McLaren is a name synonymous with some of the fastest and most powerful cars on the planet. This British automaker runs its operation out of the McLaren Technology campus of Woking, Surrey in the United Kingdom. The first iteration of the McLaren motor company was founded in 1963 by driver Bruce McLaren himself. The original firm was known as Bruce McLaren Motor racing. After seventeen years in the business, they merged with Ron Dennis’ Project 4 Racing team. Just 5 years later, McLaren Automotive’s predecessor, McLaren Cars, was founded by Ron Dennis.
In 2017, the overarching McLaren Technology Group (a firm that owns several motorsport, automotive, and technological subsidiaries) completed its purchase of McLaren Automotive. This company is now a subsidiary, functioning much like an individual department would at a smaller firm. McLaren has created some of the most mechanically-impressive cars ever constructed. Three of the most famous McLaren cars are the F1, P1, and 12C – names which most auto enthusiasts recognize. The newest car that McLaren is set to add to its lineup would be the McLaren Senna. This car produces 789 horsepower from its 4.0-liter V8 engine. This impressive power, combined with its extremely light body weight, makes this a formidable track car. Plus, the aerodynamic style doubles as an exercise in aesthetics.
McLaren is a name that most people associate with only modern supercars and Formula One racecars. However, the brand has a rich history, full of interesting occurrences and facts that many gearheads may not know. So, if you want to learn a little more about this top-of-the-line manufacturer, read on to learn 20 fun facts about McLaren.
Their Founder Won his First Race at Fifteen
When founder Bruce McLaren was only thirteen years old, his father purchased a 1929 Austin Ulster. It had arrived mostly in pieces, but the young future champion McLaren saw its racing potential. He begged his father to keep the car, and let him turn it into a race car. He ended up winning his first race in it, the Muriwai Beach hill climb, when he was only fifteen years old.
They Pioneered Carbon Fiber
Until McLaren stepped up to the plate, most cars made only partial use of carbon fiber. It was not until 1981, with the creation of McLaren’s MP4/1, that a car was constructed entirely of carbon fiber. The MP4/1 had a monocoque design – which means that the chassis and the body were the same piece – and was light, strong, and able to withstand heavy impacts. In fact, it even withstood a crash at 140 miles per hour that the driver walked away from. Nowadays, carbon fiber construction is nearly ubiquitous in the Formula One racing game.
Their First Logo had a Kiwi
Bruce McLaren was a New Zealander, and people from New Zealand like their kiwis. And not the fruit, but the bird. They are small, fuzzy, flightless birds that somewhat resemble the fruit that gave them their name. Kiwis are also the national bird of New Zealand. McLaren’s original logo included a kiwi in a central spot. Created by artist Michael Turner, it reflected McLaren’s New Zealand roots and gave the brand its own unique style. The kiwi was retained for some years. However, as McLaren began to become a globalized company, the original logo ended up being replaced by a more widely-appealing and streamlined design.
Engine Bay of the F1 was Lined with Gold
McLaren’s F1 was their initial foray into the street car market. However, the 6.1-liter BMW V12 engine produced a lot of heat alongside its massive amounts of power. The solution that made it into the marketed version of the car was simple. The engine bay was simply lined with real gold foil. This reflected the heat away from the carbon fiber of the body, ensuring that one’s experience with this McLaren product would never be as disastrous as heat-damaged carbon fiber. For a car that will set you back $10 million or more, to say that reliability is important would be a gross understatement.
They Have a Hand in NASCAR
Though McLaren is primarily known for Formula One, they have a small hand in NASCAR as well. Though they do not field any cars for this popular racing event, they do supply several electrical parts. Their very first NASCAR part was an alternator that they designed in 2008 for a racing team that ended up remaining anonymous. By 2012, NASCAR had switched to fuel injection, creating a need for a new ECU and harness. McLaren Applied Technologies delivered, providing a new ECU for every single NASCAR automobile at the time. Most NASCAR racers still make use of the McLaren ECU – putting British technology at the heart of one of the most quintessentially-American events.
