Story

History

McLaren Automotive Overview

By James Groth for The English Car Company.

McLaren M8A at speed

McLaren M8A at speed

Bruce McLaren was the founder of what is now known as McLaren Automotive based in Surry, UK. Bruce a New Zealander first came to England in 1958 as a driver. He was mentored by Formula 1 Champion Sir Jack Brabham and started off that same year in F2 for Cooper Cars. Only a year later this talented driver moved up to Formula 1 and at 22 became the youngest driver, at the time, to win a Formula 1 race. Over a seven-year period, he would win three additional Grand Prix races for Cooper Cars.

McLaren M8A

McLaren M8A

Bruce formed McLaren Motor Racing in 1963 and had most of his personal success in the Can-Am Series. The Canadian-American Series was truly ‘run what you brought’ allowing unlimited displacement, any kind of chassis and car design. I had the pleasure of watching Bruce and fellow New Zealander Denny Hulme compete at Road America Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin for ten years. This pair of drivers was completely dominate during this period and seemed to take turns as to who would get the victory each year and Driver’s Championship.

Bruce McLaren M8B at Mosport Park1969 with new rear wing adapted from the Jim Hall Chaparral E2

Bruce McLaren M8B at Mosport Park1969 with new rear wing adapted

Each automobile company has its own national identity in terms of particular race car color. Jaguar has British Racing Green, Aston Martin has a unique pale green, the German teams use silver, the Italian cars are red, the French are Blue, and for New Zealander Bruce McLaren his cars were papaya orange that later became know as ‘McLaren Orange’.

McLaren M6GT LeMans car in ‘McLaren Orange’

McLaren M6GT LeMans car in McLaren Orange

The McLaren Team was the ‘force’ in Can-Am racing with 43 victories in the series. This is nearly triple that of its nearest competitor Porsche. The McLaren team won five Drivers Championships in a row between 1966 to 1971. Some of this was accomplished with American, Peter Revson who had five wins during the 1971 championship. Bruce was one of the winning Ford drivers at LeMans in 1966 during the classic ‘Ford vs Ferrari Wars’. Bruce’s highest personal achievement is considered his Grand Prix victory at Spa in1968 because he won in a car he designed. Only one other person has won an F1 race in a car if his own design and that is Sir Jack Brabham. However, Sir Jack stands alone as the only driver to win a Formula 1 World Championship in a race car of his own design, he did so in 1966,

M8B with high mounted airfoil that would be banned in 1970. Photo Pete Lyons

M8B with high mounted airfoil

The world would lose this multi-talented driver and car constructor from a crash during testing at Goodwood on June 2, 1970 when rear bodywork on Bruce’s M8D came loose. Perhaps the most versatile American champion driver is Dan Gurney. Gurney stepped in after Bruce’s death and won the first two races of the Can-Am Series in Bruce’s M8D. During that 1970 season, the McLaren team would win 9 of 10 races. To attempt to put perspective on the speed of the McLaren Can-Am cars consider this. Denny Hulme’s pole time at Mosport Park was 1.6 seconds faster than World Champion Jim Clark in his Formula One Lotus a month earlier at the same track. Between the outrageous designs, rear wings and speed it is easy to see that this is one of the most treasured race series ever.

McLaren M8F at Watkins Glen. Photo Pete Lyons

McLaren M8F at Watkins Glen

The McLaren Brand is unique to motor racing in that they are the only manufacturer to do something that neither Ferrari, Porsche or anyone else has accomplished. McLaren has won a championship at the Indianapolis 500, in Formula 1, and the 24 Hours of LeMans. In total McLaren has won eight Constructor Titles in Formula 1.

McLaren M8F, Road Atlanta 1970 with Chevrolet power from 680 to 750 hp

McLaren M8F, Road Atlanta 1970 with Chevrolet power

Lotus Founder, Colin Chapman was known for his passion for combining lightweight with aerodynamics for his winning race cars. However, his early road cars lacked refinement while his winning race cars may have forgone a safety first mentality in order to keep weight down. With McLaren refinement is given equal footing with aerodynamics and lightweight. However, McLaren’s passenger cars are at a whole different price point, prices start around quarter million dollars compared to the outstanding Lotus Evora at well under a hundred thousand.

McLaren M8F 1971

McLaren M8F 1971

Collaborations and mergers have proven to be a method for a small manufacturer to be able to survive and complete on the world stage, McLaren is a prime example of successfully doing so. The collaboration in 1980 with the race team of Ron Dennis brought racing one of the most significant changes and contributions, the introduction of carbon fibre. This can be credited to designer John Barnard who developed a full carbon fibre monocoque for McLaren’s MP4/1race car. The benefit of carbon fibre is increased strength and rigidity over alloy. This extra strength and righty showed immediate benefit when it was used in the door area of McLaren’s Formula 1 cars. Compared to carbon fibre aluminium car doors twist and flex in centre area at high speeds and cornering. The most important contribution though is the added driver safety. Fatalities and serious injuries in F1 have decreased remarkably compared to previous decades with the use of carbon fibre and other safety features.

McLaren F1 Bruce Meyer Collection, Petersen Automotive Museum. Photo James Groth

McLaren F1 Bruce Meyer Collection

What is the greatest hypercar ever built? I believe a case would be made by automotive writers and serious car guys for the McLaren F1. In1994 the car that established McLaren as a world class manufacturer of road cars was the F1. The F1 like current McLaren models is comfortable enough to be a daily driver. If you took the original NSX and placed it on steroids you would get the idea of what McLaren’s production cars are like to drive. A professional racing license isn’t required to be able to enjoy these cars somewhere near their limits. By design McLaren’s do not intimidate their drivers.

