Illustration for article titled Here’s Why There Are Seven ‘Missing’ McLaren F1s
Screenshot: Car Throttle (YouTube)

With an incredibly limited run of McLaren F1s ever produced, a mere 106, it’s surprisingly easy to keep track of where the cars end up and the legends they accrue as time goes by. But somehow seven of those cars have gone missing.

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It’s not like they’re gone-gone. People have an idea of where they could be, because they went into the vast collection of the Sultan of Brunei in the 1990s, and as far as anyone knows, that’s where they still are. But they haven’t been seen in over 20 years, and given the state of the Sultan’s collection, it’s entirely unclear what’s happened to them.

The story is told by Car Throttle on YouTube, and there’s more than just the tale of the missing McLarens:

It’s the story of the Sultan of Brunei during the 1980s and 90s, whose car collection was absolutely ridiculous. We’re talking hundreds of supercars, the kind of excess most of the world can only dream about. When the F1 came out, he did the only thing that made sense. He bought ten of them.

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But who was the Sultan of Brunei? We’ve talked about he of the prodigious car collection before here on Jalopnik, including the airplane hangars in which he keeps his cars, the fact that a bunch of them were sold off in 2010, and the fact that he’s... kind of a dick.

Here’s a little more about the kind of wealth we’re talking about:

As the Minister of Finance for Brunei (until 1997) [the Sultan of Brunei’s brother] Prince Jefri controlled the revenue from oil and gas. Thanks to the 1997 Asian financial crisis, Prince Jefri’s investment firm collapsed under $US10 billion in debt; audits later found Jefri himself had received $US14.8 billion.

Much of the money went into a private life that included five wives, 17 children and a harem of about 40 women kept in a palace next to the car collection. The women in the harem were paid up to $US20,000 a week in addition to opulent shopping excursions, or trips aboard Jefri’s 180-foot yacht christened “Tits.”

In 2000, Prince Jefri settled lawsuits against him by the government of Brunei and began to return assets to the state including more than 500 properties in Brunei and abroad, more than ,000 cars, 100 paintings, five yachts, and nine world-class aircraft. His records revealed he spent $US78 million at Pininfarina SpA for coach-built Ferraris, and $US475 million at Rolls Royce.

Basically, here’s a family running a kleptocratic petrostate who just rampantly embezzled shitloads of money for the sake of having a good time. The Sultan and his brother Jefri used their money to buy and occasionally race supercars, invest in tons of real estate, and indulge in all of life’s extravagances, Vanity Fair reported back in 2011.

Things turned for the worst when the Sultan started demanding Jefri show some receipts for all the spending he was doing, the result of a complex lawsuit. From the aforementioned Vanity Fair article:

The sultan’s lawyers and accountants soon claimed that Jefri had been funding his supposedly successful company A.D.C., which employed thousands, not with profits from the business but with [Brunei Investment Agency] money[...]

Jefri’s spending continued unabated abroad, causing one B.I.A. representative to say that unless the prince had “won the lottery or had some good evenings in the casino” his lifestyle must still be funded by his B.I.A. assets. Jefri shot back that the sultan, in an unwritten pact he wanted kept secret, had allowed him to support himself by retaining six properties as “lifestyle assets”[...]

The feud between the brothers would turn into the world’s most expensive legal battle as the B.I.A. and the sultan spent an estimated $400 million on tracking down Jefri’s wealth, much of which the B.I.A. would claim was squirreled away in bank accounts and shell companies registered in remote tax havens. Revising the Bruneian constitution in order to have absolute rule over his brother, the sultan, starting in 2000, froze Jefri’s assets through injunctions—to little effect.

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Yeah. This is the family that’s still hoarding all those coveted McLaren F1s. When the cars were initially tucked away in the Sultan’s garage, a mere three of them escaped. One was crashed and then broken up for spare parts to use on the other cars. Two others were sold.

The rest of the seven still remain in the garage! Maybe! That’s a grand total of 15 percent of the entire McLaren F1 run that have, for all intents and purposes, fallen off the face of the Earth, just a drop in the bucket of possessions for the Sultan of Brunei.

Staff writer. Motorsport fanatic. Proud owner of a 2013 Mazda 2.

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