The History Behind McLaren Cars

Background

Inspired by the vision and aspirations of famous racing driver Bruce McLaren, one of the most renowned luxury car brands in the world was born – McLaren Cars. Founded in 1963, this British automotive car manufacturer has become known in both racing and producing high-performance and street-legal supercars or sports cars. Over the years, McLaren has challenged the boundaries of automotive engineering which resulted in numerous racing championships and innovative cars. The McLaren F1, one of the most famous cars produced by the company, is still considered as an icon to this day.

Let us take a look back at the rich history of McLaren and what they contributed to the motor racing and the automotive industry through the years.

A Brand Born from the Passion to Race

 

While other teenagers would focus on school, go to parties, or shop, 15-year-old Bruce McLaren dedicated his time to studying cars and engineering while he was at his parents’ service station and workshop in his hometown, Auckland, New Zealand. [1] With sheer determination and courage, he built his first race car by re-engineering a 1929 Austin Ulster and won his first race in a local hillclimb. [2] His first creation eventually pushed him to pursue what he loved and so he joined more local club races until he reached the United Kingdom in 1958 where he started his career as a racing driver part of the famous Formula One. In that same year, he won his first US Grand Prix at 22, making him the youngest winner until today. By the following years he won 3 more Grand Prix titles along with the 24 Hours of Le Mans where he drove for other famous car brands like Aston Martin and Jaguar. [1]

With his early successes he finally decided to further his passion by forming his own racing team, “Bruce McLaren Motor Racing” in 1963 which also became the starting point of his career in making his own cars. By 1965, the team’s first self-designed sports car, the M1A, was launched. It was powered by several motors including an Oldsmobile V8, a Chevrolet small-block engine, and a Ford FE engine. Shortly after, they created a better version of it with the M1B which officially became McLaren’s team car. [1] Its lightweight chassis and body, as well as its incredible horsepower at the time allowed McLaren to place 2nd in the Can-Am Championship. [1]

The company continued to make more car models from sports cars, indy cars, and road cars like the following:

  1. McLaren M6A (1967) – First McLaren to be painted in the team’s signature papaya orange. It helped McLaren and Denny Hulme win 5 out of 6 races in the 1967 Can-Am series. [3]
  2. McLaren M7A (1968) – First McLaren to be powered by a Ford Cosworth DF7 Engine. The M7A  also won the Italian and Canadian Grand Prix with driver Denny Hulme. [3]
  3. McLaren M6GT(1969) – A road car prototype that was used by McLaren in going to work and meetings as part of his experiment to create the ultimate sports car. [3]
  4. McLaren M16 (1971) – McLaren’s most successful Indy car in the history of the Indianapolis 500 with 3 victories, and 6 lower rank awards. [3]
  5. MP4/1 (1981)  –  McLaren’s first carbon composite Formula 1 car wherein carbon construction methods was known to be the greatest single contribution to driver safety in sports racing history. [3]
  6. MP4/4 (1988) – This sports car won an astonishing 15 out of 16 races in the World Championship, making the McLaren a victor. [3]

The Birth of the Iconic McLaren F1

The Birth of the Iconic McLaren F1

Sadly at the age of 32, Bruce McLaren died from a car crash while he was driving his experimental McLaren M6D in Lavant Straight, England in 1970. While this was a loss for the automotive industry, his team never gave up and continued his passion and legacy in creating top notch cars. The loyalty and dedication was proven years later with the launch of the iconic McLaren F1 in 1993.

Considered as the world’s fastest production car and the first carbon fiber road car, the McLaren F1 was a technological masterpiece carefully designed and conceptualized by Chief designer Gordon Murray and a group of people he handpicked himself so as to ensure they created the world’s fastest and thrilling car. The F1’s success is attributed to its power-to-weight ratio where the lightest of materials and high-powered engines were used for the model. Murray himself designed around 5000 pieces mostly made of carbon fiber, magnesium, and titanium to make it lightweight. [4] This model was then powered up by a BMW S70/2,620 horsepower engine which reached a top speed of 242.96 mph.[4] Although the Bugatti Veyron and few other cars have now beaten the F1’s speed, it is still the fastest naturally aspirated production car in the world as others use turbo charge or forced induction. Definitely an amazing feat for the McLaren F1 although being launched way back in 1992. 

