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McLaren Opens F1 Service Center in the U.S.

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All images courtesy of McLaren Automotive Inc. North America.

The McLaren F1 is the superlative of supercars, a much-admired design that no one has dared truly imitate. Extremely lightweight, constructed with pioneering techniques and materials that would embarrass most top-end race car manufacturers, and ridiculously powerful when it debuted in 1992, the F1 pushed the production-car top speed record over the 240 mph barrier in the 1990s when the previous record holder couldn’t even top 220 mph.* And, yet, it was still docile and civilized enough to take it out to get groceries. When McLaren went racing with the F1 GTR, the track car’s 6.1-liter BMW V-12 engine actually had to be restricted to make less power than the roadgoing version. They still won Le Mans with it the first time out.

Today, the F1 remains an extremely sought-after collector car, with just 106 total examples produced, including prototypes, race cars and a handful of other modified versions. Prices at auction are well in the seven-figure range—sometimes eight!

Though never officially sold in the U.S., McLaren believes there are about 20 examples, each privately imported, in this country. But where can you go to service such a truly exotic automobile? McLaren Automotive recently announced the opening of the North American McLaren F1 Service Center. Without revealing its exact location, the company only reported that McLaren Philadelphia operates the center, a separate facility from their main service building, “located at a remote site in Pennsylvania, set up to ensure customer discretion and privacy.” We’d like to think that it’s an underground lair with inscrutable biometric security, perhaps a moat with crocodiles, and that Dr. Evil was consulted on its design and construction.

Annual service on an F1 includes replacement of fluids, filters and wiper blades, a full suspension inspection and then a high-speed run on a closed circuit or runway. Every other year, added services include flushing the brake fluid and attending to the brakes, “a more in-depth vehicle alignment,” CV joints, coolant and A/C service. If you hang onto your F1 for five years, McLaren recommends replacing the fuel tank, which requires removing the entire drivetrain from the car. Special F1-specific tools have been provided to the service center.

Previously, such extensive F1 service could only be performed at the McLaren Special Operations facilities, based at their Woking, U.K. headquarters, requiring some pretty serious logistics for F1 owners to keep their cars maintained. According to Tony Joseph, President, McLaren North America, “The key to servicing and maintaining a McLaren F1 correctly is allowing adequate time for the technician to meticulously check every nut and bolt—servicing an F1 is not a quick process. For North American owners, when you add up the time the actual service takes, with transport time to and from the U.K. – it equals a lot of time away from their vehicle. Having a service center in North America will allow us to drastically cut back on transport time and gives us an authorized facility that prioritizes North American F1s and owners.”

With no specific date, McLaren also announced a future F1 service facility on the West Coast.

* How far have we come in the past 26 years? Perhaps not as far as we think, since the McLaren F1 remains the fastest normally aspirated production car ever built.