Even after making the incredible F1 supercar and the Benz SLR cars, McLaren recently launched its Automotive division, the first fruit of which will be the snappily titled MP4-12C. Ron Dennis, the big Mac's big cheese, has spoken about diversifying and not just having all the company's eggs in its Formula One basket. Not such a radical idea, since arch-rivals Ferrari have been producing road cars for, oh, 60-odd years. But the new car, 12C for short, will benefit from the kind of attention to detail and control-freakery highly successful F1 teams are famous for.
It will have carbon fiber this and that, with a mid-mounted twin-turbo 3.8-liter V8 making 600 hp. The car will be extremely light and what weight it has is distributed in a 43:57 front-to-rear manner. That's because McLaren engineers believe this to be the optimum setup to defeat the understeer that mid-engined cars often suffer from. The 12C has already covered one million R&D miles, some of them with world champions Lewis Hamilton or Jenson Button at the wheel. No parts have been carried over from previous projects because they were deemed "not good enough."
A current price forecast puts it roughly at 150,000 of the Queen's pounds. Europeans will be able to buy one from the spring of 2011. It goes on sale in the USA later that year. The plan is that the 12C will be the first of several McLaren vehicles.
"We've looked into the absolute soul of the customer, not just their demographic profile, but what people really respond to in this segment," says Dennis. "We are in a world where there is an ability to express your personality and achievements by owning efficient and well-designed products. So you can tell the time for £2, but if you have an appreciation of craftsmanship, of style, of brand values, you can sit comfortably with a watch that costs £100,000."
McLaren Automotive plans on turning out 1,000 12C models a year. Trouble is, the British car industry is awash with names that tried and failed to make a going sports car concern, to the point where they might as well have called it the White Elephant GLS or the Unicorn 500.
"We will not be one of them," says Dennis.