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.
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.