Friday , February 28 2020

The Iconic History Of McLaren Racing Cars

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McLaren has been a name synonymous with racing for the better part of 60 years, and it has produced some of the most memorable and iconic road cars ever to grace the streets of our world. While the company started out purely as a racing operation and took many decades to begin building series production cars, it now has a road car model line-up to rival the likes of Ferrari and Porsche. Join me as I chart the journey through McLaren’s road car history from the beginning through to the present day:

Genesis: McLaren M6GT

The Iconic History Of McLaren Racing Cars
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Number Built: 2
Variants: None
Engine: 5.0-liter Chevrolet V8

The M6GT was born following the great success of the M6A racing car that raced very successfully in the North American Can-Am Championship of the late 1960s. McLaren founder, Bruce McLaren, decided to enter a closed-cockpit car on the company’s existing M6 Can-Am chassis into the lucrative Group 4 GT series take on the like of Alfa Romeo, Ferrari and Porsche. The thing is the governing body of world motorsport, the FIA, changed the homologation rules for the series at the last minute, meaning that McLaren had to build 50 street-legal versions of the M6GT before the car would be allowed to compete.

Sadly, the fledgling company could not meet this requirement at the time, so the project was shelved. Luckily, two of the prototypes that were constructed in preparation for going racing were converted into road cars, one of which became Bruce McLaren’s personal transport prior to his death in a testing accident in 1970.

The Birth of a Legend: McLaren F1

The Iconic History Of McLaren Racing Cars

Number built: 64
Variants: See below
Engine: 6.1-liter BMW V12

This car was conceived by South African designer, Gordon Murray, who had made a reputation for himself as a Formula 1 racing car designer. In 1991, with the blessing of then-McLaren boss, Ron Dennis, he set out to build the fastest and most technologically-advanced road car the world had ever seen. The McLaren F1 is the result. Considering that production commenced almost 25 years ago, looking at the car from a numbers perspective is truly amazing – its BMW V12 produces 627 horsepower, it can reach 60 mph from standstill in 3.2 seconds, and it was the fastest production car in the world for more than a decade (240 mph top speed) until it was dethroned by the Bugatti Veyron in 2007.

What makes it even more remarkable is that the car has no driver aids to speak of. There’s also gold foil all over the engine bay simply because it’s the best heat reflector known to man, and it can also seat three people across (the driver sits right in the middle of the car with a passenger either side). The car was also the first to cost $1 million new, and nowadays you can expect to pay circa $10 million if you decide you want to buy one!

McLaren F1 LM

The Iconic History Of McLaren Racing Cars

Number built: 5
Variants: Variant of McLaren F1 road car (above)
Engine: 6.1-liter BMW V12

After many professional racing teams begged and begged McLaren to create a racing version of the F1, the company finally caved in ahead of the 1995 season. It built nine racing versions of the F1 for that season, and these cars came to be known as F1 GTRs. 1995-spec F1 GTR’s crowning achievement was overall victory at that year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans, beating out custom-built prototype sports cars for the victory. In addition, another four F1 GTRs finished in 3rd, 4th, 5th and 13th place respectively.

To commemorate this fantastic achievement, McLaren decided to create a very limited run of just five road-going versions of the 1995-spec F1 GTR. Dubbed the F1 LM, the car is lighter, faster and more track-focused than the standard road-going F1. All five retail examples, plus a sixth prototype car that was retained by McLaren, were all finished in the company’s signature Papaya Orange racing color, however some have since been repainted.

McLaren F1 GT (aka Longtail)

The Iconic History Of McLaren Racing Cars

Number built: 3
Variants: Variant of McLaren F1 road car (above)
Engine: 6.0-liter BMW V12

The rarest McLaren F1 of all is a road-going incarnation of the 1996 and 1997-spec F1 GTRs. They are colloquially known as Longtail cars due to their bodywork, which was extended in comparison to the 1995-spec racing cars to ensure they remained competitive on the track. McLaren retains the prototype F1 GT at its headquarters, however very insistent customers wanted their very own cars, so another two were built and sold. One of the two customer cars is believed to be housed in a collection in Japan.

This particular variant is some 45 lbs lighter than the standard F1 in spite of its increased length, and can also exceed 240 mph flat out.



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