Their Founder Broke Grand Prix Records
Bruce McLaren won the American Grand Prix in December, 1959. This was the first American event that had ever been counted for the world racing championship. Plus, he won at only 22 years old – making him the youngest driver to ever win a Formula One Grand Prix. He held onto this title until Fernando Alonso won a race in Hungary in 2003 (and he was less than a year younger than McLaren himself). It is perfectly fitting that a boundary and record-breaking company like McLaren had such an illustrious and talented founder.
They Make Cartoons
Tooned is a comedy cartoon produced by McLaren that also promotes their racers and vehicles. It currently features Jenson Button, Fernando Alonso, and Alexander Armstrong, and has featured other racers and characters in the past. The episodes are only about 3 minutes long – so, you should check one out to get a feel for the skills of McLaren’s cartooning team. (That phrase – McLaren cartooning team – looks pretty odd written out.) This cartoon is usually aired before the start of any Formula One race broadcast on Sky Sports F1.
They Spawned a Catering Company
Back in the late 90s, McLaren discovered a need for a catering company at the McLaren Technology Center. However, they wanted the best possible catering service – their idea of which did not yet exist in the United Kingdom. So, they dipped into the coffers to fund their very own catering company called Absolute Taste. This London-based caterer began serving McLaren Technology Center in 1997, and has now become one of the more successful caterers in the business. Their fresh food and VIP hospitality are two traits that put them at the top of their game amongst their numerous competitors in London and the surrounding areas.
The McLaren F1 is Still the Fastest N/A Production Car
At its release in 1992, the McLaren F1 was found to be the world’s fastest naturally-aspirated production car. These cars were produced from 1992 to 1998, and had an incredible max speed of 243 miles per hour – 43 miles per hour faster than the company’s own estimate upon their release. To this day, the F1 retains the world record. Plus, with an end-production year of 1998, the very newest McLaren would still be 20 years old – and most of them are older.
They Loan Out F1 Engines
McLaren’s customer service is some of the best in the industry. For example, if you send in an F1 engine for rebuild, they will loan you a functional engine that you can use for the duration of the repair. This action by the Special Operations department is one of many small courtesies that the car manufacturer extends to its customers. Having these types of actions associated with their name also reassures people who end up spending millions of dollars on a single car. If you ever own a McLaren, at least you will know that you will be well taken care of by the company – not left in the dust seven figures poorer.
Their Longest Serving Employee Started in the 60s
The employee hired the earliest on today’s team, Ray “Tex” Rowe, started out at Bruce McLaren Motor Racing back in 1965. In fact, he was one of the original mechanics who worked on the very first Grand Prix race car that McLaren produced. Since then, he has given the race car and luxury auto manufacturer his loyal service nonstop for over 50 years. That’s a level of commitment and dedication that reflects the spirit of determination and hard work that McLaren is known for worldwide.
Bruce McLaren Died in a Car Crash
At only 32 years old, the founder of one of the world’s top automotive companies perished after crashing a prototype car in 1970. The car was the M8D, a Can-Am prototype. He was racing down a test track when the back end gave out, sending him into the crash that ended his life. The man was far too young to perish in such a way. It makes a person wonder where McLaren would be today had his life not ended as soon as it did. After all, he was one of the most innovative and talented racing professionals of his time.
They Analyze Billions of Data Points
Each McLaren race car is equipped with sensors and computers that gather data on various things (heat, tire wear, etc.) throughout every race that the car runs. The manufacturer then uses a software from SAP (an enterprise application software company) to analyze the data and find areas where it could be improved. This helps to ensure that the next iteration of the Formula One racer makes improvements over the current generation. In addition, the current car can have smaller adjustments made to improve track performance in the short run. After parsing literally trillions of data points, McLaren has been able to get a much better idea of how a car responds with certain mechanical and engineering adjustments.
Their First Street-Legal Car was Built by McLaren Himself
Bruce McLaren designed the M6GT, a light, loud, low, and quick car that was registered under the tag OBH 500H. Before his untimely death, McLaren used his M6GT in his daily commute and to attend company meetings. There were actually some plans in the work to produce several M6GTs for sale in the general market. However, after McLaren crashed in 1970, these plans fizzled out. The first McLaren production car was not created until the F1 came out in 1992. However, the M6GT was a gorgeous car, and would likely be highly successful (even on today’s market). It has the appearance of an Italian sports car, but the reliability and power of a McLaren.
