Maintenance McLaren F1 cars requires 20-year-old Compaq laptop

Maintaining the McLaren F1 supercar, which appeared on the market in the 1990s, appears to require a specific version of the Compaq LTE 5280 laptop from the same era. The MS-DOS laptop is required due to the presence of a Conditional Access card.

The need for the antique laptop came to light when automotive website Jalopnik paid a visit to McLaren Special Operations in England. That is the only location in the world where owners of the McLaren F1 can go for a full service. It is only possible to access the vehicle’s electrical systems with the CA card in the Compaq laptop. The CA module is a forerunner of today’s smart cards and provides a secure connection between the car and the laptop, which runs MS-DOS software from McLaren.

An MSO employee tells Jalopnik that McLaren is paying thousands of British pounds for the old laptops. Similar Compaq models can be found on eBay for a lot less money, but only a specific one with a CA card is suitable for servicing the McLaren F1. Meanwhile, McLaren is working on a new way to connect the car to a computer, because the old laptops are becoming rarer and less reliable due to their age.

Photo: Patrick Gosling,

A total of 107 copies of the McLaren F1, including prototypes, were made between 1992 and 1998. Each copy of the iconic supercar is estimated to be worth more than 10 million dollars, approximately 8.65 million euros. With a top speed of 386.5 km/h, the McLaren F1 was the fastest production car for a long time.