Film Release Could Rush Bidders to Auction of James Hunt's McLaren | Edmunds

Film Release Could Rush Bidders to Auction of James Hunt's McLaren

Just the Facts:
  • James Hunt's 1977 McLaren M26 Formula 1 car is going up for auction in November.
  • The auction house has not given an estimated sale price, but the release of Ron Howard's film Rush, is likely to spur lively bidding.
  • This is not the car in which Hunt won a world championship, but it is the one he drove in the final Grand Prix of his career.

CHARLOTTE, North Carolina — James Hunt's 1977 McLaren M26 is going up for auction in November, and the release of Ron Howard's film Rush could help fuel spirited bidding on the Formula 1 racer.

The M26 may not be on par with the today's high-tech Grand Prix cars, but its light weight and aerodynamic efficiency made it competitive in the mid-1970s. And with a Ford Cosworth DFV V8 putting out 485 horsepower, a 0-60 time of 3.5 seconds and top speed of 195 mph, the machine could still be a monster on the vintage-racing circuit.

Of course it's likely to have more value as a collectible than as a racer. Auction house RK Motors Collector Car Auctions has not given an estimated sale price, but cars with similar pedigrees have sold in the millions. And the film connection could help drive up the cost.

Rush, scheduled for release on September 27, tells the dramatic story of the rivalry between Hunt and Niki Lauda and their epic battle for the 1976 Grand Prix championship. Lauda was ahead on points when he suffered a near-fatal crash in the 10th race of the season at the Nurburgring in Germany.

In an incredible show of bravery, Lauda returned after missing only two races. With just four Grands Prix left in the season, and a single victory separating the two competitors, Hunt ended up taking the championship by a single point in the last race of the year.

That car was a McLaren M23, a four-year-old design, which Hunt drove throughout the 1976 season and at the beginning of 1977. Its successor, the M26, was available in mid-1976, and although it was an improved design, the car had some reliability problems. Because of the close fight for the championship, Hunt opted to stick with his M23.

During the first few races of the 1977 season, Hunt continued driving the older car as development continued on the M26. Finally the bugs were worked out, and Hunt switched to the new model, with which he won three races in 1977: the British Grand Prix at Silverstone, the United States Formula 1 race at Watkins Glen and the Japanese Grand Prix at Fuji.

The car going on the auction block this November 1-3 is the one Hunt drove at Fuji in 1977, which turned out to be the final Formula 1 victory of his career. That history and the premier of Rush, are sure to combine to ensure lively bidding action.

Edmunds says: This car's history alone would make it rare and valuable, but the hype surrounding Rush is sure to escalate the level of interest in the auction.

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