Wow. My tour of the McLaren Technology Centre in Woking.
I was very honoured and very privileged to be selected and invited to visit the McLaren technology centre, which is the headquarters of McLaren Automotive and the McLaren formula one team. This invite some may assume was because of my work with My Car Heaven, but it was not. I had managed to secure this invite through the drivers’ club of which I am a member, namely the Drivers Union. One of the club members was well-known to McLaren and had recently upgraded (his words not mine) from a McLaren 720S to a McLaren 765LT. This tour organiser, and now owner of a 765LT has owned numerous cars, Ferrari’s and McLaren’s. In his opinion the McLaren 765LT was the best of them all which was interesting to hear. Anyway, onto my 1/2 day as it turned out to be at McLaren HQ.
We were greeted by George Farquhar, who is VIP & Corporate Relations Manager. As you would expect George is a very knowledgeable, affable, charismatic and passionate car man. George made us all feel very welcome and part of the McLaren family.
George introduced us to the McLaren brand, some history and then we started our tour of the McLaren technology centre. Interestingly we started with the very first car that Bruce McLaren helped to build with his father and then raced at the age of 15. This was an Austin 7 (above) which we were told had a top speed of 67mph, but by the time Bruce McLaren and his father had finished lightening the car and tweaking the car they managed to get this tiny car to a top speed of 81 mph. George went on to tell us that Bruce‘s dad was due to race this car but was suffering from gallstones and was going to withdraw from the race altogether, when a 15-year-old Bruce McLaren stepped up and asked if he could race the car as he knew the car inside out. Bruce went onto race to car and won the race. The picture above highlights the car , with a statue of Bruce McLaren sculptured by Paul Oz.
We then went on to look at Daniel Ricardo’s Formula One car (above) and other racing cars including the loudest car that McLaren have, which is this McLaren CanAm V8 (below). George went on to tell us that every year on Bruce McLaren‘s birthday the whole of McLaren headquarters has a minute silence followed by one minutes of noise. The one minute of noise comes courtesy of this Canon V8 racing car (see below a video I sourced showing this event). McLaren now only start this car outside, as when they have started the car inside the building it has made the lights fall from the ceiling.
Lando Norris drove this very car up Goodwood Hill in 2019 (below), and drove the car with purpose (yes Lando).
We then moved onto McLaren F1’s, of which there were 4 of the 106 iconic cars that were made on display. I was in car heaven. For those that love a statistic/ fact, there were 64 road McLaren F1’s produced, the rest of the McLaren F1’s were racing cars. On show we had one production McLaren F1, the 1995 McLaren F1 GTR that won the Le Mans 24 Hours in 1995 (notably four other F1 GTRs crossed the finish line, with three in the top 5 (third, fourth and fifth). At the end of 1995, McLaren celebrated its success with the production of a five-unit limited series (a nod to the five ranked F1 GTRs) called the F1 LM. I love the colour of this McLaren F1 LM (in effect a racing car for the road), and lastly a 1997 McLaren F1 ‘long tail’ GTR in Gulf racing colours.
Interestingly one of the stories George told us about during the day was about the McLaren F1 GTR that won the Le Mans 24 Hours (below). George highlighted to us that Ron Dennis )who is head of McLaren Formula One and McLaren racing division at the time of this car winning Le Mans 24 hours) was told not to clean (wash) the car after the race to protect its authenticity. Ron Dennis managed to walk past his car for two days once back at HQ until he had to have the car cleaned, such was his OCD with cleanliness. Although this may have devalued the car slightly, George highlighted that as he was showing some VIPs around the McLaren HQ sometime earlier (timeline not specified), when a VIP guest offered to buy the car for £40 million. McLaren politely declined the offer, and the car is now insured for £50 million.
Also to highlight how innovation and ability improves over time, it took McLaren 4000-man hours to build the McLaren F1 carbon fibre monocoque, today McLaren can build the same monocoque in 4 hours.
Moving on from the McLaren F1’s, we then reached the newer ultimate series cars.
Firstly, we saw the McLaren P1 (below), when this car was first on the unveiled it had a list price of £866k, George went on to explain that most cars were £1m when specced and £1.64m was the highest specced car (Qatar royal family apparently).
