The Truth About Cars » mclaren The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Mon, 28 Jul 2014 15:00:10 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » mclaren McLaren Hints At Using Force Field To Replace Windshield Wipers Tue, 17 Dec 2013 14:28:08 +0000 McLaren-P1-production-model-front

The techno geek community is abuzz with the news that McLaren’s chief designer, Frank Stevens, has hinted that they are looking to replace the venerable rubber windshield wiper with an invisible ultrasonic force field that will deflect rain, snow and insects away from the glass.

Several tech websites, including, are currently speculating about how the system would work and listing the many advantages that such a system would offer. These include better aerodynamics, lack of smearing and smudging and an end to those pesky jerks at the mall who like to stuff fliers under your wipers while you are shopping. Although owning a McLaren is out of reach for most us in the proletariat the expectation is that once the technology is fully developed it will trickle down market in due time.

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McLaren Faces Hurdle From China’s Lavish Spending Crackdown Mon, 25 Nov 2013 14:56:44 +0000 McLaren-P1-production-model-side. Photo courtesy

McLaren, like many makers of luxury goods, is having a difficult time moving their fine wares in China as of late, all thanks to a crackdown against lavish spending begun last year by the country’s Communist government.

While the elite of China presumably have no difficulty hiding expensive watches or fine liquor in their homes, driving around in a P1, a Mulsanne or an Aventador practically screams the word ‘corruption’ to government officials. That said, McLaren still plans to expand in the coming year from three to 12 dealerships throughout China, based on visibility of their Formula One program and the citizen’s love for new brands.

Speaking of visibility, McLaren joined Bentley at the 2013 China International Automobile Exhibition in Guangzhou this weekend to show off their latest and greatest to help drive sales in the emerging market. The British automaker expects to sell 1,400 vehicles throughout the world in 2014.

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McLaren P13 To Anchor The “Entry Level” In Three-Car Strategy Sun, 27 Oct 2013 13:43:06 +0000

With the P1 supercar in the process of launching across the globe (see above Malaysian-debut video from our friend Bobby at LiveLifeDrive), McLaren is now planning to extend its brand to the, ah, lower half of the proverbial one percent.

According to AutoExpress,

The McLaren P13, the third member of [the] company’s road car range will cost £120,000 and deliver 450bhp… The mid-engined Porsche 911 Turbo rival, codenamed P13, will mark the entry point for McLaren ownership – and a well placed source says it will take styling inspiration from the £866,000 hybrid P1, rather than the 12C… Given its shrunken size and carbon fibre construction, the P13 will weigh even less than the 1,434kg 12C and significantly less than the 1,600kg 911 Turbo. Power should come from the same in-house-designed 3.8-litre V8 turbo.

McLaren’s completely ridiculous naming strategy appears to have been given the heave-ho for good; the “12″ in MP4-12C was supposed to represent some McLaren Performance Index, with higher numbers being better. But the P1 wasn’t called the MP4-15 or something like that; it was called “P1″ to remind people that McLaren is still in the Formula One business.

This lower-performance car will be called the P13, which is about where McLaren’s been qualifying lately, so I suppose it makes sense. It’s certain to be a success in Europe, where it will be considered a “high-touch” alternative to the 911 Turbo. (The 911 GT3 is likely to find itself conspicuous by its absence in McLaren competitive-comparison press material.) In the United States, the outcome is less clear; although the MP4-12 was recently fluffed to within an inch of its life by our home-team media it’s starting to look like showroom poison.

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What Can Alfa Romeo Learn From McLaren? Thu, 22 Aug 2013 13:58:24 +0000 000-2014-alfa-romeo-4c

If you read the title and mouthed “everything,” I can’t blame you, but please bear with me.  What can Alfa Romeo, the Italian former racing marque and the assumed quintessence of automotive passion, emotion, and physical beauty, learn from McLaren, the English Formula One mainstay and sometime purveyor of clinical, efficient supercars?  The two companies represent quite divergent poles along the automotive landscape, but they have much in common, both historically and in the present day, particularly in the North American market.

Alfa Romeo traces its origins back before the first World War, and the company was involved in motorsports straight away, competing in some of the earliest iterations of the Targa Florio, with a relative unknown named Enzo Ferrari delivering them a second place finish in the 1920 race over formidable Sicilian mountain roads.  Il Commendatore later ascended to team manager, responsible for a stable of drivers that included Tazio Nuvolari, among others.  During the latter portion of the interwar era, the European Championship – the predecessor of Formula One – was largely dominated by the Silver Arrows, who enjoyed considerable state-sponsored largesse, although Alfa received support from Mussolini’s regime and found some success, as well.


 Nuvolari’s Alfa Romeo leads the Auto Union of eventual victor Bernd Rosemeyer at the 1936 Italian Grand Prix, held at Monza

After the second World War, the marque once more enjoyed motorsports glory, with Giuseppe Farina and Juan Manuel Fangio winning the 1950 and 1951 World Drivers Championships, respectively, in Alfas.  Alfa continued its F1 participation in ensuing decades, supplying engines to a variety of teams – including March and Brabham – before returning briefly as a full manufacturer during the turbo era, but met with little success, and so exited after the 1985 season.  Afterward, Alfa provided engines to Ligier and Osella, before leaving the sport for good in 1988.


