1995 McLaren F1 LM Replica





I first saw the car on a magazine cover at a friend’s house when we were still at school back in 1995/6 and I remember being filled with feelings of awe and wonder as to how this must have been the most beautiful car ever created! I also remember how my feelings turned to despair and even a little jealousy after reading the article (many times) and realizing that even if I had all the money in the world, I could never even think about owning an LM. They were simply the most expensive cars ever built and not only that, there would only ever be five LMs on earth.

Back in 1999 I came across an ad where someone was selling what could only be described as no more than an idea of a part of a McLaren F1 body and bought it immediately.  We (my dad and I) decided to start straight away and build the ultimate supercar from those pieces, bought an old Westbank modified racecar chassis, had a very expensive Big Block Chev engine custom built, mated it with a g50 Porsche gearbox and started working on the body. Only thing is, I had zero experience in car building and the project soon died a slow death.

Many years later after having built, restored and customized a few cars, and because the flame had never gone out, the time came to finish the McLaren that had been gathering dust for so many years. But this time, I had gained a couple of years’ experience and also been able to obtain way more information about the car. So, I decided to discard everything I did on the car originally and started over from scratch with basically only the B-pillar of the body for reference. This time I wanted to do McLaren proud and build a car that would be as close to the real thing in every way as possible and this is how the “Carbon Copy” (as we like to call it) was born. This car represents one of my top 3 dream cars. 

The bodywork and paint took a total of approximately one year to complete. The mirrors were a gift from my uncle who lives in Germany and who sourced them over there and had them couriered to South Africa. The body is structural and made from an aluminum and carbon fiber composite for strength and to keep weight down (the car weighs only 1180kg with a full tank of fuel which is only 40kg more than the original). The door outers, side panels and nose panel were made from aluminum. There are impact bars inside the doors and also a tubular roll cage molded into the body and foot well. Even small things like the door hinges were custom made to be the same as the original car.

The colour of the car, according to McLaren, is Papaya Orange. It took me many years to get the right color as they are not eager to give out color codes. The suspension is a double wishbone. Spring rates were carefully calculated for comfort and performance. The adjustable coil overs were also custom made. Front and rear have 330mm and 305mm ventilated disks with four pod Brembo calipers and adjustable brake bias. The rear wing is DRS (Drag Reduction System) which means it can be adjusted either manually or automatically. This is an upgrade from the 1995 LM and GTR cars but still featured on most new McLaren cars. I also made it from carbon fiber. 

The intake/carb was upgraded to twin turbos with external wastegates and intercoolers with 650cc injectors. Powermods ecu for engine management. I used an imported V12 BMW motor from an 850i and paired it with a 6-speed manual ZF transmission. The original car also had a BMW V12 but it had double overhead cams and was normally aspirated. We couldn’t find a double overhead cam engine and decided to go for turbos instead to aim for the original 680bhp mark. The stainless exhaust has custom made manifolds and small silencers just to take the edge off. As with the original McLaren F1 the engine bay was lined with gold foil to radiate heat away from the body.

I had to make the engine/gearbox adapter and also the flywheel as I couldn’t find anything that would fit the requirements. As with the rest of the car, I did all interior fabrication and upholstery myself. The seat was custom molded to fit and made from carbon fiber. I made every part from the billet aluminum gear lever to the adjustable fuel pedal to be exactly the same as the original F1LM.  The steering is thanks to a re-upholstered Momo steering wheel with a quick release steering boss.

The dash is a 7inch color LCD display with built in GPS instead of the monochrome display on the original LM cars. I had to fabricate just about every single part on the car. The windows are polycarbonate and I molded the headlights in my wife’s oven – it took about 6 attempts. The fuel tank is a custom-made high flow tank going to a high pressure surge tank with adjustable pressure regulator and electronic pressure cut out. I hoped to build a really quick car but this thing is much faster than anything I have ever driven! We asked Danie if the end result was the same as the original plan:

All five original McLaren F1LM cars have subtle differences and even though I focused on one car this one has influences from all five. Even the build plaques are the same as the original with the only exception being the chassis number and who/where it was built. Only the road going F1 cars had air conditioning and none had power steering or power assisted brakes. I decided to add those comforts to the car as it would be used for road trips more than track days (if ever). The total rebuild time was 3 full years. 

I really want to say that I am super proud of this car but even more thankful for the opportunity I was given to build it. I was once a boy who dreamed of a car on a magazine cover and now it is my creation that is featured in this magazine. Thanks to Joe and Daniel and the rest of the team for such awesome pictures and for the platform to showcase my work.