What Happened to El Chapo’s Missing McLaren F1

The chances of you spotting a McLaren F1 out in the wild are almost zero. Out of the 106 F1’s ever built, a significant portion spend their time in private collections or gracing the lawns of concourse shows. These habits are unsurprising when you consider that these hypercars are easily worth up to $21 million, according to Top Gear. However, one of these ultra-rare machines remains unaccounted for, and that is chassis no. 39. Following years of rumors that the car lived somewhere in Mexico, Ed Bolian from VinWiki attempted to track it down.

Before we dive in, it’s worth noting that this story is Ed Bolian’s personal accounts of tracking down the car. Since we can’t just ring up the head of a massive cartel to confirm, take the following story with a massive grain of salt.

The missing McLaren landed in Mexico sometime in the late 1990s

The now infamous missing McLaren F1 chassis no. 39 was reportedly built sometime in 1995, according to VinWiki. What makes this car stand out from all other F1’s is that it is finished in Brazilian Brown Metallic with a red interior and gold wheels. If that sounds like a hideous combination, you’re not alone. In fact, Bolian explains that the car was originally intended for McLaren’s then CEO, Ron Dennis. However, Bolian explains that Dennis’ wife hated the color combo so much; she made him get rid of it. In exchange, Dennis took delivery of chassis no. 50, finished in Magnesium Silver.

From there, the F1 was reportedly sold by the factory in 1997. This is where the speculation comes into play as none of this information has been confirmed. According to Bolian, the car made its way into Mexico sometime in the late 1990s. We know this because a photo of the car arriving in Mexico is displayed in the video above.

According to Bolian, rumors suggest that the F1 went to someone close to El Chapo, the Sinaloa cartel leader. While the rumors vary on who exactly owned the car while El Chapo was in prison, they all point to the cartel.

The cartel reportedly tried to purchase a new key from McLaren

An image of a 1995 McLaren F1 in studio.
McLaren F1 | National Motor Museum/Heritage Images/Getty Images

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Once it arrived in Mexico, the McLaren’s F1 ownership gets very blurry. This is because Bolian states that the suspected original owner passed away at some point in the late 1990s. A problem quickly arose because the suspected owner reportedly never mentioned where the keys to the vehicle were. As a result, El Chapo and the cartel had an F1 they couldn’t move. So like any owner with misplaced keys, the cartel reportedly reached out to McLaren to purchase another key for the car.

According to the rumors told by Bolian, someone from the cartel reached out to McLaren around 2004. According to Bolian, this mysterious new owner reportedly received a quote between $200,000 to $300,000 for a new key after an unsuccessful first attempt. After the quote was denied, rumors suggest the car just sat, unmoved.

In the video, Bolian expressed his desire to buy the car if it could be found. Working with a viewer of his YouTube channel, the pair investigated its current whereabouts. Bolian went as far as contacting several banks in the U.S. to see if any had a lean on the car or if they had any clues regarding its current location. The viewer then went down to Mexico once COVID-19 restrictions eased up to look for the car. Unsurprisingly, he wasn’t able to find the McLaren.

It may not be in Mexico at all

1993 McLaren F1
1993 McLaren F1 | McLaren

Following the failure to find the car in Sinaloa, Bolian began exploring a different explanation for its disappearance. One interesting theory surrounds the license plate the McLaren F1 wears. This is because despite being in Mexico, the F1 still wears its original UK plate, “P440 CPJ.” What’s interesting about this is that there is another F1 currently in the UK that wears the same number. In fact, it’s chassis no. 06R, an F1 GTR. According to Bolian, the GTR belongs to a well-known collector.

Since Bolian’s app, VinWiki allows him to search license plates in the UK; he looked up the mysterious plate. To his surprise, he found that the plate was consistently registered to the VIN corresponding to chassis no. 39 since 2005. Bolian’s running theory is that the UK owner purchased the plate to use on their F1 GTR. This is so that the F1 GTR racecar could drive on the street without being fully converted into a streetcar.

The second and more outlandish theory of the two told by Bolian is that the UK owner of the plate somehow actually has the missing chassis no. 39 car stored away somewhere. Bolian guesses that the car is tucked away as an art piece, never to be seen again by the public.

While Bolian’s sensational theories are minutely possible, it is worth mentioning that these are just his theories and not founded on concrete evidence. As a result, we will likely never know what happened to the infamous McLaren F1 chassis no. 39.