Formula One soaks up millions each year, with some of the most technically advanced racing cars on the planet many fans can only dream of ever driving or even owning an F1 car. Much of the money is brought in through high-profile sponsorship deals and of course the hordes of fans flocking to events to see the machines and their drivers at events. A lot of this income goes towards making the cars better, faster and in turn more expensive.
Realistically, if you ever want to own an F1 car you’re going to have to save up for a while (be seriously rich); But what are the options? It’s not actually as impossible as it sounds. And if not an actual fully-running car, what is the next best thing?
A fully fledged F1 car?!
If we step back in time a bit it is actually a very viable option to buy an older Formula One car. Again, this isn’t cheap but we’ll start with Race-Cars.com. They offer race-used and ex-F1 cars from 1974 to as late as 1999. Admittedly these also range from fully running ready-to-race cars to engineless showcars. They provide actual vehicles from Benetton, Honda, Arrows and Tyrell with price tags ranging between €40,000 and €729,000. This is obviously determined by the age, usability and who drove it. The main site also offers a huge range of ex-race cars from all series including F3 and F3000 from the historical and modern eras. If an F1 car is just out of your price range then maybe you might want to settle for a single-seater for use on the track.
A newly formed company, PF1 has acquired some late-model Jordan, Jaguar and Super-Aguri cars which they have kitted out with Ford Cosworth V10 engines capable of kicking out a healthy 875 hp. Their intention is to help more wealthy fans own and drive an F1 car without the worry of maintaining it themselves. The UK based company charges £300,000 (€400,000) for the car, plus £2,500 (€3,300) for membership in Club PF1. This is actually fairly cheap if compared to the tag on a road-going supercar. As mentioned this covers the ownership, organization of track days, maintenance and garage space. Kind of like sponsoring an animal, like a cheetah… Except you get to drive it!
F1 Sales also offers older cars, mostly Benetton’s as can be seen on their site. If this is too much then you can always buy a high performance engine, although one starts to wonder what you’d do with it without a car to put it in. Again, some of these cars aren’t as much as you’d think considering their condition but a pretty penny all the same. They also provide other goods an services in relation to F1 but I’ll be getting to those later. It’s starting to become apparent that what seemed to be only possible in a dream world is certainly feasible.
Another site certainly worth a browse is Race Cars Direct. This is a multi-national listings site with a huge range of all sorts of cars. I personally spotted some 80's/90's Benetton's and other ex-F1 cars that are in running condition. The average price range is around €45,000 - €60,000 which is only the same as a pricey road car. Although maintenance may cost a bit on top, these could even make good trackday or just enthusiasts cars. As well as these there are several Formula 3 cars and other open wheelers while not the same kind of history are sure to be fun behind the wheel.
Private dealers such as Hall And Hall and Cars International Kensington also sell on many historic cars for collectors etc although these are only priced on request as they’re fairly serious business. The odd car or two can be found at auctioneers, which are again attended mostly by aristocrats that throw money at collector’s cars like it was nothing. You can find more dealers like this at RaceCar.co.uk
Can I have a go?
Similar to PF1 as there are a lot of cars still in existence some owners like to offer ‘the ultimate driving experience’ by letting members of the public pay for the opportunity to drive one of these legendary cars. Of course unlike PF1 the car wouldn’t be yours to keep but the on-day experience is all many can afford and is better than nothing. If historic cars are more your thing then Classic Team Lotus will definitely take your fancy. Not long ago the group provided Top Gear’s ‘The Stig’ with Emerson Fittipaldi’s championship-winning Lotus 72D to drive. They have various historic Lotus F1 cars and use a ‘patron program’ which you can read more about on their site however they describe the costs only as significant and do also offer the chance to own a historic Lotus at what I assume are even more significant costs.
F1 Sales also run a ‘Drive an F1 Car’ scheme in Northern France. The course starts at €2,000 and provides tuition in a saloon car before stepping up to an F3 single-seater and finally the mighty F1 car. Once you have completed the course you will become a member with the option to return, I assume at an extra charge, and drive different F1 cars at track days.
AGS Formule 1 Is also another lot from France that offer various courses in singles seaters up to F1 with ex Prost, Jordan and Arrows cars available. No prices are listed as I’m sure anyone looking at doing this will be expected to be able to afford it.
In Great Britain, The Racing School also offers some racecar driving experiences, including a Formula One experience, where you can drive a Forti Corse.
Well, it looks real
What if you totally can’t afford a real F1 car even at knockdown prices? There’s always those that look convincing. Several companies now offer replica showcars mainly for display or hire. To buy one will still cost a good €25,000 - €63,000 the most expensive of which includes a state-of-the-art motion simulator although you obviously have the option to hire out yourself. Speaking of which hire can be up to €1,300 per day for events. Perhaps you’re not looking to start a business along with your hobby though and considering these are cars for show with no go, it’s not really a prime investment for the enthusiast. One perk to showcars is that they can be used and are popular for hire when coupled by a simulator, once again not much like real driving but a possible investment all the same.
- FormulaFactory.com Offer a range of cars with different liveries and models for sale or hire.
