Toleman-Hart TG184, 1984

How to buy a Formula One car

2016 F1 season

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You may never have given serious thought to how to buy a Formula One car. After all, teams sink hundreds of millions of pounds into developing their chassis, so the cars must have price tags to match?

Used F1 cars are indeed pricey but a complete chassis can be picked up for something close to the cost of a new family hatchback. You’ll get some admiring glances if you plonk one of those in your garage, though to take it any further you’ll have to fork out for an engine.

With the season drawing to a close a whole grid of cars are about to become obsolete technology. If you’re thinking of getting your hands on a pukka F1 machine, F1 car and memorabilia sales specialists Memento Exclusives explain how to do it.

Buying an F1 car: Where do I start?

No team will sell their retired cars fresh from the previous season’s grid as they contain far too much valuable intellectual property. Some never release their cars because they are an important part of their heritage program.

Others will re-paint the cars in the new season’s livery and use them as show cars. Other cars make their way to sponsors as part of their contract with the team. In rare cases, a driver may be gifted their racing car, for example for winning the world championship.

When it comes to buying a car privately it’s rare for a transaction to take place until the car is around five years old. The major exception to this is when a team has folded, as happened recently with Caterham and HRT.

Why buy an F1 car?

Who wouldn’t want to own one of the fastest, rarest, and most technologically advanced cars in the world?

Many retired F1 cars are bought to be raced. After all, that’s what they’re designed to do. Some race on in the FIA-endorsed BOSS GP (Big Open Seater Single Championship) while others go to wealthy individuals for use as track day cars.

Others are bought as a thing of beauty to own and admire. Some are bought as show cars for events and for business premises and others are purchased as an investment opportunity.

How much money do I need to buy an F1 car?

1994 Arrows
Some F1 cars aren’t kept in their original colours
Around 75% of F1 cars are sold through private transactions. Their sale price is not publicly disclosed – mainly to protect the investment value.

The engine is the most expensive component, so the price depends on whether that is included in the model.

Prices range from around £100,000 for a fully functioning F1 car raced in the early nineties, and can reach over £1.5 million for a car with particularly desirable heritage. An older race car without an engine or a basic show car can be purchased from around £20,000.

Cars purchased for investment purposes are occasionally bought by syndicate groups of like-minded investors. In this way, the cost can be divided between the purchasers, however it is diligent to draw up a legal agreement to agree details, such as the roles of each member of the syndicate, the split of profit or potential loss, and the use and storage of the car.

Before purchasing a car, the costs of insurance, storage and maintenance should also be taken into consideration. It’s diligent to also research the cost of running and maintaining the car and sourcing specialists to run the car if buying it to race.

What factors are most important to an F1 car’s value?

The most important factor when assessing the value is the car’s pedigree. A successful car is usually more valuable than an unsuccessful one. However some cars are more desirable because of the livery, the team or the chassis design.

Of course, the car must have supporting documents to prove it is the real deal in order to reach its full value. Next most important is the existence and condition of the engine/gearbox and condition of the car. Availability of spares can also affect the value for a car which is in running condition.

What should you look for when buying an F1 car?

The chassis plate and parts serial numbers should correlate to the supporting documents.

The gearbox and engine data should be checked as these often have to be re-built after a certain mileage.

Getting an independent, specialist engineer to assess the car properly before purchase is a wise move, especially if the car is going to be raced.

However racing an F1 car raises the possibility it might become damaged, and that can be very challenging. Formula One is, understandably, a secretive world and replacement parts can take months to source. You need to know what you’re doing, or to have a specialist team to help you.

Which F1 cars are currently on the market?

Toleman TG184, Goodwood Festival of Speed, 2014
Famous names boost resale value
The majority of F1 cars sold through Memento Exclusives are privately arranged. However, the cars which are publicly for sale and ready to race range from the 1998 Benetton B198 with a Judd 4-litre V10 engine (£275,000), to the Footwork Arrows 1994 car with 3.5-litre Cosworth engine (£141,840). We’ve recent sold the 1984 Toleman TG184 as raced by Ayrton Senna during his first F1 season.

If you’re a little off the mark in affording a full Formula One car, or just don’t fancy the hassle that goes along with this, you could still own a piece of a Formula One car for your living room made from re-engineered F1 components. Memento Exclusives work directly with the F1 teams to sell race-used F1 components which have been transformed into clocks, lamps, tables and lots more.

