Replacing The Clutch In A McLaren F1 Involves A Big Slab Of Granite

Photo credit McLaren

The McLaren F1 is one of those cars that you would want to hang onto forever. This is because it is awesome, the rare piece of automotive history that actually lives up to its own hype. Repairs and maintenance aren’t cheap or easy—but at least they are somewhat more convenient now, and a new Road & Track story details the one man in North America certified for the job.

You see, besides still having a bunch of parts of your F1 available, McLaren also just opened up a new North American F1 service center in Pennsylvania. The company says that the center has one of the original sets of special tooling that fixing up an F1 requires. This is what you can get done there, according to McLaren:

An annual F1 service involves a meticulous level of inspection to the vehicle, including fluids, filters and wiper blade replacements and a full suspension inspection. The service requires a full “vehicle shakedown” on a closed test track or runway to compete high speed runs and assess the vehicle through its full performance envelope.

Every second annual service requires a higher level of inspection and includes a brake service and flush, a more in-depth vehicle alignment, CV joint service, air-conditioning service and coolant service. Every five years the fuel tank must be replaced, which is an extensive process to complete and involves removing the powertrain from the vehicle.


Which is probably very convenient if you have an F1 within driving distance of the facility. If you live in, like, Los Angeles and have an F1, getting it there might be a little more difficult. You don’t have to ship it all the way to England anymore, though!

Road & Track recently took a trip to the special facility and met the only technician in North America certified to work on an F1. His name is Kevin Hines. He sounds like he has a cool job. Here’s a glimpse into how involved the work is:

The tool list to perform a clutch replacement includes a slab of granite. The F1 uses a multi-disc clutch and a small-diameter flywheel with a replaceable friction surface. To eliminate clutch chatter, the new friction surface must be adjusted to less than five hundredths of a millimeter of runout.

Measuring this requires a dial indicator and a dead-flat surface on which to spin the flywheel. Hines’ chunk of granite comes with a certificate, verifying its flatness down to 0.00004 inches.


Crazy, right? And yes, they have the famous laptop computer:

He also has “the laptop”—a mid-1990s Compaq running custom DOS software created by McLaren when the F1 was new. This gray brick was, for many years, required to access the car’s engine control and body control modules. Today, McLaren uses a modern Windows computer running a software emulator for day-to-day computer maintenance. Hines keeps the vintage Compaq around just in case.

“You know how, on an old Nintendo game, you blow in the cassette, push it in just enough to make it work? Getting this thing to fire up is like that,” he says of the old computer. “You have to make sure the sun dial is set correctly.”


Road & Track’s story is a very good one, so you should click on these underlined words to read it.


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About the author

Kristen Lee

Writer at Jalopnik and consumer of many noodles.