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Let’s say you come into possession a brand-new 1997 McLaren F1, the only miles on the odometer —  a scant 148 in total — racked up in factory testing. It’s flawless inside and out, and it should be — its owner never bothered to drive it. Its upholstery, tools and accessories are all still factory-wrapped. What the heck do you do with it?

Well, first you put gas in it, and then you drive it. Maybe check the tires first.

The dandelion-yellow F1 offered for sale by Swadlincote, England’s Tom Hartley Jnr, is hardly the first ultra-low-mileage collector’s item we’ve seen of late — skyrocketing values have a way of drawing interesting cars out of the woodwork. But this pickled McLaren is a special case.

On the one hand, F1 prices — even for well-used cars — are through the roof, and this one has to be the best-preserved example in existence.

On the other hand, who cares? The F1 retains its reputation as one of the best driver’s cars ever built (you can’t exactly say the same thing about a low-mileage Testarossa, cool though it might be).

1997 McLaren F1 for sale delivery milage interior factory fresh

This is weird, right? Photo by Tom Hartley Jnr

McLaren F1

It’s the curse of originality. Any attempt to actually use this car as Gordon Murray intended will devalue it, at least to a certain point. So you’re either treating it as an investment (which is sort of a shame) or embracing the opportunity to be the last person to ever enjoy that new McLaren F1 experience.

We like to think we’d rip off the wrappings the instant we bought it, were that even an option for us, but something tells us there would be at least a few seconds of hesitation while we banished the little voice in our head chanting, “It’s only original once!” forever.

How did this F1 make it two decades without being driven? Classic Driver, which broke the news of this automotive time capsule, reports that the car comes from the collection of a Japanese businessman. That’s a suitably intriguing backstory for this thing, but the fact that he apparently never even sat in the driver’s seat beggars belief. Maybe he sensed it was destined to be a collector’s item. Maybe he has an identical copy of the car and this was just the backup. Maybe he forgot about it. Who knows?

Tom Hartley Jnr hasn’t listed a price, but a 9,600-mile car sold for $15.6 million earlier this year. Our advice? Show up to the dealer with a steamer trunk full of cash and, while staring at the salesperson silently but intently, begin laying it down in £100,000 increments until the keys, and the special TAG Heuer watch (also unused and unworn) that came with the car, are yours.

1997 McLaren F1 accessories factory fresh

All that McLaren F1 swag, also unused. Photo by Tom Hartley Jnr

Graham Kozak

Graham Kozak – Graham Kozak drove a 1951 Packard 200 sedan in high school because he wanted something that would be easy to find in a parking lot. He thinks all the things they’re doing with fuel injection and seatbelts these days are pretty nifty too.
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