Fangio’s Alfa Romeo 159 “Alfetta” at the 1951 Belgian Grand Prix, a race El Maestro won; note the iconic Quadrifoglio badge

Despite substantial motorsports credibility, Alfa Romeo is remembered in the United States for other reasons, if at all.  Alfa began officially importing cars into the US in 1961, taking over from Max Hoffman, who had done so beforehand.  An Alfa Romeo Spider featured prominently in the 1967 film The Graduate, with protagonist Ben receiving a Duetto as a graduation present.


Although Americans of a certain generation began to consider the diminutive roadster the appropriate visual accompaniment to the music of Simon and Garfunkel, Alfa Romeos acquired a reputation for mechanical and electrical fragility, and overlord FIAT pulled Alfa out of the domestic market in 1995, due to economic difficulties.


The legendary unreliability of Alfa Romeos and other “interesting” cars helps keep this Atlanta garage quite busy

The genesis of McLaren begins in the Antipodes, courtesy of Kiwi namesake Bruce McLaren.  Bruce joined the Cooper F1 team in 1959 and raced for them until 1966, when he struck out on his own.  McLaren perished in a Can-Am testing accident at Goodwood in 1970, but his legacy carried on.  The McLaren team won its first World Constructors Championship in 1974 with Emerson Fittipaldi, who also won the World Drivers Championship that year.  The team struggled through the remainder of the decade, but the course began to turn with the arrival of analytical and calculating boss Ron Dennis in 1980.  The team notched two more championships in 1984 and 1985, with Niki Lauda and Alain Prost, respectively, serving as drivers.  McLaren has historically relied on purchasing its engines, rather than manufacturing them in-house; the team was a customer of Cosworth Ford, aforementioned Alfa Romeo, and TAG-Porsche in its earlier years.  The greatest achievements came through its partnership with Honda, however.  For the 1988 season, Dennis secured the best powerplant, as well as the best driver lineup – Prost and Ayrton Senna.  The superiority of the McLaren MP4/4 shone clearly, and Dennis’s pair of drivers competed only against each other for the drivers title, winning 15 of 16 races between them.


Senna leads from Prost in the 1988 Hungarian Grand Prix, a race which Senna won

Top McLaren brass were waiting at the Milan airport after the 1988 Italian Grand Prix when discussion of a McLaren road car began.  Buoyed by their dominance that season, Ron Dennis, partial TAG-owner Mansour Ojjeh, and engineering extraordinaire Gordon Murray envisioned a lightweight, high-powered supercar that would define the genre and embarrass previous offerings from the likes of Ferrari and Porsche.  Production of the uncompromising, price no object McLaren F1 began in the next decade, and approximately 100 cars were built.


The F1 has inspired awe and lust among automotive enthusiasts for the past 20 years, but the car went largely unnoticed by the general public.  The rarity and sky-high values prevented them from being used as idle cruisers, and the small footprint, demure silhouette, and unknown badge meant that the rabble would accord more kudos to a Ferrari or Lamborghini anyway.  McLaren collaborated with Mercedes-Benz – its engine supplier – to build the McLaren-Mercedes SLR during the oughties, but the heavy GT car is one the Woking concern would probably prefer you forgot.

After absence from the American market as a full manufacturer since the mid-1990s, McLaren returned with its MP4-12C supercar in 2011.  Likewise, Alfa Romeo has pledged a return to our shores next year with its forthcoming 4C model, a flyweight car that Alfa hopes will redefine the terminology of the supercar.  Both companies are confronted with the difficulties and potential benefits of a tabula rasa in North America; notwithstanding the recent, short-term success of Tesla, there have been vanishingly few successful contemporary (re)-launches of automotive brands, attributable to the costs of (re)-establishing a brand identity and a dealership network.  That said, the potential opportunity is immense, with the chance to slough off unfavorable associations and snatch away market share like Sooners rushing into Oklahoma.  For both sporting brands, the lack of historical baggage will likely appeal to performance-conscious buyers who wince at the poseur image that other sports car manufacturers have attracted (and, arguably, courted).

There exist striking similarities between the McLaren MP4-12C and the Alfa Romeo 4C.  Both of them are mid-engined, rear wheel drive sports cars featuring turbocharged powerplants and the exclusive use of dual-clutch transmissions.  Crucially, both cars employ a carbon fiber monocoque as the basis of the chassis; the Alfa represents the first application of this technique in a remotely affordable package (although final pricing is still evolving, the car is intended to compete against the Porsche Boxster and Cayman, so observers expect a similar price point).

Click here to view the embedded video.

Alfa Romeo hopes to deliver its “compact supercar” at a palatable price by harnessing its existing parts bin, as well as the declining expense of composite materials.  The alchemical Alfa 4C employs a 1.75 liter 4-cylinder engine mated to a TCT twin-clutch transmission; both are found elsewhere in the existing model line.  The carbon fiber monocoque borrows from Dallara’s experience with the KTM X-Bow track day machine.  Due to its light weight, the 4C eschews assisted steering in favor of a manual rack.  On top of this clever, parsimonious tech and feature fest, the 4C is a beautiful car.  It’s not an elegant, lissome design, but there’s more than a whiff of 21st century Lancia Stratos about the proportions; the view of the stern is seductive and sensuous.


