This LM-spec McLaren F1 could sell for $20 million

There is greatness, and greatness by imitation. In the case of this particular McLaren F1, both sorts are measured by the double-digit millions. 

These days, you’re probably most familiar with McLaren’s racing presence and characteristic Papaya Orange livery in the context of Formula 1. This F1, however, has little to do with the racing series that shares its hallowed abbreviation. Instead, chassis no. 018 traces its heritage to McLaren’s 1995 victory at Le Mans.

Given how continually appealing the F1’s allure and legacy have proved since the car hit the scene in the early ’90s, there’s no doubt all eyes will be on this McLaren when it crosses the block at RM Sotheby’s Monterey sale this year. The current pre-sale estimate is set at $21–23M.

Between 2000 and 2001, chassis no. 018 phased, moon-like, from Midnight Blue to Platinum Silver Metallic. McLaren Special Operations loaded the gold-plated engine bay with the de-restricted, higher-revving GTR engine, and tweaked the side skirts and the front spoilers, fidgeting with the aero with all the fuss and reverence of a maid of honor to a bride. The GTR engine bears the thumbprints of that historic year in its increased compression ratio (compared to the original-spec BMW 570/2), different pistons and cams, larger radiators, and a sport exhaust.

1994 McLaren F1 'LM-Specification' engine
RM Sotheby's

As part of the Extra-High Downforce kit, engineers affixed a massive spoiler to the F1/018’s rear deck, drawing upon both aesthetic cues and technical experience gained from the Le Mans victory.

RM quotes the 2006 summary of chassis no. 018 by McLaren Special Operations: “[T]he car is estimated to have more downforce than the Le Mans-winning 1995 GTR race car.”

1994 McLaren F1 'LM-Specification' front
RM Sotheby's

In 1995, McLaren made its first entry and took home its first win at Le Mans—as of 2019 still the only marque to win Le Mans on the first attempt. (Oh, and F1 GTRs also came in third, fourth, fifth, and 13th. Talk about asserting dominance.)

The shock waves of that victory were slow to lose their resonance, and in addition to the track-only GTRs and the two F1 GTs required for homologation, McLaren celebrated that ’95 win in with five F1 LMs. (Introducing new acronyms was, apparently, unthinkable—the F1 truly kept Le Mans greatness within the family.) These five LM models gleamed with Papaya Orange outside, the requisite gold foil inside the engine bay, and bore the beast of a V-12 that powered its GTR brothers to fame—without the FIA-mandated air restrictions. According to McLaren’s site, “While the road-going F1 produced 627 hp and the F1 GTR racer 600 hp, the F1 LM’s unfettered 6.1-litre V-12 produced an incredible 680 hp at 7800 rpm.”

Some F1s raced at Le Mans, others were built for customers in Le Mans-spec, and others achieved LM-spec perks per request of their owners. Chassis no. 018 is one such car—one of only two road-going, original production spec F1s to receive the LM makeover. Since this particular car started life as a “base” 1994 F1, anyone lucky enough to sit in the center seat can relax into creamy neutral hues of leather and Alcantara—while being aurally assaulted by 7800 rpm of race-track awesome that’s anything but civilized.

Though chassis no. 018 doesn’t fit neatly under a single acronym, that confusion is a symptom of its place in McLaren lore. At its roots, this car acknowledges the road-going supercar, but with that legendary BMW V-12 in race trim and aero that outstrips the Le Mans-winning car, it pulls out all the stops in McLaren history both on the street and on the track.

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