McLaren F1 road car three-seat configuration.

McLaren F1 road car three-seat configuration

What will take some getting used to is the three seat configuration of the F1 With the F1 the driver’s seat is in the centre with two seats slightly behind the driver to the left and right. The idea behind this was to provide the absolute best drivers view. In the1990’s a McLaren F1 XP5 set what was at the time the Land Seep Record for a road car at 240 mph.

2003 Mercedes Benz SLR McLaren

2003 Mercedes Benz SLR McLaren

McLaren partnered with Mercedes-Benz in 1999 to not only design, develop and build the high-performance road car the SLR McLaren. Power came from a supercharged 5.5 litre V8 supplied by Mercedes Racing Division, producing 626 hp and turning a 0-60 mph in 3.8 sec.

Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren Sir Stirling Moss Edition

Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren Sir Stirling Moss Edition

The model series included the 2006 SLR “722 Edition with a top end of 210 mph from 650 hp. A roadster was added in 2007 and an SLR Sir Stirling Moss edition of 75 units as a tribute car, certain to be a collectable.

McLaren MP4-12C (see Michael Axon’s review of his Spider version on this site)

McLaren MP4-12C (see Michael Axon’s review of his Spider version on this site)

By 2010 the company was separated into McLaren Racing and the passenger car division McLaren Automotive. The goal of the Automotive division was to produce a new car or version of an existing model every year. This is an aggressive business plan, one that Lotus attempted in a similar manner but without the success of McLaren perhaps due to a lack of funding. To date, McLaren has been able to achieve its recent goals. Space does not allow coverage of each model in detail. For personal insights into the MP4-12C and the driving experience please see Michael Axon’s story on his ‘Volcano Orange’ Spider on this site

2015 McLaren P1

2015 McLaren P1

As of 2015 McLaren separates its product range into three types of road and track cars, The entry-level cars are ’Sport’ 570S and 540C, the ’Super Series’ are 657LT(LongTail) and 650S, the ‘Ultimate Series’ consist of the P1 and P1 GTR. The P1 GTR is to commemorate McLaren’s 1995 victory at the 24 Hours of LeMans. The P1 GTR could only be purchased by owners of the P1.

2014 McLaren P1 interior full of carbon fibre

2014 McLaren P1 interior full of carbon fibre

Here are some highlights of the P1 and P1 GTR, considered by many to be the current state of the art for road and track car. McLaren constructed 375 P1’s from 2013 to 2015. In the case of the P1, the aerodynamics department determined the shape rather than the design team. The designer of the P1 is Paul Howse who was fresh out of the Royal College of Arts when his design was accepted. Paul’s father worked on the original F1 hypercar. Not only is the entire P1 made of carbon fibre like their Formula 1 cars, some of the technology used to win Grand Prix’s is adapted into the road-going P1 and racing P1GTR.

McLaren P1 GTR

McLaren P1 GTR

The P1 has suspension capable of altering ride height, roll stiffens and damping to emulate the performance of a Le Mans prototype, Like the F1 road car the P1 is fitted with a snorkel on its roof to channel air to the engine.
The P1 has IPAS (Instant Power Assist System) and KERS-type system (Kinetic Energy Recovery System) that includes an electric motor, battery, controllers and separate radiator similar to the McLaren Formula 1 cars. A DSR (Drag Reduction System) increases power by pushing a button similar to Formula 1 race cars. Power is derived from a 3.8-litre twin-turbo V8 coupled with an electric motor producing a total of 903 hp. In what may seem like an oxymoron, top speed is electronically limited to 217 mph. The 0-60 mph is a ‘take your breath away’ 2.5 seconds.

McLaren’s stated Mission is: “To be the best driver car in the world on road or track”. I think they are succeeding.

P.S – If you didn’t see the Can-Am cars in action the closest you can get is to pick up the exceptional photography based book on the Can-Am series by Pete Lyons who covered this series in its day for the major magazines.

Specs

Performance
Maximum speed – 329kph (204mph)
0-100kph (62mph) – 3.3s (3.1s with Corsa tyres)
0-200kph (124mph) – 9.2s (9.0s with Corsa tyres)
0-400m (¼ mile) – 11.0s @ 214kph (133mph)
0-1,000m – 19.6s @ 271kph (168mph)
0-60mph (97kph) – 3.2s (3.0s with Corsa tyres)
0-100mph (161kph) – 6.3s (6.1s with Corsa tyres)Engine
Engine capacity – 3,799cc
Type – 90° V8
Technology – Twin-turbo, dry sump
Valvetrain – 32-valve, DOHC, VVT
Bore x stroke – 93mm x 69.9mm
Compression ratio – 8.7:1
Max rpm 8,500
Power – 625PS (460kW) 616hp @ 7,500rpm
Torque – 600Nm (443lb ft) @ 3,000-7,000rpm

Weight
DIN weight 1,474kg (3,249lb)
Dry weight 1,376kg (3,033lb)
Dry weight* 1,341kg (2,956lb)
Weight distribution (F/R) 42%/58%Steering
Rack & pinion
Power steering Variable rate, electro-hydraulic
Turns lock to lock – 2.66
Turning circle – 12.3mCapacities
Fuel tank – 72 litres
Engine oil – 8.0 litres
Coolant system – 20 litres
Washer fluid – 4 litresSuspension
McLaren ProActive Chassis Control
Double-wishbone independent suspension
Damping & roll modes – Normal, Sport & Track

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