Alfa Romeo 4C cruising up Lord March’s driveway at the 2013 Goodwood Festival of Speed

The 4C is similarly stunning from the opposite end.  The stance is low and the car improbably broad, with the oversized wheels pushed to the corners.  The classical Alfa triangular radiator looks like a woman’s, uh, radiator.  Admittedly the interesting headlights are an acquired taste, and the mirrors look like Dumbo’s ears, but even Cindy Crawford has a mole.


So what can Alfa Romeo learn from McLaren as it embarks on producing and selling this remarkable vehicle?  The McLaren’s raison d’être is superlative performance figures courtesy of cutting edge F1 technology, and the company has even pledged to update the car from time to time, making the enhancements available to owners of existing cars, thereby offering them even more performance.  That’s quite commendable, but the boys in Woking have a small concern over which to fret:  the MP4-12C – which has recently had its name shortened to the 12C – has been struggling in the secondary market.  A perfunctory perusal of returns 64 McLarens for sale, with asking prices already dipping below $200,000.  Meanwhile, there are 221 examples of the Ferrari 458 Italia available on  Prices for the older, slower, heavier, less powerful, less advanced Ferrari are higher, despite nearly quadruple the supply; you’ll have to pony up about 10% more to get into the cheapest 458 Italia.  Apparently, Jack Baruth’s crystal ball was working quite well last summer.

Alfa Romeo can take this observation to heart and sell the 4C not on the numbers, but on emotion.  They can mine that deep well of motorsport spoils, that palpable passion running through their nearly century long history to move the metal.  Fortunately for Alfa, the back catalog is essentially free, earned and paid for in the past.  All they have to do is plunder it now.

David Walton grew up in the North Georgia mountains before moving to Virginia to study Economics, Classics, and Natural Light at Washington and Lee University. Post-graduation, he returned to his home state to work in the financial services industry in Atlanta.  A lifelong automotive enthusiast, particular interests include (old) Porsches and sports car racing.

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Macca’s Back Tue, 26 Feb 2013 15:41:58 +0000

Even though we’re subjected to relentless claims that the golden age of automobiles has long passed us, I can think of worse things than a 900-horsepower supercar with C02 emissions comparable to a Scion FR-S.

Using the same twin-turbo V8 for the McLaren MP4-12C, the P1, as this yellow number is known, puts out 903 horsepower in total – the V8 puts out 727 ponies, while an electric motor is good for a further 176. 0-60 mph comes up in under three seconds, while top speed is said to be 217 mph.

The other side of the coin here is, of course, eco-friendliness. What kind of supercar doesn’t have some green cred nowadays? A KERS-like system, dubbed IPAS (Instant Power Assist System) can unleash all 176 horsepower from the electric motor, and an F1-style Drag Reduction System can also be employed. If you need to run to the corner store for a jug of milk, the P1 can travel up to six miles on pure electric power. A full recharge takes a mere two hours.

Only 375 P1s will be built and the price should be well into the 7 figures.

Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail McLaren-P1-production-model-spoiler McLaren-P1-production-model-side. Photo courtesy McLaren-P1-production-model-low McLaren-P1-production-model-interior McLaren-P1-production-model-front McLaren-P1-production-model-brakes McLaren-P1-production-model-above McLaren-P1-production-model ]]> 15
McLaren P1 – Thumbs Up Or Down?: Paris 2012 Live Shots Fri, 28 Sep 2012 14:20:07 +0000


As amazing as the specs may be, I’m not sold on the design of the McLaren P1. It may be functional, but it can’t stand up to the elegant minimalism of the F1 and looks far too busy. Let us know what you think.


McLaren-P1-Cover Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail McLaren-P1-Paris-motor-show-17 McLaren-P1-Paris-motor-show-16 McLaren-P1-Paris-motor-show-15 McLaren-P1-Paris-motor-show-14 McLaren-P1-Paris-motor-show-13 McLaren-P1-Paris-motor-show-12 McLaren-P1-Paris-motor-show-11 McLaren-P1-Paris-motor-show-10 McLaren-P1-Paris-motor-show-08 McLaren-P1-Paris-motor-show-07 McLaren-P1-Paris-motor-show-06 McLaren-P1-Paris-motor-show-05 McLaren-P1-Paris-motor-show-04 McLaren-P1-Paris-motor-show-03 McLaren-P1-Paris-motor-show-02 McLaren-P1-Paris-motor-show-01 McLaren-P1-Cover




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Watch This Exclusive Video Of The McLaren P1 Fri, 28 Sep 2012 13:02:26 +0000

McLaren shows the P1 concept at the Paris Motor Show. Due to budgetary constraints, we had to outsource the video to India, and leave the reporting to Ireland’s Student News, which reports:

“McLaren has released very few numbers and figures, but the few that they have released are still interesting. According to McLaren, the P1 has gone through rigorous aerodynamic testing, just like a Formula 1 race car and produces the highest downforce produced by any existing road car. 600 kilos to be precise and that too well below its top speed. In fact, the P1 produces five times as much downforce as a regular MP4-12C and is comparable to 12C GT3 racer.”

“Just like the F1, the P1 has a body made completely out of carbon fiber, the mid-engined hypercar takes weight reduction even further by making use of new weight saving techniques. The car is built around a carbon monocoque and the roof structure and the safety cage is a carbon structure called MonoCage, an improvement over the MonoCell from the MP4-12C and the X1 one-off vehicle. “


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McLaren Intends To Retake Pole Position In The Supercar Wars Tue, 18 Sep 2012 17:14:05 +0000

‘Our aim is not necessarily to be the fastest in absolute top speed but to be the quickest and most rewarding series production road car on a circuit’, says McLaren Automotive Managing Director Antony Sheriff. ‘It is the true test of a supercar’s all round ability and a much more important technical statement. Our goal is to make the McLaren P1 the most exciting, most capable, most technologically advanced and most dynamically accomplished supercar ever made.’

