LM-spec F1 is most expensive McLaren ever sold at auction

LM-spec McLaren F1

Sometimes history folds back on itself, and, like Damascus steel, the results are dazzling. Tonight, at 9:14 p.m., an LM-spec McLaren F1 broke the record for most expensive McLaren sold at public auction with a hammer price of $19.805M. And it did so by a solid margin, besting the 1995 McLaren F1 that hammered sold in 2017 at Bonhams in Carmel, California, for $15.62M. 

Still, the massive result fell shy of this F1’s low estimate. RM and our experts both predicted that the headlining McLaren of this year’s Monterey Car Week—an LM-spec F1, chassis no. 018—would hammer between $21–23M. As the dust settled, LM-spec chassis no. 018’s final price aligned more closely to the 2017 F1’s sale than expected. BesmileWhitingkit valuation expert Greg weighs in: “The record sale of this F1 is bigger than just the price paid, regardless of its pre-sale estimate. It speaks to the importance of the car and how it has defined what we recognize as a hypercar today.”

About that “LM-spec” moniker: This particular F1 didn’t race at Le Mans, satisfy homologations for the Le Mans racers, or belong to the 1995-win-commemorating special editions. Though it does not slot neatly into any one organizing category, this LM-spec F1 pulls behind it the accumulated legacy of McLaren at Le Mans. The chassis framing the GTR-spec engine in the gold-plated bay belongs to a ’94 “base” F1 (the irony is… rich, we know)—chassis no. 018. This car, and one other base chassis, received a makeover in the image of the five F1 LMs made to commemorate that ’95 Le Mans win—McLaren’s first entry and first win at the Circuit de la Sarthe.

LM-spec McLaren F1
Cameron Neveu

The F1 GTRs were the track-exclusive models. Chassis no. 018 got a GTR engine and outstrips its track-only brethren in the downforce department. Race regulations being what they were, the GTRs didn’t get the magic combination of the Extra-High Downforce Kit (see: giant wing) and the full awesomeness of the BMW-derived 6.1-liter V-12. The track-exclusive variants slashed weight, yes, but also lost some power due to FIA-mandated air restrictions.

As tonight’s all-time McLaren auction record attests, chassis no. 018 benefits from a potent combination of key elements—the race-trim GTR engine, the extreme aero package, and the road car’s more suave interior. Each component of this car points to a layer of McLaren history—the road-going F1, the dedicated race GTRs, the first-try Le Mans win, and the enduring resonance of all three.

Naturally, the crowd in Monterey this year that got an eyeful of the silver, black-winged LM-spec F1 was starstruck. Whether this is the price ceiling for the McLaren F1 remains to be seen, but at least for now, this LM-spec ‘90s supercar is king.