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Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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  • 18 comments on “How to buy a Formula One car”

    1. If I were to buy such a thing, I’d look for the maintenance manuals and the special equipment needed to run and fix the car… it doesn’t say anything like that in the article and I doubt I can find an external engine starter at the shops.

      1. The wait for a hybrid one on the market. You can use the eletric power to start your car ;)

      2. No problem, Haynes has you covered for when you need to change the oil. ;>

        1. @charleski considering the difficulty I had with a friend to replace the oil and oil filter of a Fiat Punto, and then the brake pads and discs, I’m not sure the Haynes manual would be enough… I remember the oil filter removal tool didn’t work on it, its position was beyond belief to start with! at the very back of the engine, at an angle towards the center of the car… who the hell thought that was a good idea?! And then we needed a 7mm allen key for the pads which NEVER shows up in an allen key kit, and the pin to hold the pads was impossible to fit it… a whole afternoon, and it was a box standard Fiat Punto…

          1. @fer-no65 I’ve never been closer to an F1 car than in a museum, but standard service things like oil changes may be easier than you think. I’m basing this on minor knowledge of track motorbikes compared to street ones. Street bikes are designed to be reliable, so access to service points is a secondary concern. Race bikes are designed to be taken apart and put back together again quickly; one example is that bodywork tends to be held on with quarter-turn Dzus fasteners rather than nuts and bolts. My abiding memory is of a race engineer on a GP250 team mentioning casually that for him to check the condition of the spark plug it was quicker to take the cylinder head off than to remove the plug itself!

    2. Hehe… Well, I guess it is the track toy to have, for anyone with serius ammounts of dream or money.

      Then you need to be fit enough to actually enjoy it. So highly specialised market this.

      Most F1 cars are unique one-offs.. Priceless as investment opportunities.

    3. f1fanatic syndicate? I’ll pony up to share a car with you sir/miss!

    4. Does anyone know how many copies of each car is produced? I have always wondered but have never been able to find an answer.

      1. If we’re talking 2016, with the Resource Restriction Agreement in place, then 3-5. 3 is the minimum (2 race cars and a spare) and teams like Manor stick with that. Most teams build 4 cars however. In 2016 at least Mercedes and Renault built 5 cars.

        Before the RRA the number can be anything. From a single car (certain Osella’s or Ensign etc) to forty-something (or more, I can’t remember exactly) for the Maserati 250F, which was around for 5 seasons. In the 1990’s/2000’s the top teams regularly built around 8-12 cars per season.

        1. Leo B, March were another outfit that were sometimes very prolific given they sold their chassis to other teams (for example, at least 11 copies of the 701 chassis). Due to the long lifespan of the M23, McLaren also produced quite a few chassis over the years (about a dozen over the years).

          Mind you, for older cars the picture is a bit more complicated given that it wasn’t unheard of for a chassis to be rebuilt and given a new chassis number, either due to repairs or whilst incorporating new features. One example would be Lotus’s 72, where the first chassis, 72/R1, was rebuilt in 1970 and renamed 72/R4: Maserati also did the same thing with the 250F, where a few cars were later rebuilt as streamlined versions, and McLaren also did that with one M23 chassis.

          There have also been a few modern cases of drivers using just one chassis during a season – Alonso used one chassis, R26-03, during the 2006 season, whilst Button also used just one chassis, BGP 001-02, in 2009 (by choice in Alonso’s case, whilst Button had to because Brawn only had three chassis made).

        2. Thanks for the info! I wasn’t sure if the teams built specific cars for specific tracks.

    5. Very informative post, Keith! Not that I have the money for this, but at least it tells us how to do it!

      The other way to own an F1 chassis is to make a replica full size scale model in thermocole!

    6. Was this a paid advert from Memento Exclusives?

      1. At least it doesnt say rolex, dhl or heinekin.. or bernie says think before you bribe, opps mean drive!!

      2. No this was not paid for – Memento Exclusives supplies prizes for our Predictions Championship and the idea to do this article came out of the discussions around that. To be clear, whenever there is paid promotional content on the site (which is extremely rare) it is always clearly marked as such.

    7. The is an f1 car on craiglist in the us also i think….

    8. LovelyLovelyLuffield
      12th December 2016, 5:59

      Any complete, ready-to-run ’68-’75 examples for sale?

    9. So funny that this Memento exclusives company advertise themselves as selling used racing parts converted into memorabilia and in their website there is a gigant banner saying (and I quote) “NEW! JENSON BUTTON!”

      We all know he’s a bit done, but c’mon, memorabilia?

    Comments are closed.