Tuesday, March 27, 2012

McLaren F1 Test Mules / Driving Ambition

co-written and edited by Ron Dennis and Gordon Murray

When I was 18 or so, I bought a superb book called “Driving Ambition”. The book is an official account of the McLaren F1’s development, from the initial sketches all the way through road car production and LeMans victories.  If I remember correctly it cost $75, a lot of money to a guy my age in 1998  I still have it, and it’s been well cared for – it even has the original poster it came with, folded and sandwiched in between the same pages as when it was brand new.  I was recently shocked to discover it’s now worth about seven times what I first paid – obsessive compulsive disorder and anal retentiveness pay off, kids!

Edward - S70/2 V12 mule
Among the many chapters and hundreds of pages of fantastic, insightful writing, fascinating specs and detailed photography was a piece on “The Heavenly Twins” – the pair of original F1 development mules.

Both based on Ultima chassis, “Albert” and “Edward”, as they came to be known, were instrumental in the F1 design and testing process.  Before McLaren could commit the necessary resources to design and build their own chassis, The Twins allowed Murray’s team to test critical proposed design elements at a relatively early stage.

Albert had a Chevrolet V8 and was used to test the F1’s gearbox, brakes and central driving position, while Edward was built to test the BMW S70/2 V12 and its associated ancillary systems.

Sadly, both cars were ultimately crushed after they had served their purpose.  This was seen as necessary because magazines were already offering huge bountys for spy photos related to the program, and being a product of an active Formula One team, secrecy was valued above all else.

The book remains one of my prized possessions, and short of it one day being valuable enough to fund the purchase of a 997 GT3RS, I’ll probably never sell it.  Copies in well-read but still nice condition can be had for about $200, and it’s entirely worth it, as I guarantee you will never own a better car book.
Albert - SBC engined, central driving position
the team affectionately badged the cars
The Twin's sad end
one side of the poster included with the book

the poster's other side

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