It’s been known for quite some time that McLaren uses an ancient Compaq laptop from the 90’s to work on its one-off McLaren F1 but that’s no longer the case.
It makes for flashy headlines that the technological bottleneck that might spell the death of every McLaren F1 in existence is this ancient laptop that it absolutely needs to have to function but that’s no longer true. According to Road and Track in their latest piece on the only North American mechanic certified to work on the F1 they dropped earlier today (Dec. 19, 2017) they’ve finally got a replacement. Thanks to the power of technology (specifically a more modern windows based laptop running an emulator of the software used in that Compaq laptop) they’re able to do everything that relic of technology does. Enjoy a couple of photos of the amazing McLaren F1 below.
A little over a year ago, yes, in order to work on the McLaren F1 you did need a Compaq LTE 5280 Laptop to “talk” to the car. Although coming across this specific model laptop is presumably getting harder, they do still pop up for sale from time to time. As of this writing, you can pick one up from eBay for about $300.
According to Jalopnik when they visited McLaren Special operations earlier last year,
“The reason we need those specific Compaq laptops is that they run a bespoke CA card which installs into them,” a fellow from MSO told me. “The CA card is an interface between the laptop software (which is DOS based) and the car.”
But, they did add that they were working on a solution.
“We are currently working on a new interface which will be compatible with modern laptops as they old Compaqs are getting less and less reliable and harder to find.”
In that Road and Track article I cited in the beginning, it looks like they’ve finally come up with that solution. If you click here, you can see the more modern windows laptop running side by side with the Compaq laptop. You’ll also be glad to know that this particular McLaren technician keeps that Compaq laptop around as a failsafe of sorts if the Windows laptop goes down for whatever reason.
The McLaren F1 is a particularly finicky car to keep maintained and must be worked upon even if it just sits around for most of the time. Now, it doesn’t need to rely on ancient 90’s tech to keep it running.