Later on, the company was convinced to make sports car versions of the McLaren F1 so people could see them compete in international racing competitions. This includes the F1 GTR series which produced three improved versions in the years 1995 to 1997. 

The Mercedes SLR McLaren and Other Road Cars

a red Mercedes SLR McLaren in a black background

After the success of the McLaren F1, the company continued to expand its car models with the creation of the Mercedes SLR McLaren in 2003. This sports car was developed in partnership with the famous German automotive manufacturer, Mercedes-Benz. The model featured a 5.5 liter supercharged V8 engine that allowed the car to accelerate from 0-60 mph in just 3.8 seconds, and 0-100 mph in 6.3 seconds. [5] Variants of the SLR were produced later on which includes the 722 edition, the Roadster, the 722 GT, the Sterling Moss edition, and the McLaren edition which was based on all of the previous variants except for the Sterling Moss.

From 2003 until the present, McLaren never stopped producing high-performance cars that manifested speed, style, and elegance in its power-to-weight ratio. After the SLR, the company produced 15 more cars including the following:

  1. McLaren 12C (2009-2014) 
  2. McLaren P1 (2013) 
  3. McLaren 650S (2014)
  4. McLaren 675LT (2015)
  5. McLaren 570S (2015)
  6. McLaren 540C (2015)
  7. McLaren 570GT (2016)
  8. McLaren 720S (2017)
  9. McLaren 570S Spider (2017)
  10. McLaren Senna (2017)
  11. McLaren 600LT (2018)
  12. McLaren 720S Spider (2018)
  13. McLaren Speedtail (2018)
  14. McLaren 600LT Spider (2019)
  15. McLaren New GT (2019)

McLaren goes hybrid with Artura 

 

Adapting to the technological advancements of the present, the company made sure to catch up and create another iconic car that would go down in history with the creation of the McLaren Artura – the company’s first hybrid car in 2021.[6] This mid-engined two-seater supercar introduces the company’s first twin turbo V-6 engine along with a battery-electric powertrain making it the first plug-in hybrid model. With a top speed of 205 mph, it has a 0 to 60 mph time of just 2.6 seconds. [6] Although it is also considered to be a luxury car, its interior boasts of functionality more than just fashion itself. It has minimalist cabin designs, steering wheels free of buttons, power-adjustable seats, 6-cubic feet of luggage space, and a good outward visibility to aid drivers in accurately placing the car on the road. [6] It also has other useful features like an 8-inch touchscreen, bluetooth connectivity, navigation support, and  satellite radio.

References

[1]  Wikimedia Foundation. (2023, February 8). McLaren Automotive. Wikipedia. Retrieved February 10, 2023, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/McLaren_Automotive

[2] From the beginning. McLaren Automotive. (n.d.). Retrieved February 10, 2023, from https://cars.mclaren.com/en/about/from-the-beginning

[3] Our cars. McLaren Automotive. (n.d.). Retrieved February 10, 2023, from https://cars.mclaren.com/en/about/our-cars

[4] Smeyers, M., Capayas, M. L., & Nick D·VideoMcLaren1990s CarsMcLaren IconsMcLaren F1McLaren Supercars·15 min read. (2020, October 21). McLaren F1 (Ultimate Guide). Supercars.net. Retrieved February 10, 2023, from https://www.supercars.net/blog/mclaren-f1/

[5] Wikimedia Foundation. (2023, January 24). Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren. Wikipedia. Retrieved February 10, 2023, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mercedes-Benz_SLR_McLaren

[6] 2023 McLaren Artura Review, pricing, and Specs. Car and Driver. (2023, February 18). Retrieved February 10, 2023, from https://www.caranddriver.com/mclaren/artura