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PRESS INTRODUCTIONS of exotic cars are, by their very nature, special events. And, without a doubt, the most exciting one I ever attended was the 1992 introduction of the McLaren F1. The setting was glamorous, The Sporting Club at Monaco. The timing was perfect, the evening of Thursday, May 28, the week of the 1992 Monaco Grand Prix (destined to be won by Ayrton Senna in a McLaren-Honda).
The press information for the McLaren F1 is a bibliophile’s delight. It’s understated, yet oversize (11 3/4 in. x 11 3/4 in.), 72 pages of articulate commentary and artful photography. Early on, Technical Director Gordon Murray states McLaren’s goal succinctly: “Our main objective has been to create the purest driver’s car, a new beginning, a design which simply re-writes all existing standards.”
Murray was given carte blanche by McLaren’s Mansour Ojjeh and Ron Dennis. From the onset, Gordon recognized that “Mass is the essential enemy of dynamic performance.”
The resulting F1 was lightweight (2244 lb.), of compact dimensions (168.8 in. overall) and possessing responsive power (a normally aspirated 6.1-liter V-12 producing 550 hp).
Gordon’s idea of “the purest driver’s car” called for neither left- nor right-hand drive. Instead, the driver’s seat is centered, with accommodations for a pair of passengers, slightly aft, to the left and right.
Replete with comfort and convenience features, the F1 has air conditioning, electric window lifts, remote central locking, a special document case beneath the driver’s seat, a custom Kenwood stereo sound system, passenger seating accommodating two 95-percentile adults—and driver controls specially tailored to the purchaser.
The engine, mid-mounted and sourced from BMW Motorsport, has reduced emissions as well as high output as design criteria. Features such as double overhead camshafts, four valves per cylinder and dry-sump lubrication are high-performance de rigueur; four oversize catalytic converters support its environmental aspects.
The F1’s aluminum cylinder block is a load-bearing member augmenting stiffness of its carbon-fiber chassis tub.
Suspension is conventional in having double A-arms, front and rear. Even here, though, advanced thinking prevails. Unique sub-frame assemblies at both ends were the subjects of McLaren patents.
Other patents applied for included a fan-assisted boundary layer control of aerodynamics and another giving active control of the car’s aerodynamic center of pressure.
The initial McLaren F1 press information paid homage as well to company founder, Bruce McLaren, with a brief history of McLaren race cars.
McLaren spirits were high at that Thursday press launch prior to the 1992 Monaco Grand Prix. The Sporting Club had all the right crowd—even me—sipping champagne and awaiting the unveiling of this new exotic car.
Then, amid plenty of son et lumière, accompanied by Simon Jeffes music from Still Life at the Penguin Cafe ballet suite, the McLaren F1 appeared magically before us.
We all cheered. ds
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2013