Oh McLaren, you so crazy!

I mean it.

You’re crazy. Like, if you think supercar buyers will make any purchase decision based on your in-house road-course lap times, you’re really crazy.

When the MP4-12C was introduced, it was widely criticized for:

  • being ugly
  • having a stupid name that doesn’t make sense to anyone who doesn’t currently own a signed Lewis Hamilton Vodafone McLaren shirt framed on their wall. (An explanation for the name can be found here from the usual advertorial suspects.)
  • being slower in most respects than an original McLaren F1 would be if said F1 had the benefit of modern tires
  • being ugly

With that car, McLaren proved that they had no comprehension of why people purchase truly expensive vehicles. This sort of mistake has been made before further down the market: anybody remember all the advertisements for the Pontiac 6000STE which touted its complete and total skidpad dominance of everything from the BMW 528e to the Countach LP5000S? It turns out that people don’t buy cars based on numbers, unless the numbers are printed directly on a window sticker and preceded by a dollar sign.

Although McLaren was certain that every oil tycoon, rap star, and Russian mobster would immediately abandon the Ferrari 458 for a car with a full “12″ rating in its nomenclature, this turned out to not be the case at all. In a scientific survey taken by your humble author of random women, the MP4-12C was widely mistaken for a Fiero-based kit car by 20% of the respondents. The remaining 80% believed it was just a regular Fiero. Only the most thoroughly-trained Estonian prostitutes can tell the difference between the McLaren and a Fiero, and they rarely leave Manhattan.

To address the amazing lack of interest shown to their “12″-rated car, McLaren has decided to create a faster car, called the “P1″. This is Formula One terminology for “first practice of the weekend”, I believe. The production version will be unveiled within a year. It will be the fastest supercar in history around a race track, which means it will still be slower than a Stohr D Sports Racer while costing up to ten times as much. The amazing difficulties involved in making supercar comparison tests happen under controlled conditions will ensure that this claim is never fully tested, but since no one cares anyway it won’t matter.

The new P1 will be priced above the existing cars, which is to say it will be priced above the Ferrari 458, which you would rather have anyway. More news as it develops.

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Look What I Found!: McLaren M1B – The Ultimate Anti-Trailer Queen Thu, 02 Aug 2012 12:30:45 +0000 Your old man's a trailer queen - photo

When I go to a first-rate car show, collection or museum, I often vacillate between “but of course” and “what a surprise”. There are cars that you know that you’re going to see, cars that naturally belong in that environment, and then there are unexpected but undeniably special cars that turn out to be one of the highlights of the event for you. The Concours of America at St. John’s, formerly the Meadow Brook Concours, is not only at the pinnacle of Detroit area car events but it’s also a world-class event, in the rank of the Amelia Island and Pebble Beach shows. The 2012 CoA was held last Sunday and as expected there were plenty of “of course” moments, but also a few very pleasant surprises, including this McLaren M1B, what I consider the ultimate anti-trailer queen.

Racing McLaren’s are not so rare that I haven’t seen them before. As a matter of fact, in 2009, the same concours had three beautifully restored McLarens in their classic orange livery. This McLaren, though was not beautifully restored. At first glance the M1B appears to be a rather tatty midengine ’60s vintage race car, albeit with very attractive hand shaped aluminum bodywork. The chassis, wheels and engine (as well as the lettering on the tires) at some point in history were painted in aerosol can gold. The bodywork was bare aluminum with plenty of battle scars. Owned by Tom Antonelli, the M1B was being shown at the concours by his daughter Teressa and son-in-law Corey Becker.

Your old man's a trailer queen - photo

Note the license plate. It’s street legal (at least in Michigan it is)

The back story is that the senior Antonelli bought it 42 years ago from a Ford engineer in suburban Detroit. Antonelli’s father saw an ad for a chassis, hoping to buy it for a project, and the seller offhandedly mentioned that he had the body and the guy could have it for free because he was just going to scrap it otherwise. Research revealed that the the car was actually a McLaren M1B, most likely constructed not that far from the concour’s location in Plymouth. Though Bruce McLaren was famously from New Zealand (hence the McLaren company’s kiwi logo) he set up shop in suburban Detroit to build his race cars. As a matter of fact, McLaren Engines, though no longer affiliated with the parent company in Woking, England, is still located in Livonia.

McLaren’s choice of Detroit was no accident. He’d been using Detroit built V8s in his race cars, usually Traco built Oldsmobiles. After some success with his own first design, the M1, later called the M1A, for the 1966 Can Am racing season McLaren developed a new prototype called the M1B. Three “production” M1Bs were then fabricated in the McLaren shop for use as McLaren team racers. Since they were not really set up for production, as with the M1A, Elva made the M1Bs that McLaren sold to privateers.

Your old man's a trailer queen - photo

Teresa Antonelli and Corey Becker show off the McLaren’s Chevy V8, spray painted gold by a previous owner.

