank itself.
‘But a lot of those 100 hours will be spent in attending to other tasks while the engine is out. For example, we’ll usually give the clutch a check over. The clutch will typically need a service every 6000 miles; it’s a multi- plate carbon unit and it might last less than that if the car is regularly driven hard. Equally, it may just need shimming to be given a new lease of life. We haven’t changed the clutch in the ex-Ray Bellm car since 1996.
‘Otherwise there are no real nasties. The engine is chain driven, so the only belts are for the water pump and alternator, both of which can be changed in situ – just about. It uses BMW M3 plugs, which aren’t cheap but are easy to replace; if an F1 starts to run a bit rough, changing the plugs will often cure it. These are very reliable engines.’
All very positive, but while F1 ownership may not be horrendously expensive, it is not cheap either. A flick through some recent invoices reveals that a set of brake pads costs £236 – they have to be machined to fit the calipers – and a replacement windscreen is £2500. The same money buys the lower section of a front bumper, remade to original spec by Lanzante’s carbonfibre specialist, while a pair of rear wishbones is priced at £3000. Not outrageous for bespoke items, mind you.