- Race To The Finish A small group in the UK with a single half-sized simulator for hire, quite cheap against the going rate and coupled with driving sim game rFactor (One of my favourites!).
- The F1 Experience Another UK based crew in Scotland with a couple nice cars for hire, no prices given but certainly worth a look.
- Asian Replicas An apparent manufacturer of showcars although the site seems a bit odd since they seem to manufacture and sell several other bits and pieces of no relation. Here is a link to the main page: http://www.f1replica.com/.
Oh so memorable
You're scraping the bottom of the piggy bank and you find a little spare change, not enough for anything I've discussed so far; Not an entire F1 car real or replica. However, it might just get you part of one. When you think of memorabilia lots of things may come to mind: Clothing, autographs, merchandise... Howabout a wheel, a front wing, a sidepod? As it happens although some survive most F1 cars get broken down into their individual parts after use and naturally due to the value of these parts begin to circulate as merchandise. There are plenty of dealers which I will list for car parts and used overalls and prices vary massively depending on the item. Of course the price also increaces if a certain someone has written their name on the item. As you can see there are lots of organizations that collect and sell on memorabilia such as F1 Collectors Who have select car parts, helmets and even a couple showcars.
F1 Car parts - Having parts from an actual F1 car in your own home is an excellant investment for hardcore fans as they often make great display pieces, don't always cost as much as you might think again depending on what it is you're after and the parts rarely de-value so re-sale is always an option. Many people seem to like the idea of using wheel rims for coffee tables or furniture. Renault F1 in particular released a fairly pricey range of F1 car furnishings and household items and Autoart make lots of similar things although these are manufactured from scratch so don't have the same appeal.
- Race To The Finish From the UK have for sale plenty of car parts and wheels, prices are alright and certainly affordable.
- Chequered Flag Collectables Again from the UK have a small range of parts from various teams at okay prices.
- F1 Originals In the UK have parts from all different teams along with a separate page for signed parts. They also apparently have entire Williams cars on request although they don't give much about this on the site.
- The Collectors Studio Are a Canada-based site and have the most impressive range I have seen yet from modern and older vehicles. (Prices on Request)
- Final Lap Memorabilia An absolutely fantastic site in the UK with a large amount of stock. They ship worldwide as well for those around the globe.
- F1 Teamgear Is yet another UK lot, more independently run by the looks of things with some good stock.
- JMJ Auto Based in New Jersey, United States has some really nice items and are obviously good for those out of Europe and the rest of the world.
- Autosport.net A selection of Senna and Schumacher pieces from the UK, expensive as always but especially due to the drivers.
- Beverly Hills Motorsport Car parts for fans in the USA. Some smaller parts seem a bit over priced to me though they're mostly Ferrari then again.
- eBay! This is a search string I created for finding F1 car parts listed on eBay. It works 9 times out of ten though sometimes catches other stuff as can be expected. It works with any other English-speaking nationality of eBay also. It could be refined more and I recommend looking at the other items of sellers with good merchandise in case they have other things that don't get picked up by the search.
Overalls/Gloves - As odd as it seems to me some fans relish the chance to own a pair of sweaty unwashed overalls or gloves used by particular drivers. Again there are plenty of these available since they only usually get used once per race.
- Chequered Flag Collectables From the UK have a very decent lot of racesuits and gloves
- The Collector's Studio From Canada have lots of sets of racewear from various drivers and many different years.
- F1 Originals In the UK have only a few sets of racewear and signed gloves.
- JMJ Auto In New Jersey, United States also have a plentiful range of racesuits, many of which are signed.
- The UK's F1 Teamgear has a load of racewear and even pit crew suits.
- Beverly Hills Motorsport some suits, gloves and boots for those in the USA, well categorized.
- eBay! Another search string I made that brings up fairly good results for overalls and racewear. This can be used with any other English-speaking nationality of eBay.
Original Helmets/Visors - Now this I can understand! I was amazed to find that it's actually possible to buy an original Ayrton Senna helmet. Although strictly collector's items the helmet and its design is often very symbolic of any driver and makes them recognisable. Whenever most people think of Senna for instance they'll almost undoubtedly see that bright yellow helmet. Owning a piece of F1 history such as this is not cheap, for example sites listed quote Original F1 helmets to sell for $6,000 - $90,000 (€4,000 - €60,000). There also appears to be lots of signed visors about which are far cheaper since they are replaced frequently for drivers.
- The Collector's Studio Are a Canada-based store with lots of incredible helmets available (Priced on Request) although as mentioned these are extremely costly. They also offer visors for those with smaller budgets.
- JMJ Auto From New Jersey in the United States have quite a few race-used helmets (Priced on Request) from famous drivers and are definitely worth a look. They also have a range of Visors in their catalogue.
- Chequered Flag Collectables Too have quite a few helmets (Priced on Request) as well as visors and are also based in the UK.
- F1 Teamgear in the UK don't have any helmets but some visors as these are much easier to pick up.
- Legends In Time Some amazing original hemets from the UK, quite a few older helmets in comparison to other sites.
- Beverly Hills Motorsport Mostly visors but some helmets for those in the USA, well categorized.
- F1 Originals In the UK have a blank helmets page to be updated as well as a few visors.