Antonelli’s car is the first M1B that the McLaren shop made after the prototype, and it has an outstanding racing provenance and history. Not only is it the first M1B used in racing, it’s it’s the first McLaren with a Chevy engine. Between the prototype and the finished design, McLaren had switched to Chevrolet power, an association that would famously continue through McLaren’s career. This particular car was  raced by Bruce McLaren himself along with F1 champion Phil Hill and Chris Amon. It finished third in the 1966 Can Am championship, sandwiched between two T70 Lolas and two Chaparral 2Es.

Racing technology was advancing very quickly in the 1960s. Back then there was no vintage racing and teams discarded old race cars like used tissue paper. For example, out back behind the Petty shop in Level Cross there are all sorts of wrecked cars that have gotten buried over time. After the ’66 racing season, McLaren sold this M1B to Kar Kraft in Dearborn. Kar Kraft was closely tied to FoMoCo’s racing program so it’s speculated that it was used it when they were working with Ford on the GT40 projects. Apparently the Ford engineer from whom Antonelli bought the car acquired it himself from Kar Kraft. I’m sure that in 1970, just four years after it was built and raced, it was considered just another used up and worn out racer, worth only scrap value.

Your old man's a trailer queen - photo

Looking at that thin aluminum shell of a door, the tiny roll bar and no other driver protection, it’s not surprising that Bruce McLaren is no longer with us.

With many (most? almost all?) of the cars at a show the level of the CoA, the most they get driven is from the trailer to the show field. When writing about collectible and special interest autos, catalog descriptions from the major auction houses are a good resource for historical information. It’s uncommon to see cars that have been driven less than 100 miles since they were restored a few years ago.

This McLaren, though, is no trailer queen. Michigan has fairly lax laws when it comes to required equipment on a car and the previous owner had added the lights that the M1B needed to be legal in the Water Winter Wonderland. Since it’s street legal, Becker drives the car to regional car events. When the McLaren Engine shop had an open house three years ago Becker was there with the car. He drove it to this year’s Concours of America from Belleville, he said it was about a 30 minute drive. He also said it was great fun but a bit scary. The is essentially a one of a kind historic artifact and it is still shod with worn, 1960s vintage Firestones. As a matter of fact, when I asked him what the insured value was, he told me that haggling with insurance companies to arrive at an agreed value wasn’t easy.

While it’s true that race cars are routinely wrecked and reconstructed, and repairing a car wrecked when vintage racing probably won’t affect the value much, this is not a restored racer. While not in as-left-the-McLaren-shop condition, it’s still more or less original – and if it does have some things that aren’t original, like that gold paint, it’s certainly in time capsule shape. It’s a cliche to say that things are only original once, but you can’t genuinely fake patina and you can’t fake real history. Notwithstanding the hassles with the insurance companies, Becker estimates that the car is worth about a million and a half dollars. That the Antonelli-Becker family would even consider the risk of driving it on public roads says that they are car enthusiasts of the highest rank. I shook Becker’s hand, twice.

More photos here.

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can dig deeper at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks  for reading – RJS

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Vellum Venom: 2012 McLaren MP4-12C Mon, 12 Mar 2012 11:55:30 +0000


The MP4-12C has a wonderful backstory for those who love and admire the McLaren brand.  The McLaren F1’s instant Zeus-like status is a large part of the mystique, but not necessarily all of it.  That said, for everyone outside of this world (and price point) you are forgiven if you wouldn’t even consider this over the similarly priced Ferrari 458 Italia….as I probably fit into that category.


A large portion of what makes a super car (in the purest, Lamborghini Miura type of way) so amazing is the character in its sheet metal (or carbon fiber), and the imagery in those creases.  Symbolism is also important: Prancing Horses, Horny Bulls and even the stuff inside the Corvette’s crossed flags give someone a concept to latch on to, a reason to be proud of the huge capital expenditure they are about to swallow.  Too bad McLaren’s red wave emblem looks like something any junior graphic design student can make while picking his nose. But I digress…

I do quite like the lower valence: charcoal grilles that float in nothingness is a unique take on the supercar schnoz.  And while I think it’s a bit busy compared to the purposeful design of the original McLaren F1, at least it stands out in a crowd.



This is a good time to note how a proper Super Car has a nice amount of overhang.  I will take the leap of faith and assume the MP4-12C is designed to meet Europe’s pedestrian safety standards, and make a blanket statement: we need sleeker, more aerodynamic noses for everyone’s benefit.



The doors also do something pretty cool.  I wonder if their design is too complicated and fussy compared to the rest of the package. But if the F1 had it, the MP4-12C needs them.  Side note: the Gallardo needs a proper set of Lambo doors, too!



From the front three-quarters view, you can see how the bumper/grille design emulates the wispy side coves for engine cooling.  It’s pretty trick, even if I think black wheels detract from the package.  Considering the whole vehicle looks like it could be made by one of the many super car makers in this cottage industry, a set of wheels with the authority of the Lamborghini Countach’s “revolver chamber” design are needed.



Do you feel this car hails from the automaker that gave us the F1?  I’m not feelin’ it, son…especially since that greenhouse doesn’t hold three people with the driver in the center.  Tragic.



The integrated vents (that probably do something epic) most certainly look awesome.  I love seeing subtle, well-crafted details like this.



Speaking of details, thank goodness for Super Car hips and tumblehome!  Granted, we can never have this in an affordable vehicle, but work of the late Bill Mitchell was close enough.  Oh, to feel that good about Detroit Iron again!