375 P1s were made, 821 put their name down with McLaren to own one.
Apparently, McLaren now have a second-generation electric battery that can be fitted to the P1 which is half the weight and newer technology. This technology came from the development of the McLaren Speedtail. The cost of this replacement/upgrade, call it what you will is a very hefty £115k, ouch.
We then moved onto the McLaren Speedtail (below). This being the most recent of the ultimate series cars. It is certainly a very beautiful design piece. There were 106 Speedtails made, the last of which has just been completed, 106 cars have been produced in homage to the 106 McLaren F1s made.
Then we moved onto the McLaren 765LT (below). In my opinion and the opinion of many other supercar drivers/ owners and automotive car tests an Ultimate Supercar. I just love the rear exhaust.
We were then talked through many of the Grand Prix F1 cars on display, for me the highlights being the white and orange Grand Prix cars driven by Senna, Prost, Lauda, Wilson, during the 1970s and 1980s. The McLaren that Ayrton Senna drove at Monaco and was lapping 1-2 seconds a lap faster and everybody else was just awesome to see up close.
Here’s a video clip I sourced on Aryton Senna in 1988 at Monaco, amazing and nuts:
We then Walked down a very long corridor which had 75% of the trophies that McLaren have won during their racing career to date. Another interesting fact that George pointed out was that McLaren retain every trophy that they win including the driver’s trophies. If the driver wants a copy/ replica of the trophy for their own home/ trophy cabinet, then they have to have a replica made. The other 25% of trophies that weren’t on display are currently on display elsewhere. George went on to explain that the trophies were in the central part of the headquarters because they were for all of the staff to see, acknowledge and reward them for their hard work, rather than to show off to VIPs or people entering the reception area. I get that, and if I worked at McLaren I would take inspiration from seeing these every day.
We walked past a Lego McLaren Senna (picture below), which weighed 1.9 tons, whereas the car itself only weighs 1.3 tons. I had seen lego masterpiece a few years back at Goodwood Festival of Speed.
As we then headed to the McLaren automotive car manufacturing facility, we were shown the McLaren monocoque that is in all McLaren road cars and is super strong (below). George explained through the day that McLaren have been working with carbon fibre for 40 years and these monocoque’s will save you life if you were unlucky to have a high impact crash. George went on to tell us that a customer lost control of a McLaren at 200mph, and hit a tree at 140mph, both the driver and passenger survived and walked away from the crash. Very impressive protection indeed.
We were then taken to the production line/factory (no pictures allowed), which is not like a factory that you would expect to see cars being made in. This has to be one of the cleanest car manufacturing facilities on the planet, and very impressive. I could have stayed there all day and watched.
On our way back to the main entrance, George was kind enough to show us a storage area where there were 20 to 30 Formula One and other racing cars. McLaren try to keep an example of each car that they make and all of the parts and accessories. This as you can imagine takes up a lot of space. The warehouse where they have all their historic cars is jam packed, so the overflow was here in this storage area.
This was such a wonderful experience, no doubt this would be on many a petrol heads bucket list, so I feel very privileged to have done this and will be eternally grateful to Jas (at Drivers Union), Sy (at Drivers Union) and George (at McLaren). It’s a story I will never get tired of telling my kids, their kids and anyone that will listen. Big big thanks.
Lastly, I have wanted to own a McLaren for some time. I love supercars, beautiful cars, fast cars, design masterpieces as followers of this website and my social channels will know. I have a little (most would probably say a lot) of the Ron Dennis’s OCD in my personality, so I get the striving for perfection, the little details, the technological innovation and improvement that McLaren work relentlessly for.
This tour and the passion shown by George has only reinforced this petrolheads desire to add a McLaren to my car collection. The only McLaren I have driven is the 720S and that was unbelievably fast, the 40-100mph on the 720S is from a different planet, stupid fast. It’s just a shame that the McLarens I am most drawn to are those in the Ultimate Series, namely the F1 & P1, which for now are out of my price bracket. I’ll have to keep working hard, keep saving and hopefully at some point I’ll be able to add a McLaren to my collection. Watch this space…
All my photos from the day are here on my Facebook Album.
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