Formula One is famous for producing some of the world’s fastest cars that thrive on the edge of modern engineering. These are the world’s finest street legal race cars that money can buy.
#1 McLaren F1
As the team that introduced the carbon fibre monocoque to the world of Formula One back in 1981, you can’t expect anything less from the mad scientists at McLaren Technology Centre. Not long after pioneering composites in the sport and garnering successive wins with their drivers Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost, they developed a road car fittingly named the F1.
The F1 was a true road legal race car built for the driving purist – a central driving position designed to aid balance, liberal use of high strength carbon, titanium and 16g of actual gold foil lining the entire engine bay (for heat dissipation) and a mid-engine layout all formed the cornerstone of what McLaren stood for.
Powered by a 6.0 litre V12 from BMW, the McLaren F1 was a ballistic package at the time and held the production car top speed record of 390km/h, until the Bugatti Veyron claimed the title in 2005 – more than a decade after the F1 was released.
#2 Enzo Ferrari
Just about every Ferrari vehicle off the Maranello production line has benefitted from the prancing horse’s participation in F1. Only one, however, was deserving of the founder’s name – the Enzo Ferrari. Debuting in 2002, the Enzo represented an accumulation of decades worth of Ferrari knowledge and development on the race track.
It’s constructed almost entirely of carbon fibre with the exception of some aluminium, features lightning quick electro-hydraulic transmission and a big mid-mounted 6.0-litre V12 that sends 660hp to the rear wheels. The car’s radical styling and aerodynamics were also key defining features, mimicking the nose of an actual F1 car and utilising advanced underbody diffusers to keep the thing planted at speed.
All of this innovation in a road car allowed the Enzo to hit 0-100km/h in just 3.3 seconds with a top speed of 350km/h. Stopping power wasn’t an issue either with the Enzo being one of the first production cars to be fitted with high performance carbon ceramic brakes.
#3 Honda NSX
Honda proved that they didn’t need massive power figures to play with the big boys of the supercar elite. During their victorious engine partnership with McLaren in Formula One in the 80s, the Japanese outfit procured the services of one famed championship driver named Ayrton Senna to help develop their own “everyday supercar”. It was the Japanese take on what an exotic should be – with the added benefit of Japanese reliability.
The result was the NSX, the first production car to be built off a lightweight aluminium monocoque chassis with razor sharp handling to boot. Weighing in at 1350kg, the mid-engined 3.0-litre V6 car was light for its time and featured Honda’s venerable VTEC variable valve timing system paired with titanium conrods and forged pistons to move the car at a respectable pace.
Suspension was also fine tuned and superbly balanced with F1 style double-wishbone layout and forged control arms to extract the best handling from the car.
#4 Renault Espace F1
We wish all soccer mums rolled in this particular van, as the Renault Espace F1 is a seven-seater people mover on steroids. Concluding that they’d kill two birds with one stone, French car company Renault built this Frankenstein to commemorate the popular MPV’s tenth anniversary whilst also celebrating Renault’s third F1 championship win as an engine supplier.
In an act of forward thinking, Renault’s massive V10 is crammed into the rear space where you’d normally find screaming snotty kids – now replaced with a screaming motor that can reach 20,000rpm.
It didn’t stop with just a heart transplant though. The Espace F1 also adopted the rear suspension from an actual Williams-Renault FW14 to handle all the extra grub.
#5 Lotus Seven Special Edition
British outfit Lotus have been in the Formula One game for as long as the company has existed, and their no-fuss road cars built for spirited driving is a faithful representation of this.
Following founder Colin Chapman’s motto of “Simplify, then add lightness”, the Lotus Seven was created in 1957 before having their manufacturing rights sold off to Caterham once the company’s own production run had ceased.
As history would often repeat itself, the Lotus F1 team would again re-acquire the rights to the Seven model and in 2011, Lotus produced 50 examples of the Special Seven as a homecoming car to makr the brand’s return. Taking the top of the line 263hp Superlight R500 silhouette, Lotus offered upgrade packages which included the special British racing green and yellow livery.
Nothing but you, four sticky tyres and the open road. The prodigal son returns.
#6 Lexus LFA
The second Japanese entrant to ever bridge the advanced world of Formula One with the mundane world of road cars was, wait for it, Toyota. Well Lexus – but we all know it’s just a fancier Toyota with no budget restrictions on development.
