I recently had the chance to check out Jay Leno’s McLaren F1. This was a hugely important moment for both me and for my viewers, who have been clamoring for me to review a McLaren F1 for as long as I can remember. For months, I’ve simply ignored these requests, thinking I would never have the chance to review a McLaren F1 — but then, it happened.
I’ll go over the details of how it happened and what it was like to spend the day with Jay and the McLaren F1 in a separate post, but for now let’s talk F1 — and, specifically, let’s talk about how it’s the greatest car ever made. We’ll start with my basis for saying that: because it’s the most expensive modern car in existence. We all love the Ferrari F40, but you can pick up one of those for $1.2 million. A Porsche Carrera GT is $700,000. Even a Ferrari Enzo is $3 million or so. But a McLaren F1? If you can find one available, you’ll pay close to $20 million for the privilege of owning it. Before we even get into the driving experience, we already know the market seems to think it’s the greatest car ever made — or at least the greatest modern car.
So now let’s discuss why the F1 is so valuable. One reason is because the F1 is so rare: only 64 examples of the regular McLaren F1 road car exist. But the Lincoln Blackwood is rare, and yet it’s not valuable — so that’s not all it is. The other reason is, of course, that the McLaren F1 is just insanely special. One major reason is the top speed: the F1 will reach over 220 mph, and it was the fastest car on the planet for over a decade. It’s still the fastest naturally-aspirated car. And then there’s the 3-seat setup: one in the middle, two on each side. The gold plating in the engine bay that acts as a heat shield. The pure and complete focus on making it the ultimate driver’s car, cutting down the weight and purpose-building every possible item.
But if you’re a car enthusiast, you probably know most of this stuff. What you don’t really know is what this car is like to drive — and neither do I. Jay called me to let me film this video and told me I can’t really drive it, due to the insurance situation: you have to go through a lot of approvals to let someone else drive your $20 million car. I told him I didn’t really want the responsibility of driving it anyway, but I asked if he’s drive me around in it. So he did, for 40 minutes.
And, indeed, Jay really let it loose. He spun the tires very briefly in fourth gear. He got it well into some exciting speeds on the 805 freeway, and he hit redline and bounced off the rev limiter. He really gave me a thrilling ride in the car, all the while explaining his story with it (he paid $800,000 secondhand back in the 1990s), and telling me details about his ownership experience — like how often he drives it (once every few months) and how his shop technicians have performed some work on the car over the years, including major servicing.
The McLaren F1 is generally considered to be the greatest sports car of all time, and with good reason: it’s simply an amazing vehicle, with a design carried out from start to finish using very specific principles and a very focused vision. I still haven’t driven the F1, so I can’t precisely tell you my thoughts on the driving experience — but now, in this video, you have Jay Leno’s take, and he knows cars a lot better than I do. It’s an amazing car, and spending time with it really is an amazing experience. You’re in awe of it from the moment you first lay eyes on it, and that awe continues inside — regardless of what seat you’re sitting in.