The McLaren MP4-12C is one of the most technologically advanced road cars available. Car critics across all different publications have marveled at its ability to change driving dynamics in a major way from comfort mode, to sport mode, to track mode. Its precision, and usability are hallmarks of the McLaren brand, the F1, McLaren’s first production car, featured a three seat arrangement that put the driver in the middle, giving him excellent road visibility and feel. Storage compartments were mounted just in front of the rear wheels giving a hyper car actual storage space. And oh by the way the F1 was capable of reaching over 240 mph in 1991.
McLaren’s headquarters in Woking, UK highlights why the company is able to build such technologically advanced road cars. The sprawling complex bests one’s wildest imaginations of what the headquarters of a car manufacturer could be. Combinations of glossy tiles, and large panes of glass make the space feel fresh and sophisticated. Old McLaren F-1 cars meet visitors at the entrance to remind them of McLaren’s historic racing pedigree. Assemblymen and women work opposite a wall of glass, as they quietly assemble McLarens with precision and care. Each person who lays hands on a car assumes the spirit of craftsmanship that so appeals to car enthusiasts. Master painters mix paint colors by hand, and liberally apply coats of orange and clear before body panels are thoroughly inspected for any defects. If a defect is found, the body panel is scrapped and the process starts again.
Test cars are driven 24 hours a day, 7 days a week around McLaren’s test track as drivers attempt to document how parts perform after thousands of miles. Acoustic engineers at Ricardo tune the McLaren’s exhaust to give it a savage yet livable sound.
All of this occurs under the watchful and meticulous eye of Ron Dennis, a man who once stopped an interview to complain about a floor tile with a small hairline crack in it. Dennis personifies McLaren’s belief that attention to detail is what creates fine automobiles. He insists that employees practice cleanliness, order, and quiet as he talks to reporters whilst riding down an all glass cylindrical elevator, as if out of a Bond film.
Head designer, Frank Stephenson, the man who formed the beautiful BMW Z-8 is eager to discuss with anyone willing to listen how organic forms inspired the design of the MP4-12C. He’ll point to the fins of a sailfish as inspiration for shapes on the car designed to stabilize it, or the powerful haunches of a cheetah as inspiration for the cars muscular rear end.
The McLaren MP4-12C marks the birth of a company committed to technological innovation, craftsmanship, and usability, and with the McLaren P-1 to be released sometime next year, we know the company will be able to translate those values to their next project.