A limited-edition McLaren road car with a gold-plated engine bay has become the British manufacturer’s most expensive vehicle to ever sell at auction.

The 1994 McLaren F1 LM – standing for Le Mans – went under the hammer on Friday during RM Sotheby’s Monterey auction in California – which is widely regarded as the calendar’s biggest and most expensive sale of collectible vehicles.

Before the auction, the unique car had been given an estimated sale price of $21million to $23million – the higher of which would have made it the most expensive British-built car to sell at auction in history.

However, the hammer dropped well below that landmark figure, though the winning bidder paid a staggering $19.8million (£16.2m). 

While it missed out on the overall British-car record, it was still the most money anyone has ever handed over for a McLaren sold at auction.  

Going for gold: This limited-edition F1 LM has become the most expensive McLaren ever sold at auction

Going for gold: This limited-edition F1 LM has become the most expensive McLaren ever sold at auction

Its party piece is the gold-lined engine bay. The precious metal helps to dissipate the generated by the ferocious 6.1-litre engine

Its party piece is the gold-lined engine bay. The precious metal helps to dissipate the generated by the ferocious 6.1-litre engine

The car went under the hammer on Friday as part of the RM Sotheby's Monterey sale in California - considered one of the biggest vehicle auctions of the year

The car went under the hammer on Friday as part of the RM Sotheby’s Monterey sale in California – considered one of the biggest vehicle auctions of the year

Just 106 McLaren F1 road cars were built, though this one is like no other. 

The silver two-door supercar spent the first six years of its life as a standard F1 but was upgraded by McLaren to the LM specifications – usually reserved for the car firm’s endurance racers – in 2000. 

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It is one of just two road cars to be given the LM specifications by McLaren and was awarded the honor in tribute to the car’s victory in the 1995 24-hour Le Mans race. 

In order to bring the car up to LM spec, its V12 680bhp engine was upgraded, as were its brakes and exhaust system.

But the standout modification was the incredible gold-coated engine bay.

The upgrade isn’t just for aesthetics – the precious metal helps to dissipate the heat that is generated by the 6.1-litre engine, therefore improving performance over prolonged periods.

Other notable upgrades included a higher-spec transmission cooler and two additional radiators.

This 1995 model is just one of two road cars that were upgraded to racing LM (Le Mans) spec

This 1995 model is just one of two road cars that were upgraded to racing LM (Le Mans) spec 

The McLaren is now the third most expensive British-built car to go under the hammer in history

The McLaren is now the third most expensive British-built car to go under the hammer in history

The silver two-door spent the first six years of its life as a standard F1 but was upgraded by McLaren to the LM specifications in 2000

The silver two-door spent the first six years of its life as a standard F1 but was upgraded by McLaren to the LM specifications in 2000

It was given the Le Mans specification by McLaren, after one won the famous 24-hour race in 1995

It was given the Le Mans specification by McLaren, after one won the famous 24-hour race in 1995

Better heat management of the engine means the BMW-developed V12 engine car run at peak performance levels for longer periods of time

Better heat management of the engine means the BMW-developed V12 engine car run at peak performance levels for longer periods of time

While the performance mods have made it accelerate, turn and stop like a ferocious racer, McLaren also went to work to make it more comfortable for use on the road.

It upgraded the air-conditioning, a radio was added to the CD player and the headlamps were changed to gas-discharge units.

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Finally, the standard 17-inch wheels were replaced by 18-inch GTR wheels mounted with specialist racing tyres.

Alexander Weaver, a car specialist with RM Sotheby’s, had described the one-off vehicle as ‘the ultimate supercar’, adding that it had ‘long been regarded as the benchmark by which all others are compared’.

He added: ‘This particular example has always been my favourite and one that is widely regarded as the most desirable of all specifications.

‘No other car stirs more emotions and evokes more excitement.

‘The level of ownership exclusivity and ‘holy grail’ admiration associated with the F1 is second only to the Ferrari 250 GTO, making this an excellent follow up to our 2018 sale.

‘It truly is an opportunity not to be missed.’

Interest was high in the stunning car and if you manage to win the auction. The winning bidder also got a bespoke luggage set

Interest was high in the stunning car and if you manage to win the auction. The winning bidder also got a bespoke luggage set

Alexander Weaver, a car specialist with RM Sotheby's described it as 'the ultimate supercar'

Alexander Weaver, a car specialist with RM Sotheby’s described it as ‘the ultimate supercar’

According to the odometer, the car has covered just 21,439km, which is around 13,320 miles

According to the odometer, the car has covered just 21,439km, which is around 13,320 miles 

The cabon-fibre rear spoiler is one of the additions give to the 200mph-plus supercar and is designed to improve downforce in fast corners

The cabon-fibre rear spoiler is one of the additions give to the 200mph-plus supercar and is designed to improve downforce in fast corners

The auctioneer's car specialist added that the McLaren supercar has long been regarded as the benchmark by which all others are compared

The auctioneer’s car specialist added that the McLaren supercar has long been regarded as the benchmark by which all others are compared

As well as setting a new record for the marque, the F1 LM has also become the third most expensive British motor ever sold to a highest bidder.

The mantle of the priciest goes to a 1956 Aston Martin DBR1 which sold for £18.4million in August 2017 and a 1955 Jaguar D-Type which sold for £17.9million a year earlier – both at the annual RM Sotheby’s Monterey showpiece sale. 

Of the top ten most expensive cars ever sold at auction the McLaren will be the only one built later than 1967.

The second LM-specification F1 sold with RM Sotheby’s for $13,750,000 (£11.3m) in 2015, though the previous record had been held by the first F1 imported to the US.

Also built in 1995, it sold for $15,620,000 (£12.8m) at a Bonhams’ rival sale in 2017, which is also held during Monterey Car Week in California. 

A 1965 Aston Martin DB5 ordered by Eon Productions to promote James Bond films Goldfinger and Thunderball was sold by RM Sotheby’s a just 24 hours earlier for $6.4million.



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