Have McLaren F1 values topped out?

The McLaren F1 was a game-changer when it came out in the early 1990s, and it's still widely regarded as one of the finest supercars ever made. It's little wonder that values have been climbing in recent years. The question for collectors is now: Will prices keep rising, or have they reached their zenith?

As recently as 2006, you could pick one up for less than $1 million: the database at classic car insurance firm Hagerty shows that an example in fair condition 10 years ago was worth around $700,000, while a top-notch, concours-ready specimen was valued at about $1.15 million. That seemed like a lot at the time, but just two years later, that range had skyrocketed to between $2.3 million and $3 million. Suddenly those 2006 prices seemed like a smart investment in hindsight, but after that initial jump, they stayed around that level for several more years before things started getting crazy.

"Buyers over the last several years have been end users as opposed to speculators and they routinely drive and enjoy the cars." – Jonathan Klinger, Hagerty

By the start of 2013, values had jumped to between $4.1 and 5.3 million. By the end of that year, they were up to between $6.5 and 8.9 million. And by the end of 2014, they had reached $7.9 million for one in fair condition, and over $10 million for a pristine example. But then things leveled out again.

"Values have risen quickly," notes Jonathan Klinger, vice president at Hagerty, "but it isn't a bubble situation. Buyers over the last several years have been end users as opposed to speculators and they routinely drive and enjoy the cars."

Sports Car Market records that the last F1 to change hands at auction was a 1998 model that RM Sotheby's sold for $13.75 million as part of the Pinnacle Portfolio in Monterey last summer. But that example had the rare best-of-both-worlds combination of the LM performance upgrades with the road-spec interior to make it stand out above the rest. Gooding & Company sold another F1 over the same weekend in 2013 for $8.47 million, but a year later, a seller refused a high bid of $10.75 million for a mint-condition example.

"For the time being, we see a very stable market for F1s," says David Brynan, senior specialist at Gooding. "Prices have risen dramatically over the past 10 years, though there continue to be sales in the $10-million-plus range for road cars and some of the more important racing cars have sold for about twice that amount." Hagerty estimates that if one were sold today, it would fetch a minimum of $8.3 million, and as much as $11.6 million.

The McLaren F1 hit the scene in 1992 in the midst of the golden era of supercars. The Ferrari F40 was just finishing its extended production run, the Bugatti EB110 had debuted the year before, and the Jaguar XJ220 had claimed the top speed record. But the new kid from Woking would soon supplant them all.

"Owning an F1 is like joining an exclusive club." – David Brynan, Gooding & Company

Notwithstanding a few scattered efforts, the F1 marked the first time that McLaren would branch out into producing a road-going automobile, and was the first to use a carbon monocoque chassis. It was designed by one of the foremost racing engineers in the business, and featured dramatic butterfly doors opening a three-seat cockpit with a central driving position that no one has dared replicate since. At its heart lay a massive 6.1-liter V12 engine, furnished by BMW and naturally aspirated at 627 horsepower, propelling the legend to 60 miles per hour in 3.2 seconds and on to a top speed in excess of 231 miles per hour. Those would still be impressive numbers today, but that was more than 20 years ago when even the Porsche 911 Turbo of the day offered less than 320 hp.

"The F1 is renowned as a no-compromises supercar," says Klinger from Hagerty. "It has a racing pedigree but is also driveable and usable. Add in rarity (just over 100 were built), and the car has become a remarkably significant design achievement."

Brynan at Gooding asserts that the McLaren is still "a unique supercar in many ways. The quality of the engineering is really second to none and it was designed as a true driver's car. Every detail was executed to the highest standard, they are beautifully made cars, and really nothing has come close since."

"These cars are instantly recognizable by enthusiasts around the world and appeal to a wide range of collectors as well as celebrities," says Brynan. "Many collectors who own an F1 own at least one example, with several collectors owning multiple F1s in different variants. Owning an F1 is essentially like joining an exclusive club."

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