The Lexus LFA had burst onto the scene in 2010 after years of being criticised as a gutless car brand which followed in its parent company’s ‘white goods’ approach to car design. Those crowds were hastily silenced when CEO Akio Toyoda pulled the covers off a car that would redefine the image of the Lexus/Toyota brand.
The LFA brief went something along the lines of: ‘Build a staggeringly fast car from Toyota’s F1 parts bin which will scare the Europeans – here’s an open chequebook’.
When it finally hit the showrooms, the LFA came with an unorthodox (for Lexus/Toyota) US$375,000 price tag, screaming V10 engine derived from Formula One with the assistance of Yamaha (who make cool keyboards) and an extensive carbon fibre body weaved from one of two bespoke looming machines in the world.
The result is an ultra-rare, and ultra-expensive exotic which eventually ran the Nürburgring in a blistering 7:14.64 – sitting pretty at number 8 on the production car lap time list behind Porsche, Lamborghini and Nissan.
#7 Ford Transit Super Van 3
Ford’s iconic work horse known as the Transit can usually be seen out back delivering tyres to race teams or in elaborate bank heists, but in 1971 the American company decided to drop a race engine into one to create the ridiculous Supervan.
At the time, the 400hp engine came from Ford’s Le Mans winning GT40. Decades on and the Supervan 3 was created in 1995 for promotional purposes.
Packing a 650bhp Ford-Cosworth ‘HB’ F1 V8 engine, the lowered transporter could reach speeds of 240km/h for reasons we can only assume would be to aid in quicker morgue deliveries. That massive rear wing is not for show too as the extra ponies demand it to keep the car stable at high speed. Same day delivery? Try same hour.
#8 Ferrari LaFerrari
The most modern rendition of a Formula One car for the road is Ferrari’s hero car known simply as LaFerrari. Just over a decade has past since the Enzo was unveiled so it was time for the Maranello company to pick a successor to their famed supercar.
It couldn’t just be any successor though, it had to reflect the current era of F1 technology and add in this new thing called hybrid technology.
The LaFerrari had arrived and was unlike anything the company had ever built, graduating it to the next echelon of extreme supercars known as ‘hypercars’. Think KERS technology (electric energy stored from braking to be re-routed into the powertrain) for instant boost, DRS (Drag Reduction System) implemented across the body and under the car for active aerodynamics and a big V12 engine paired with electric motors to produce a combined power output of 950hp.
This gives it the fitting F1 credentials of 0-100km/h in less than three seconds and a top speed well over 300km/h. It also breaks supercar records too, costing around AU$2,000,000 – for selected buyers only.
#9 McLaren P1
McLaren were never going to let Ferrari run away with the hypercar crown in the new age of road-based race cars. The P1 was the result of their efforts. As a successor to the iconic F1 from the 90s, the P1 continued the reputation of dazzling the motoring world when it was unveiled in 2013. It also reaffirmed McLaren’s reputation for trialling ground-breaking aerodynamics in order to get their cars to reach blistering speeds.
One special feature of the P1? There’s no edges on the car – everything was designed to be completely fluid, giving it a uniquely organic and space-aged shape.
And then there’s the performance. A 727hp twin turbo V8 engine is mated to a 177hp electric motor to assist the car with low end grunt, very much like the KERS system that Ferrari also uses. Want to reduce aerodynamic drag when driving fast?
The P1’s rear wing is an active aero device which protrudes and angles itself in real time according to the car’s speed in order to achieve optimum road holding. And just for economy’s sake, it can also drive 10km on pure electric juice via the batteries.
#10 McLaren Mercedes SLR
Last on our comprehensive list of street legal race cars is the McLaren-Mercedes SLR. The front-engined rear wheel drive grand tourer marked the winning partnership between Mercedes and McLaren during their peak in the early 2000s and gave purpose to the SLR.
Standing for ‘Sport Light Racing’, the SLR was crammed full of modern F1 trickery and luxury build from both companies. With its hand-built 5.4-litre supercharged V8 tuned by McLaren, the car (722 version) was capable of 640hp and a top speed of 337km/h, whilst demolishing the 0-100km/h in 3.6 seconds. Gullwing doors and plush interior also came standard for the SLR, which is one of the most sought after Mercedes models to date.