Tuesday, September 19, 2006

McLaren F1: Back to the Future

A dozen years ago, Gordon Murray came up with the ultimate supercar. That a car built in the age of 14.4 modems, brick sized cell phones, and Pentium 3 computers can whip any 2006 model street car (aside from the Bugatti Veyron) is sheer madness.

First, the obligatory numbers. Naught to 60 in 3.2 seconds. It has a BMW 6.1 liter V12 with 627 hp and 479 lb-ft of torque. Top speed is 231 mph. It took 6,000 man hours to hand assemble one of these puppies. Much of the time was spent hand cutting, curing, and gluing the 5,000 pieces of carbon fiber for the car. The power to weight ratio for the F1 is 4 lb/hp. Compare that to 4.6 lb/hp for the Enzo. You get the idea.

Everything about the car was about building the fastest, most comfortable, and most reliable machine known to man. Turbochargers and superchargers were poo-poo'ed because they increased the chance of mechanical problems. The perfect balance was needed so the driver's position in this three-seater was moved to front and center, a la an open wheeled racer. Front and rear overhangs were minimized. The engine, occupant, and fuel were placed as close to the center of gravity as possible.

But these numbers and nuggets of design trivia are meaningless. To really understand this car, I urge you to find the old Top Gear episode in which our friendly presenter Tiff Needell test drove an F1. The look on his face said it all-- sheer automotive nirvana.

Had Doc and Marty McFly had one of these McLaren F1's instead of the DeLorean, they would not have needed the flux capacitor to go back to the future.



Alan said...

If you really want to understand the car I recommend the excellent book "Driving Passion", the official tome detailing the cars birth from initial concept all the way through development, manufacture and sales including chapters on the LeMans cars.

Every single nut, bolt, fastener, gasket and wire was trimmed to minimal size and weight!

Maxichamp said...

Alan, Do you know the author of the book? I can't seem to find it on Amazon. Thanks.