The McLaren Group was founded in 1963 by famous racing legend Bruce McLaren. It is in 1989 that the McLaren Group decided to open an automotive division to create road legal high performance cars. In 1992 the first F1s were produced and they went onwards to be built until 1998. Only 106 were ever manufactured during this time period. Fast-forward ten years and in 2008 the development of the 12C was initialized. In 2009 McLaren Automotive unveiled some numbers and sketches to the world, and in 2011 the final product hit the showroom floors.
Development of 12C started under code name P11. Under the supervision of chief designer Frank Stephenson, the project moved on to be revealed to the public under the MP4-12C badge now commonly known as the 12C. The release of the 12C caused lots of stir within the motoring world. Was it worthy of the McLaren name? Could it follow behind the F1’s hypercar heritage? Was it worth buying over the competition its Italian rivals were offering?
The 12C was McLaren’s second road car. It was completely developed and manufactured by the brand and had big shoes to fill. The F1 had since been the staple of supercars since the late 90’s. Ferrari and Lamborghini were offering the best product they had engineered in years and the competition was ferocious. Many favored the everyday usability of the McLaren, which had been all the rave on various automotive forums and websites. The British engineers at McLaren had created a car that filled in the gaps for many supercar lovers. It had usable front trunk space, impeccable suspension, and a powertrain that can be used around the city without any hassles. It was also a beast on track and could do more than most owners were willing to push their cars to do. It was a very capable package that came at the same price tag as its competition.
At its release, the 12C redefined supercar aristocracy and showed Italy there was a new manufacturer that was to be feared. Early adopters of the McLaren did express some discontent towards the car in the first years of production. The noise at times was overwhelming for some, and the doors weren’t always functioning properly. In 2013 they fixed all these issues and boosted the engine to an impressive 616hp and offered all existing clients to send their cars back for the free upgrades.
The technologies used in the 12C were quite impressive considering it was McLaren’s first car in ten years. Brake steer, interconnected damping, a carbon fiber MonoCell, active aerodynamics, and many more features were brought from the F1 world into their supercar. The package offered features that other supercar manufacturers had not integrated into their cars yet. It gave them an edge on the market, which many adopters of the brand fell instantly in love with.
In 2013 McLaren celebrated its 50th anniversary and offered 50 coupes and 50 spider limited edition 12Cs to commemorate the date. MSO (McLaren Special Operations) gave a hand in producing these cars with an upgraded front bumper and cosmetic upgrades around the car. Photographed in this article is a 50th anniversary edition coupe in heritage McLaren orange. It came as a surprise when the owner of this car contacted me to photograph some cars in his private collection that he had one in his possession. The McLaren 12C was the one that excited me the most out of the cars he had listed he owned.
As I set my eyes on this 12C for the first time I was left speechless by the cars stance and color. It seems photographs of the McLaren make it look mundane compared to other supercars, but when you arrive head-to-head with it, your brain reprograms itself and you begin to understand what is in front of you. It’s not everyday you get a ride in a twin-turbo V8 monster that can be used at the drivethru at McDonalds if you so please.
It became apparent as I opened the flip up doors that McLaren had thought of usability from the start. While it looked quite impressive to flip the doors up in the 12C, they actually served a purpose. The walls of the MonoCell extended quite high as to create a tub effect for the chassis. By having the doors flip up it gave more room for you to sit inside the car and I could use them to keep my balance going in.
As we put the dials in comfort mode and exited the garage I was impressed by the view I had in the front. The windshield extended down between the two wheel arches to give a phenomenal view of the road ahead. Being six foot tall, I usually have my head hitting the ceiling every now and then in these supercars, but not in the McLaren. The seats are positioned towards the center of the car for weight distribution and the cabin feels quite roomy due to this. The cabin is minimalistic with a beautiful finish to it. The cabin of this 12C was finished in Alcantara with tan brown leather trims and carbon fiber. Every dial and button had a purpose and nothing was out of place. Ambient temperature control for the passenger is fitted to the passenger door to keep the center as uncluttered as possible. That’s the kind of detail I just love about this car.