While the speed bullets are a little fussy to me, these side view mirrors are quite appealing.  But considering the MP4-12C’s extensive use of Carbon Fiber in the McLaren tradition, maybe they are just fine, going with the carbon fiber mirror housing themselves.  I’d probably spend the extra coin to get McLaren’s matching carbon fiber arms…which I believe do exist, but cannot verify due to McLaren’s unbelievably slow and obtuse website.  Web 2.0 junkies do not approve.



The rear three-quarters perspective shows off the necessary “speed holes” you always see on Super Cars to make them fast and sexy. (Hat Tip to Homer Simpson for that wonderful phrase.) My problem here?  The speed holes aren’t as integrated (or painted body color) like many a Super Car before this one. From the materials, the shape of each hole, the cross section of each hole and the patches of flat black trim, this is a busy design. It’s begging for the integration seen on the quarter windows in the photo above.



Problem solved. The rear end is simply awesome from a dog’s eye view.  Which is what most people will see as this monster disappears into the sunset.  And while I could go on about the sleek integration of this design, I will say one thing instead: the high mount exhaust tips are very trick. They no longer exist by themselves, like a perfect couple that’s perfectly in love, the rear of the MP4-12C is a single entity.

Wait…one more thing: the integrated, smoked taillights in the rear louvers are so awesome that it needs to be a retrofit for Ferrari Testarossas around the world. It feels so good to see new lighting technology implemented without drawing attention to itself, until actually necessary. Death to Altezzas?



Yes, no doubt.  This car proves why oversized lighting pods are officially out of style. Death to Altezzas!



Even the rear marker/reflector lights mimic a character line in the MP4’s rump.  Somewhere, Mr. Walter Gropius is smiling from a sky high vantage point.



Oh yeah, the engine is quite pretty too, but that’s not really the point behind the Vellum Venom series.  Kids don’t normally sketch dashboards and engine covers in the margins of their school notebooks, they stick to the body.  And can you believe a phone took a picture this nice?







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Value Meal: Have a McLaren Wed, 01 Dec 2010 18:23:32 +0000

You want a McLaren? You know, the car made by the folks who usually only do Formula 1? All you need is exactly €200,000. Or $262,940 in today’s dollars. According to Automobilwoche [sub], that buys you:

  • A twoseater made from carbon fiber
  • That weighs only 1300 kilo (2,866 lbs)
  • Eight cylinders that make 600hp
  • A top speed to 320 km/h (200 mph)
  • And only 300g CO2 per kilometer!
  • A design that looks like it’s coming from the Fulton fishmarket.
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Want A McLaren? They Bet You Will Mon, 02 Aug 2010 13:23:08 +0000

When you hear “McLaren” mentioned during Formula One races, do you sometimes want one? Now you can. Street legal. And a steal for only $280,000 MSRP. To make that dream possible, McLaren group has taken on £40 million ($63m) worth of loans from HSBC to finance the construction of a new factory in Woking, Surrey.  The new factory will be the home of McLaren’s new super car, the MP4-12C (catchy name!). McLaren is forecasting to build 1,000 units in the first year of production, but within five years, McLaren is hoping to be building 4,000 units per year. One of the main selling points of the MP4-12C is the fact it’ll be able to get to 124mph in 10 seconds. It even has air brakes, implements usually used to bring jet fighters to a stop.

However, what makes this an interesting story is the level of debt McLaren has taken on. According to The Independent,  McLaren has been a relatively debt free entity. Their F1 team brought in 64 percent of the group’s £264.9m ($419m) revenue for 2008. Since 2005, McLaren owed practically nothing.

To take £40m on for a new factory to make a new super car sounds a bit risky. However, McLaren Automotive (the company which was spun out of the McLaren group) is boxing clever to reduce their exposure. McLaren automotive is offering a 48 percent stake in itself to private investors and when you take into account that McLaren automotive is backed by Ron Dennis (McLaren bigwig), a Bahraini sovereign wealth fund and the TAG group of Switzerland, then there’s a good chance there will be a lot of faith in McLaren automotive.

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Pagani Goes Downmarket, McLaren Goes Upmarket Wed, 07 Jul 2010 14:53:56 +0000

Italian supercar upstarts Pagani started with one car, the Zonda, and have maintained a laser-like focus on that single nameplate ever since. Former supercar heavyweight McLaren is re-entering the road car arena with its V8-powered Ferrari Italia-fighter, the MP4-12C, but is fast-tracking the development of its range-topping supercar, pitched as a neo-McLaren F1 and aimed at the Zonda and its hypercar ilk. Recession? What Recession?

The new McLaren, provisionally named the F1 by Autocar, will follow its inspiration’s emphasis on low weight and will be built around a carbon monocoque similar to the MP4-12C’s. The new McLaren should fit in above the MP4-12C’s $250k base price, possibly costing as much as the €500k that the new Pagani C9 is expected to cost. But that Zonda replacement will also be accompanied by a smaller, V8-powered Zonda, presumably powered by Mercedes’ 6.3 liter V8. This “baby” Pagani joins the MP4-12C in making the Ferrari 458 Italia’s job a lot harder, jamming the quarter-million-dollar supercar field with more options. What’s a newly wealthy showoff to choose?

