Simanaitis Says

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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).


McLaren F1 press kit, text by Doug Nye, photography by Colin Curwood and Steve Garforth, historical photography by Dave Friedman, CTD Printers, 1992.

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.”


Gordon Murray, left, explains the F1’s Dihedral Door access to its one-plus-two seating. This and other images from McLaren F1.

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.”


Design sketches became increasingly detailed as work progressed.

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.


The F1’s central driving position is fundamental to its idealized ergonomics. Analog instrumentation is its chosen medium of communication.


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.


A carbon-fiber airbox resides atop the F1’s BMW MPower V-12.

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.


Computer-aided-design analyses gave the F1 torsional and bending stiffness unequaled by production cars of its era—and still exemplary two decades later.


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.


The F1’s front suspension includes a unique compliant sub-frame assembly.

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.


Bruce McLaren (1937-1970) founded the marque bearing his name in 1964. His first race car was an Austin 7. The MP4/6 at lower right won the 1991 Constructors’ Championship; Ayrton Senna won the corresponding Drivers’ Championship.


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,, 2013

7 comments on “McLAREN F1

  1. Tom Tyson
    November 18, 2013

    Hi Dennis,

    I have always admired the imaginative, single minded and yet pragmatic designs of Gordon Murray, but have wondered just how well ingress/egress worked for the driver of the F1. I assume that it can be accomplished without the driver having to resort to undignified crawling on hands and knees, but for the life of me, I can’t imagine how.

    Do you care to offer any insight about this?

    – TT

    • simanaitissays
      November 18, 2013

      It’s less awkward than that, provided, of course, the driver gets in first, ideally from the left to avoid the shifter.
      In truth, I accomplished this only once–at The Sporting Club in Monaco. (I was younger then, and somewhat less bear-proportioned.)

  2. Stephanie Bourassa
    November 18, 2013

    What a spectacular memory! Stuff dreams are made of…….

  3. carmacarcounselor
    November 18, 2013

    I remember thinking that this was how a supercar should be. Just a bit more than half the mass of a Bugatti Veyron, yet so far ahead of its time that it took 13 years for its performance to be surpassed. Of course those of us who were around then recall the 1966 Ferrari 365 P Pininfarina Speciale, which also had the tri posti seating arrangement.

  4. Lee
    September 9, 2014

    Reblogged this on thoughts on automotive design and commented:
    My personal view, expressed elsewhere on this blog- is that the Mac F1 is the finest example of automotive design so far in history. This is a nice little article by someone who was actually there at it’s launch in 1992.

  5. Lynx Automotive
    October 31, 2014

    You cannot go wrong with a McLAREN. Keep this up!

  6. Sam Moore
    July 6, 2018

    To anyone that’s interested
    I was present at the F1 launch in 1992 and have all the original owners pack with all negatives, intro letter, photos and boxed press pack
    I also have the weekends f1 program signed by Nigel Mansel
    I’m not sure what it’s worth and wether to sell or not so does anyone have any idea what it’s worth
    Many thanks

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This entry was posted on November 18, 2013 by in Classic Bits and tagged , , , , .
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