As we set-off towards the backroads we switched the dials into sport and pressed on the aero button. This is where the car truly shined. We were going through the countryside blasting through in a McLaren being pushed back into our seats turn after turn. The sports exhaust just screamed the V8s engine notes as the turbos were spooling behind us. It felt as if my heartbeats were in sync with the cars tachometer. The engines notes increased as the speedometer displayed higher and higher speeds. The car took turn after turn as if it was simply teasing us that it could be pushed much more. It was all finished way too quickly and we switched things back to comfort as we approached the city once again.
As we cruised through the narrower streets and drove over the railroad tracks I felt as if I was back in a luxury sedan while only minutes before this same car was pushing us at triple digit speeds increasing my adrenaline level second by second. In my opinion McLaren did an exceptional of making this car capable in any environment. It’s truly a great choice for anyone that wants supercar thrills and everyday usability.
McLaren rightfully created something magical with the release of the 12C only 3 years ago. They redefined the synonyms associated to supercars such as uncomfortable, loud, and track-focused to comfortable, exquisite, and everyday usable. The 12C evokes all your senses from the moment you step in. Its lines just flow from one end of the car to the other and the interior is what to be expected from a British marque. It has taste in every little detail and is not overdone. The quality of the materials is off the charts with their use of carbon fiber, Alcantara, and leather on the interior and flawless paint job on the exterior. It was fantastic to come out the car and see the heat dissipating at the back of the exhaust as we parked it for some images. It just showed that this was a performance car of its own right.
The 12C is not a car to take lightly by all respect. It’s a fully capable track car that redefines itself by being usable every day. It put smiles on the faces of people that were not even sure what exactly it was as we were driving around. It gave me thrills that I will remember for a long time. The exhaust notes will remain inside my mind just like the Beethoven’s 5th symphony.
Another highlight of the McLaren brand is their customer appreciation. They recognize their errors and fix them. Very wise business decision some might say but I like to think its because they truly care about your experience with their product. It was great to talk with the owner of this McLaren about his experience with the car and the purchasing experience. He forwarded to me a text he had written for the McLaren Life forums a while back about his trip to the technology center organized by his dealer to go see his car being constructed. Enjoy the read of Zach’s experience of visiting his car, production number 7614 being built in Surrey, England.
My day at McLaren.
Let me start by saying that to fully appreciate what the 12c and P1 are all about, you really must visit the McLaren Technology Center.
As you approach the roundabout in front of McLaren, the massive sign greets you letting you know that something very special is about to appear – and it is, indeed, special.
After we are cleared by security, we were directed to park in the VIP executive area. As we drove along the circular road that borders the lake in front of the building, I could not stop staring at the architecture, so much so that I narrowly escaped from driving into the lake, despite my wife reminding me to keep my eyes on the road. Seriously, last thing I wanted was to make the company newsletter as the first driver to end up in the lake (in a rented Peugeot).
We were greeted at the entrance by our tour guide, Rak. The interior of the facility was even more amazing than the exterior. I can honestly say I had never experienced a building quite like this, and I am not sure I ever will again. It was almost surreal. Rak escorted us through the Jetson -like elevators up to level 1 where we were offered refreshments, but we were already adequately refreshed, so off we descended to level minus 1. On the way, we passed by the multiples of Formula 1 cars and the three F1s. I was hoping that Rak would toss me the keys and tell me “go for a spin”. At least the F1 steering wheel is in the center, so for a while I could get away from the right hand drive cars.
We descended into the tunnel connecting the two buildings, then we entered the McLaren Production Center and climbed up a circular staircase to a landing above the production floor.
To the right was the P1 production line and to the left was the 12c production line, both filled end to end with magnificent cars.
