A McLaren F1 That Elon Musk Called ‘The Best Car Ever’ Is Up For Grabs

The coveted 1998 McLaren F1 could fetch more than $20 million at auction.

(Patrick Ernzen/ ©2022 Courtesy of RM Sotheby’s)

A hidden away example of a McLaren F1—what some call the greatest supercar of the 1990s—is headed to an RM Sotheby’s auction block, where it will rear its engine head for the first time in over a decade.

(Patrick Ernzen/ ©2022 Courtesy of RM Sotheby’s)

The F1’s accolades are numerous. It was the first road car built with active aerodynamics—a staple of today’s hypercars. It was the most expensive new car ever built, with a price tag north of $1 million. It won 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1995—its first outing at the heralded endurance race.

And as RM Sotheby’s points out, the F1 is still the world’s fastest naturally aspirated road car, with 627 horsepower from a 6.1-liter BMW V12 capable of pushing the wheeled missile to 242.8 mph.

(Patrick Ernzen/ ©2022 Courtesy of RM Sotheby’s)

Despite its nonrenewable fuel source, Tesla CEO Elon Musk once tweeted that the F1 is the “best car ever” after revealing that he chose the car over a Palo Alto house following the sale of his first company in 1999.

“When my 1st company got bought, I had to decide between buying a house in Palo Alto or a McLaren F1 (best car ever imo). Was no contest. I bought F1 & a small condo that was much cheaper than the car.”

(Patrick Ernzen/ ©2022 Courtesy of RM Sotheby’s)

Musk failed to mention that he crashed his F1 in 2000 while showing off to investor Peter Thiel, but this example, chassis No. 059, fared much better. It’s been in climate-controlled private ownership of a world-class collection since 2012. This is also the only known example to have left the factory with a very late headlight modification that greatly increased visibility at the request of F1 owners.

RM Sotheby’s has much more on chassis No. 059’s extensive provenance:

Students of motorsport history will be keenly aware of the auspicious nature of this car’s chassis number, 059, as it shares that number with the race number of the F1 that took overall victory at the 1995 24 Hours of Le Mans, further affirming the F1’s significance in automotive history.

With this car having been completed and delivered in April 1998 as the 97th McLaren F1 built (making it amongst the very last), this fact would not have been lost on its first owner, who was no stranger to McLaren and the F1.

(Patrick Ernzen/ ©2022 Courtesy of RM Sotheby’s)

That first owner was John Studholme of Boston, Lincolnshire in the UK. Studholme founded Dynamic Cassette International which manufactured typewriter cassettes and would later transition to producing printer inkjet cartridges. This was not Mr. Studholme’s first F1, as he traded chassis number 017 into McLaren upon his purchase of this car, nor would this be his last F1 as he also owned the F1 GTR 14R.

Opting to finish his new F1 in Magnesium Silver over a black Alcantara and leather interior, chassis number 059 was first registered in the UK in Studholme’s name in May of 1998 and the car was immediately pressed into use with him. Service records on file show that seven months after delivery, the F1 was serviced by McLaren Special Operations and fitted with the High Downforce Kit as well as 18-inch wheels, which it still sports today.

(Patrick Ernzen/ ©2022 Courtesy of RM Sotheby’s)

At the time 059’s first service was carried out, it had already been driven some 4,676 miles. Its service records make for fascinating reading as McLaren went to excruciating detail to ensure that the F1 would always perform at its very best in any circumstances. Nothing was overlooked in servicing, a regimen which included pre- and post-service testing on closed circuits, and even what CDs were present in the bespoke Kenwood six-disc CD changer were noted upon arrival at MSO (Queen, Elton John, and Fleetwood Mac were clearly favorites of Studholme).

The car was serviced regularly during his ownership, with invoices on file for each service from 1998 to 2012, verifying the car’s present mileage of less than 16,400 miles as authentic. Importantly, these records show that while the car was used by Studholme as McLaren would have intended, the car was never abused and always returned to the factory to be properly looked after.

(Patrick Ernzen/ ©2022 Courtesy of RM Sotheby’s)

The F1 was acquired by its second and current owner in late 2012 and was exported to the US under the show or display exemption to reside within his world-class collection, where it would spend some time sitting alongside yet another McLaren F1.

In this time, it has accrued less than 300 miles on its odometer and remained largely in climate-controlled storage, the additional mileage a result of occasional exercise within storage. Of note, it is advised that 059 will require recommissioning and we welcome interested parties to contact us directly for further information on its overall status.

No pre-auction valuation was provided, but Hagerty’s indicates that a 1998 McLaren F1 could fetch anywhere from $14.8 million in “Fair” condition to $22.6 million in “Concours” condition. We’ll find out how much chassis No. 059 is worth when the RM Sotheby’s Sealed sale concludes on August 20.