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A McLaren F1 that Elon Musk called ‘the best car ever’ is up for grabs

A McLaren F1 that Elon Musk called 'the best car ever' is up for grabs

The coveted 1998 McLaren F1 could fetch more than $20 million at auction.



(Patrick Ernzen/ ©2022 Courtesy of RM Sotheby’s)

A hidden example of a McLaren F1 – what some call the best supercar of the 1990s – is headed to an RM Sotheby’s auction house, where it will show its engine for the first time in more than a decade.

(Patrick Ernzen/ ©2022 Courtesy of RM Sotheby’s)

The accolades from F1 are numerous. It was the first road car to be built with active aerodynamics – a staple of today’s hypercars. It was the most expensive new car ever built, with a price tag north of $1 million. It won the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1995, its first appearance in the announced endurance race.

And as RM Sotheby’s points out, F1 is: still The world’s fastest naturally aspirated road car, with 627 horsepower from a 6.1-liter BMW V12 that can push the rocket on wheels to 242.8 mph.

(Patrick Ernzen/ ©2022 Courtesy of RM Sotheby’s)

Despite its non-renewable fuel source, Tesla CEO Elon Musk once tweeted that F1 is the “best car ever” after revealing that he preferred the car over a house in Palo Alto after selling his first company in 1999.

“When my first company was bought, I had to choose between buying a house in Palo Alto or a McLaren F1 (best car ever imo). Wasn’t a competition. I bought F1 and a small apartment that was much cheaper than the car.”

(Patrick Ernzen/ ©2022 Courtesy of RM Sotheby’s)

Musk didn’t mention that he crashed his F1 in 2000 while showing off investor Peter Thiel, but this example, chassis No. 059, fared much better. It has been privately owned and air-conditioned from a world-class collection since 2012. This is also the only known example to leave the factory with a very late headlight modification that significantly increased visibility at the request of F1 owners.

RM Sotheby’s has much more about the extensive provenance of chassis no. 059:

Students of motorsport history will be well aware of the auspiciousness of this car’s chassis number, 059, as it shares that number with the race number of the F1 that took overall victory at the 1995 24 Hours of Le Mans, giving the significance of F1 in automotive history.

With this car completed and delivered in April 1998 as the 97th McLaren F1 built (making it one of the very last), this fact would not have escaped its first owner, who was no stranger to McLaren and F1.

(Patrick Ernzen/ ©2022 Courtesy of RM Sotheby’s)

That first owner was John Studholme of Boston, Lincolnshire in the United Kingdom. Studholme founded Dynamic Cassette International, which produced typewriter cartridges and would later switch to producing inkjet cartridges for printers. This was not Mr Studholme’s first F1 as he traded chassis number 017 with McLaren when purchasing this car, nor would it be his last F1 as he also owned the F1 GTR 14R.

He chose to finish his new F1 in Magnesium Silver over a black Alcantara and leather interior. The chassis number 059 was first registered in the UK in May 1998 in the name of Studholme and the car was immediately put into service with him. Archived maintenance records show that the F1 was serviced by McLaren Special Operations seven months after delivery and fitted with the High Downforce Kit and 18-inch wheels, which it still wears today.

(Patrick Ernzen/ ©2022 Courtesy of RM Sotheby’s)

By the time the 059 was first serviced, it had already driven about 4,676 miles. His maintenance records make for fascinating reading, as McLaren went into excruciating detail to ensure F1 would always perform at its best in all conditions. Nothing was overlooked during maintenance, a regime that included pre- and post-service testing on closed circuits, and even which CDs were present in the custom Kenwood six-disc CD changer was noted on arrival at MSO (Queen, Elton John and Fleetwood Mac were clear favorites of Studholme).

The car has been regularly serviced during its ownership, with invoices for each service from 1998 to 2012, verifying the current mileage of less than 16,400 miles as authentic. Importantly, these records show that although the car was used by Studholme as McLaren intended, the car was never abused and always returned to the factory to be properly maintained.

(Patrick Ernzen/ ©2022 Courtesy of RM Sotheby’s)

The F1 was taken over by its second and current owner in late 2012 and was exported to the US under the show or display exemption to reside in its world class collection where it would spend some time alongside yet another McLaren F1.

In that time, it’s built less than 300 miles and has mostly been in air-conditioned storage, the extra miles due to occasional practice in the garage. Note that the 059 is in need of recommissioning and we welcome interested parties to contact us directly for further information on general status.

No valuation was provided prior to the auction, but Hagerty’s indicates that a 1998 McLaren F1 could fetch anywhere from $14.8 million in “Fair” condition to $22.6 million in “Concours” condition. We’ll find out how much chassis number 059 is worth when the RM Sotheby’s Sealed sale closes on August 20.

Tags: auctions classic cars Elon Musk luxury McLaren F1 money Rides RM Sotheby’s supercars