We descended to the production floor. At the bottom of the stairs sits the first P1, which was Silver. We walked the P1 line seeing the cars gradually come to life. The first P1 had just shipped, so some very fortunate person was about to have the drive of their life.
We then walked up the 12c line looking for my car; production number 7614 was sitting between a Black and a Volcano Red. And then we saw it – my 50th anniversary in McLaren Orange. It was completely naked with no outer panels on at all. It was like peering at an x-ray of my car. I could see all the mechanicals, all the plumbing and wiring harnesses. Unfortunately, the seats were not installed yet, nor had the engine been fired up, but the dash was in place and I could start to see the beginnings of the color scheme of saddle tan and black. In a few days, the car of my dreams was to be ready to roll out of the assembly building under her own power.
We headed back up to ground level to explore the Formula one area and visited the Electronics, Gearbox, and Carbon fiber fabrication workshops. While walking down the corridor, we bumped into Sergio Perez who has just returned from the Japan GP for a debriefing. We then round a corner and we come face to face with Jenson Button. We bumped into Jenson several more times as he was being followed by a film crew.
We were led back to our starting point by Rak, still discussing the F1 cars in front of us. As we were listening to Rak recount their history, Frank Stephenson came up to us to introduce himself. He then lead us up to the back offices of the design area where he presented me with a poster he made of my car with the license plate “Zach’s McLaren 50th”, which he autographed. He then took off his McLaren lapel pin and gave it to me. Before we were led back to the main entrance, I made one request to Frank: that he sign my car, which he promised he would do. I am not a person who has ever been impressed by celebrities or fame. However, to meet Frank, who is such a talented designer and has had a significant impact on the auto industry, was a thrill of a lifetime.
My visit to McLaren was truly an amazing experience. To see Sergio Perez and Jenson Button, to watch my car being built, and to meet the amazing designer, Frank Stephenson, was a bucket list experience which more than exceeded my expectations. That was my day at McLaren.
My 50th anniversary 12c will remain in my collection till the very end.
Engine designation / M838T
Engine capacity / 3,799CC
Type / 90° V8
Technology / Twin-Turbo, Dry Sump
Valvetrain / 32-VALVE, DOHC, VVT
Bore X Stroke / 93MM X 69.9MM
Compression ratio / 8.7:1
Max RPM / 8,500
Power / 625PS (460KW) 616HP @ 7,500RPM
Torque / 600NM (443 Lb-Ft) @ 3,000-7,000RPM
Type / Dual Clutch seamless-shift gearbox (SSG) with pre-cof functionality
Gears / Seven-speed
Maximum speed / 329KPH (204MPH)
0-100KPH (62MPH) / 3.3S (3.1S WITH CORSA TYRES)
0-200KPH (124MPH) / 9.2S (9.0S WITH CORSA TYRES)
0-60MPH (97KPH) / 3.2S (3.0S WITH CORSA TYRES)
0-100MPH (161KPH) / 6.3S (6.1S WITH CORSA TYRES)
0-400M (¼ MILE) / 11.0S @ 214KPH (133MPH)
0-1,000M / 19.6S @ 271KPH (168MPH)
200-0KPH (124-0MPH) / 123.5M (405FT)
100-0KPH (62-0MPH) / 30.7M (101FT)
Tyre type / Pirelli P-ZERO
Front tyre / 235/35 R19
Rear tyre / 305/30 R20
Brake type / Carbon ceramic discs
Brake size / (F/R) 370MM/350MM
Brake calipers / (F/R) Six-piston/Four-piston
Wheel size / (F/R) 8.5” X 19”/11” X 20”
Din weight / 3,249LB
Dry weight / 3,033LB
Weight distribution / (F/R) 42%/58%
Fuel tank / 72 litres
Engine oil / 8.0 litres
Coolant system / 20 litres
Washer fluid / 4 litres
Fuel consumption / 11.7L/100KM (24.2MPG)
Power to weight / 466PS/Tonne (459HP/Tonne)