All Images: RM Sotheby’s

There are certain cars whose values have shot up so much that we should all kick ourselves for not having filled warehouses with them decades ago. Air-cooled Porsche 911s and mid-2000s Ford GTs come to mind, though one of the kings of collector-car appreciation has to be the McLaren F1, one of which recently sold for $19.8 million in Monterey.

Yesterday was the final day of Monterey Car Week, a celebration of ostentatious wealth, big hats, bad pants, old alcohol, and also cars. The week featured car shows and lots of auctions, with one particular auction held by RM Sotheby’s featuring an ultra-rare “LM” specification 1994 McLaren F1 that was expected to fetch between $21 million and $23 million.

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It ended up “only” selling for $19.805 million, according to Hagerty, but that’s still apparently the priciest F1 ever sold at auction. And that’s remarkable, considering that the other LM-spec F1 (yes, “other,” as there are only two on earth according to RM Sotheby’s) sold for $13,750,000 in 2015. (It was then was put up for a private sale in 2018; I don’t know how much if fetched, then, but I bet it was more.)

In case you’re curious about what this “LM” spec is, and also why this F1 has such an incredible rear wing, RM Sotheby’s breaks it down on its website, writing:

Following completion of the full production run in 1997, McLaren upgraded two “standard” F1 road cars to LM specifications, including upgrading the engine to unrestricted 680 hp GTR specification. Serial no. 073 (which RM Sotheby’s also had the honor of offering for sale) and the featured car, serial no. 018, were additionally equipped with the Extra-High Downforce Kit that included (and exceeded) the coachwork effects of the LM examples, including the front air vents and rear wing. Notably, these two cars retain their more comfortably outfitted interiors over the more spartan LM trim.

The auction company also describes where the engine gets its extra power, writing in the auction listing for the 1998 car:

These engines were further optimized with parts derived from the GTR race cars to provide 680 hp at 7,800 rpm, which was accomplished by increasing the compression ratio, changing the cams, using different pistons, and swapping airflow meters for air pressure sensors. Chassis no. 073 was also updated with larger radiators, to provide additional cooling, and a sports exhaust. It is one of only two road-going F1s to be fitted with an LM engine.

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To be honest, even if I went back 20 years, I still wouldn’t be able to afford an F1. Partly because I was eight years old at the time, and also because the F1 was still commanding high six-figure prices. But Jay Leno managed to get his hands on one, and earlier this month, while promoting his new show Jay Leno’s Garage, he told CNBC how great of an investment it was.

“I bought my McLaren F1 in 1999 for $800,000, and the last offer I got was $17,500,000,” he told the host. Eight hundred grand in 1999 dollars is about $1.25 million in modern money based on my basic inflation calculations, so it seems Jay isn’t kidding about the F1 having been a solid investment.

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Damn, I knew I should have saved my allowance instead of spending it on Pokémon cards.