There’s no doubt that car racing is one of the most exciting sports in the world, and there have been plenty of manufacturers who’ve left their mark on the industry. Some marques like McLaren have been able to transcend their racing origins and become a successful road car company as well. The company has come a long way since its beginnings and we’re looking into McLaren’s history to see how it’s evolved.
New Zealander Bruce McLaren developed a love of cars in his teenage years, eventually coming to Europe to start his racing career in 1958. In 1963, he founded Bruce McLaren Motor Racing and the team developed into an influential Formula One team. McLaren won its first Grand Prix in 1968 in Belgium. More success followed in the Can-Am series, with the team dominating the division, winning 11 races in 1969.
By 1970, McLaren were ready to develop their first road car and they teamed up with Trojan to build the M6GT. Based on the Can-Am series M6A, it utilised a Chevrolet 5.7-litre V8. The team intended on racing the car in the Group 4 class, but they couldn’t build 50 cars needed for homologation in time. Only three were ever produced, with one being used by Bruce McLaren until his death in an accident.
Birth of the F1
A McLaren road car that can’t be overlooked is the F1, designed by engineer Gordon Murray. A lot of effort went into creating it, with Murray using a carbon fibre monocoque body, the first of its kind for a street-legal car. The F1’s aerodynamic shape combined with a BMW 6.1-litre V12 made it a force to be reckoned with.
The car debuted at the 1992 Monaco Grand Prix, winning the race. It made a memorable impression and customers lined up to put their orders down. In 1994, Autocar said “the F1 will be remembered as one of the great events in the history of the car, and it may possibly be the fastest production road car the world will ever see.”
The next most important road car was the Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren that came out in 2004. Inspired by the Vision SL concept that debuted at the 1999 North American International Auto Show, the car could go from 0-60 in 3.4 seconds. Despite the impressive credentials, the SLR didn’t sell as well as Mercedes-Benz hoped for, shifting 2157 models over seven years.
In 2009, McLaren unveiled the MP4-12C, which represented the company’s desire to take on Ferrari. It had a carbon fibre composite chassis and came with a 3.8-litre V8 twin-turbo engine.
A more recent example is the 2018 Senna revealed at the Geneva Motor Show. Named after the deceased Brazilian F1 racer, McLaren have called it the ‘ultimate road-legal track car.’ It comes with a carbon fibre body and powerful V8 engine that enables the Senna to reach a top speed of 211 mph.
Image Credit: Autocar