As automotive legends go, few can come close to the McLaren F1 for sheer star power. It's arguably the most significant supercar of the modern era, mixing a BMW V12 engine with a composite body for a staggering 376 km/h (240.1 mph) top speed. It's been 25 years since Andy Wallace completed his record runs at Ehra-Lessien, and McLaren has celebrated by diving into the archives for some period footage of the F1 racing into the history books.

It's since been usurped by Bugatti, but McLaren was wading into unknown territory when it set out to run well beyond 350 km/h (217 mph). Before the F1 came along, Jaguar held the production car speed record with the 349 km/h (217 mph) XJ220. Pushing beyond the past high watermark was a leap of faith, with no guarantee it wouldn't end in a massive fireball.

UPGRADE TO NEW ATLAS PLUS

More than 1,500 New Atlas Plus subscribers directly support our journalism, and get access to our premium ad-free site and email newsletter. Join them for just US$19 a year.

UPGRADE

"Reverse back to 1998 when we did this, speeds over 350 [km/h] were unheard of," says Andy Wallace, who drove the F1 on its record run. "Yes, people were doing land speed records considerably faster than that, but they're not doing that on rubber tires. I didn't really know what to think, but I remember I had seriously sweaty palms on the steering wheel!"

You can check out the full behind-the-scenes look at the McLaren F1 breaking the production speed record in the video below. We have sweaty palms from watching it, so just imagine what it was like for Wallace, who sits in the driver's seat and talks you through what's happening with the speedo needle pushing 400 km/h (249 mph). Of course, the final confirmed top speed was slightly slower than that – the official figure is an average calculated over two runs in opposite directions.

Source: McLaren

View gallery - 12 images