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Drool, Britannia Tue, 01 Jun 2010 21:57:00 +0000
I was asked once (by a landlord who was skeptical of my job description, if I remember correctly) what country I thought built the coolest cars. It’s not the kind of question I think about too often, so the answer took me a moment’s reflection. Avoiding the only answer based a dogmatic interpretation of the term “cool” (Italy), I went with the UK. From Rolls-Royce to MINI, Old Blighty’s given us some of the world’s coolest cars, and most compelling automotive brands. And despite having lost its mainstream auto industry to industrial malaise, Britain’s classic brands and cottage car industry have remained surprisingly resilient. Food for thought, that. Anyway, here are a few examples of what I’m on about…

Jaguar hasn’t been British-owned for some time, but it’s as British as brands get. And when I spoke to Chief Designer Ian Callum last Winter, he exhibited little nostalgia for the days of Ford ownership. What Callum did talk about at great length, incurable car nut that he is, was his desire to design a mid-engine supercar. There’s no hint of that yet, but with Tata promising a billion pounds per year over the next five years for the Jaguar-Land Rover cause (Cheers, China!), an F-Type roadster appears to be “imminent” (to be followed by an XF Wagon, XF Coupe, and 3-series competitor, if you’re good). Keep in mind, this is not necessarily the F-Type concept that has been cruelly dangled in front of the Jaguar faithful since, oh, 1998, but a “driver-focused roadster” nonetheless. In fact, given the history here, we’d have to say that the odds of a faithful production version of the F-Type concept are about the same as a Cayman Turbo’s.

Speaking of which, not every sportscar company is so cynical as to deny a good car its best engine just because it might upset its cynical pricing politics. Lotus has apparently dropped the V6 from its Evora Cayman-fighter into an Elise-based Exige mule and has been throwing it around a track. With great results, doubtless. Where this maniacal little trackday racer might end up in Lotus’s lineup (if it’s built at all) is not at all clear, but remember, cool and financially sound rarely go hand-in-hand.

McLaren’s F1 recently celebrated its 20th anniversary, and assembled 21 F1s for the occasion. Sorry, not that kind of assembled. And the timing couldn’t be better, with McLaren just launching its first own-brand road car since the F1. After all, you can’t just make the largest-ever order of carbon monocoques for a production-series car and expect the press to line up at your door.

Especially when you’ve got to share the spotlight with the designer of the F1, who has gone coocoo for compacts. Make that subcompacts. Er, sub-subcompacts. OK, whatever segment a 1,500 lb 3-seater goes in. Specs for Gordon Murray’s 80-mile, 65 MPH EV T.27 at GreenCarCongress. We’ll wait for the inevitable club racer version. In Britain, it’s as inevitable as a 400-horsepower Impreza.

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Quote Of The Day: Veyron’ From The Truth Edition Mon, 12 Apr 2010 22:37:33 +0000

I know that they have to cut the car open to take the engine out. To make an engine in that configuration, you know, it doesn’t go around corners. When we did the race in Abu Dhabi, we beat it off the line so many times that the film crew was getting frustrated because the outcome was supposed to be for the Bugatti to win. So we had to do that whole thing about ten times before it managed to get off the line cleanly and catch us up. Because every time they dropped the clutch it bogged down and we were gone.

McLaren’s Ron Dennis lays into the Bugatti Veyron at the Middle East launch of his firm’s new MP4-12C [Arabian Business via Wired Autopia]. What Dennis leaves out is that the Bugatti has a (computerized, sequential-shift) automatic transmission, so it’s difficult to know what he means by “they dropped the clutch.” Besides, it sounds like the former Formula 1 boss is spewing bile, rather than objectively critiquing the Veyron… which there’s plenty of room for.

What makes us think Dennis is suffering from a case of early-harvest viticulture? How about this line:

The Bugatti Veyron is a complete piece of junk. I think it is. I believe I can look at a range of women and I can see beauty in most of them, but I can look at a Bugatti and I think it is pig ugly.The Veyron doesn’t do anything for me. I’ve been looking at it for years, and I don’t see one single thing that makes me feel good.

For the record, Ron Dennis looks like this. And at about $250k, his MP4-12C doesn’t even compete with the Veyron. Perhaps Arabian Business couldn’t print his quotes about the Ferrari 458…

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Gallery: The McLaren MP4-12C Engine Thu, 18 Mar 2010 15:47:03 +0000 In the early days of McLaren’s MP4-12C development, it was suggested that the new mid-engine supercar would use AMG’s 6.2 liter V8. As things got awkward between Mercedes and McLaren though, a mysterious “German-built V10″ was rumored to be have replaced the AMG unit under at least one testing prototype. In the end, McLaren built its own engine, the M838T. It’s a twin-turbocharged, direct-injected, 3.8 litre, 90° V8, developing about 600 horsepower at 8,500 RPM. 80 percent of its 442 lb-ft of torque is reportedly available under 2,000 RPM. Also, it looks like mechanical sex.

Beauty! Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail mcengine2 mcengine mcengine3 mcengine1 ]]> 21
McLaren Automotive: Racing Is Easy, Selling Cars Is Hard Thu, 18 Mar 2010 15:21:53 +0000

Let’s face it: it’s not the best time to be launching any new automotive brand just now, let alone a brand built in Formula 1 and offering only a single, $250,000 product. Throughout the industry, OEMs are abandoning or distancing themselves from motorsport, as the old “win on Sunday, sell on Monday” logic proves to be an ever-fading anachronism. And yet here is McLaren Automotive, launching its first new road-going supercar in over ten years, with the the help of two F1 champs. Can an automotive brand survive selling high-priced symbols of racing prowess, at a time when racing (particularly Formula 1 racing) is becoming ever-more divorced from road car realities? More importantly, can it take on the lions of the supercar world with mere techno-wonkery?