They Have Designed Soapbox Racers
Their earliest entry into the soapbox racing world was at the 2002 Soapbox Derby or Gravity race. Their soapbox design was aerodynamic, bright orange, and had a price tag of less than 1000 British pounds – one of the requirements for entry into the race. The same soapbox racer has been used in several other races since this first one, making appearances at gravity-based events all over the United Kingdom. Of course, the design of a successful soapbox car is an obvious testament to the engineering abilities of the McLaren team. Creating such a vehicle requires an acute understanding of physics, gravity, and aerodynamics that could not be matched by any engineer from a normal vehicle company. Only a race company like McLaren can offer the right skillset for creating the optimal solution in this situation.
They Made a Two-Seater Formula One Car
Most Formula One race cars are constructed around a single seat for the driver only. However, in the MP4/98T, there are two seats. The passenger seat is located directly behind the driver’s seat, and is elevated slightly higher to ensure a proper field of vision. This is a rarity in Formula One, and serves as additional proof of the barrier-breaking mentality that McLaren possesses when it comes to racing machines. Only McLaren would think to create a rocketlike car, with superior handling and speed – and then add a passenger seat. After all, this raw power and gliding ride should be experienced by more than one person.
They Broke Records with Hugo Boss
Hugo Boss is a clothing brand, and was once synonymous with McLaren Racing. At one point, their logo appeared on every single McLaren Formula One car, with the drivers wearing clothing embossed with it as well. These two companies shared a synergistic relationship – Hugo Boss got the exposure that comes with sponsoring a Formula One team, while McLaren received not only money, but high-end clothes for their drivers. They ended up working together for about 35 years, breaking records for the longest-lasting business relationship of this type. Unfortunately, this dream team was broken up after Mercedes took McLaren’s place in 2015. It is uncertain whether we will see Hugo Boss return to McLaren’s side in the future, or if they will stick with Mercedes long enough to break yet another record.
They Are Environmentally-Conscious
McLaren has a commitment to reducing emissions and waste when it comes to auto manufacturing. Pushing a goal of “sustainable racing”, the company has reduced CO2 production from their motors, and recycles more than 60% of the waste that it produces in daily activities. Of course, you can’t discount that the P1 is a distinct step towards sustainability. The vehicle, debuted in 2012, is a plug-in hybrid sports car that boasts a 903-horsepower electric motor (alongside a 3.8l twin-turbo V8 as backup). It appears as though the car manufacturer is making proper strides towards sustainability in a changing world. After all, fossil fuels won’t last forever. But when they do run out, McLaren will be ready with some of the best all-electric designs that the world will ever see. Having an early commitment to environmentally-sustainable designs will help the automaker in the future.
Their Tech Center Doubles as a Museum
The beautiful McLaren Technology Center has some amazing architecture and a lake that offers superior cooling to their wind tunnel. It also doubles as a museum, with 25 historic McLaren cars spread around the grounds alongside 632 trophies. In fact, 476 of these trophies come from podium finishes in Formula One racing – McLaren’s main racing event – whereas the rest of them are from IndyCar, Can-Am, or off-track events. Being surrounded with the company’s illustrious history must be a huge boon to staff creativity and morale. After all, if an employee has a lot to live up to they will be much more likely to succeed.
They Created a Single Car that Won 16 Grand Prix Victories
The McLaren M23 was arguably the best race car of its time. It was debuted in 1973, but got off to a bit of a slow start. Though the car didn’t end up taking first place initially, after a little tweaking and driver training, it quickly became known as the fastest car in Formula One. Between 1973 and 1977, this car won a total of sixteen Grand Prix victories – a very impressive number for a car that only underwent minor tweaking between races. Especially when you consider the amount of years between the debut of the car and its retirement.
McLaren will go down in history alongside Ferrari, Porsche, Lamborghini, Aston Martin, Maserati, and many other high-end auto manufacturers. However, just because the company will have historical value does not mean that it will end. With their recent advancements in modern technology, we are more than likely to see McLaren continue to produce vehicles for hundreds of years. Though a 2118 McLaren might be completely unrecognizable – and may not even fit our definition of a car – it will still be a piece of well-engineered machinery that will be at the top of its class for a good period of time.
Written by Garrett Parker
Read more posts by Garrett Parker