McLaren says there’s room for it to flourish in what it calls the “core market” for sportscars costing between $200k and $260k. Marketing boss Antony Sheriff explains:

By the time the 12C is launched in 2011 we expect the economic conditions to be much improved. We have already seen significant interest in the car and the supply of the 12C will be relatively scarce; in its first year we plan to produce just 1,000 cars which represents only 3.5 percent of the ‘core’ market,

McLaren is keen to point out that “the ‘core’ segment’s growth from 8,000 sales in 2000 to more than 28,000 in 2007 highlights the potential that exists.” This assumes not only that economic growth will return, but that the growth in supercar sales comes from the kind of buyers who understand the McLaren brand and want what the MP4-12C has to offer.

Which is not to say that the new McLaren won’t be a stunning car to drive. From its low-weight emphasis, to its bespoke 600+ hp twin-turbocharged V8, there’s a lot to suggest that the MP4-12C has what it takes to tackle the best supercars on the market on the track. But when you get away from the pointy-headed men who read telemetry for fun and who appreciate the 4 kilo weight savings gained by using hexagonal aluminum conductors instead of circular circular wires, you realize that it takes a lot more than world-class, race-honed engineering to sell $250k cars.

Do any of the MP4-12C’s myriad tricks and features make up for the fact that it has a misshapen blob on it where the prancing horse or raging bull should be? Sure, there are plenty of hard-core enthusiasts who remember when the McLaren F1 was the world’s most all-conquering vehicle, but that was one car. And a neo-F1, the MP4-12C is not.

Besides technology, McLaren brought another important sensibility to the MP4-12C: subtlety. Chief designer Frank Stephenson explains:

Many sports cars and super cars present an ‘in-your-face’, ‘look-at-me’ image that can become wearing and boorish; the ultimate backhanded compliment becomes, “…it was of its time”. Great design, however, is timeless and looks relevant years later. With the 12C we have produced a car that looks great today and will still look great in years to come.

And yet isn’t the “in-your-face,” “look-at-me” image what actually sells supercars in the numbers that McLaren is justifying its business on? A subtle, sophisticated $250,000 car that believes that it’s what’s inside that counts sounds great on paper, but there’s very little to indicate that the supercar market has anything to do with vehicle capability. Status and emotion part men from their money far more effectively than infinitely-variable chassis roll control systems. Besides, the Audi R8 is a subtle-yet-desirable, mid-engined supercar and it costs less than half what the MP4-12C will. In comparison, the Macca seems derivative, anodyne and unnecessarily over-engineered.

None of this should take away from the remarkable achievements that the new McLaren represents. Pushing the technical limits of automotive possibility always produces exciting results, and if the MP4-12C can humiliate Ferrari’s 458 on the right tracks with the right publicity, the McLaren brand could become the new standard-bearer for British race-nutter sportscars. But will it grace the bedroom walls of young boys with its aspirational pornography? Will it pass into the vernacular as a one-word code for a more sophisticated approach to the look-at-me image? Will it stand out in Dubai, Davos or Pudong? If not, McLaren fans could just be waiting another ten years for another road car to emerge from Woking.

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Daimler Sells One F1 Team, Then Buys Another Wed, 18 Nov 2009 14:55:49 +0000 Tone-deaf marketing explained (

Yesterday Daimler announced that McLaren would be buying out Daimler’s interest in their joint venture Formula 1 team. Many, including board member Erich Klemm, thought this made all kinds of sense. “In the (car) factories, every cent is being turned over three times. The employees are feeling the financial crisis with shorter working hours and loss of income,” he continued. “In these economically difficult times, the company should invest in better marketing of its real cars.” My, what a novel idea!

But Klemm is on the board as a representative of the workers. As such, his view caries little weight with the blue blood leaders of the pack. With the McLaren venture out of the way, Daimler is now teaming up with the petro dollar rich Abu Dhabi investment fund to buy out champions Brawn GP. Matthew Curtin over at the Wall Street Journal thinks Daimler is pulling a brilliant maneuver:

Daimler might have got its timing just right. F1 suddenly has become cheap. A fight among manufacturers and the sport’s governing body, the FIA, on how to reduce F1 running costs has led to an agreement to cap spiraling budgets. One example: the limit of 16 engines per team of two drivers. In the past, teams would build as many as 100 a year. Those controls could reduce the cost for a stand-alone Mercedes team to €60 million ($89.8 million) in 2011 from the €240 million it would have spent two years ago. At that price, F1 becomes a competitive marketing strategy given an international television audience running into hundreds of millions a year.

Are people really going to be attracted to a Mercedes-Benz because they saw something with a three pointed star parading around the track on TV? Somehow I think this is more about perks for Daimler executives than it is about moving the metal. Matthew Curtin may already be salivating over his expected all access pass to the Daimler-Brawn hospitality tent.

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McLaren MP4-12C Puts Mercedes SLS to Shame Fri, 13 Nov 2009 15:08:48 +0000

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