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An & M





An & M

AUTOCAR o to r



FI McLAREN'S ROAD CAR E d it e d a n d p r o d u c e d D e s ig n e d



M ic h a e l

H a rvey a n d M a rk H a rro p

P a u l H a r p in / T h e M a g a z in e C o n s u l t a n c y

S t u d io W r it t e n

P h o t o g r a p h y by A n d r e w Y e a d o n by

A n d re w

P e t e r R o b i n s o n . K e it h

H ow ard.

F r a n k e l a n d S te v e C r o p le y

P o r t r a its

by P a u l D e b o i s

D e t a i l P h o t o g r a p h y by D a v i d G e e A c tio n

P h o t o g r a p h y by D a v i d G o l d m a n

D e v e l o p m e n t P h o t o g r a p h y by W i l l i a m T e c h n ic a l Illu s t r a t io n s

by I a n

C o v e r by H u b b a r d C o lo u r O r ig in a t io n P r in te d

H a r r is

H o w a ts o n

P r in t

by L i t h o s p e e d

by E T H e r o n



L td








231MPH 3 0 seconds that made road car history. By Andrew Frankel

11 C



G E N E S IS A lost race, a late plane and a 30-year dream realised. By Peter Robinson

19 C


T hree

A LOOK TO LAST Pencils were the last thing the designer needed. By Peter Robinson

27 C


Fo u r

ALBERT An ugly duckling proves the concept works. By Keith Howard

35 C

F iv e


EDWARD BMW ’s awesome V 12 comes to McLaren’s rescue. By Keith Howard

43 C h a p t e r S ix

XP1 First prototype bom at Christmas, destroyed by Easter. By Keith Howard

51 C


S even

THE ROAD TO 001 Production starts, with a little help from Ferrari. Bv Steve Cropley

59 C


E ig h t

S E L L IN G THE D R E A M You get more than an FI for your £ 5 40,000. Bv Andrew Frankel

67 C



in e

THE P O W E R A N D THE GLO RY The vital statistics o f a McLaren F I. Compiled by Andrew Frankel



GORDON MURRAY Now that the first FI has been delivered to a customer, we have time to reflect on what has been achieved. Four years ago, Ron Dennis, M ansour Ojjeh, Creighton Brown and m yself were discussing the F I, talking about what sort o f car it should be and what sort o f engine it should have. But the most important outcome o f those early sessions was the idea that, in forming McLaren Cars, we would be creating a new ‘British car com pany’. A company involved in leading-edge car design, using all M cLaren’s experience and technology. It was decided that our first product would be a Super Sports Car to end all supercars, a unique and advanced vehicle that would be usable, fast and safe. But, above all, the FI would be a pure driver’s car. Analysing the F 1 today and driving the car, I think we have achieved our goal. We didn’t accept the best as good enough at any stage in the design and development phases and I believe this shows in the final product. W hat is much more important, though, is the fact that, in producing the F I, I believe McLaren Cars has shown that the team we have brought together and the company we have created will indeed be a leading force in pushing forward the boundaries o f automotive design.

Gordon Murray, technical director, McLaren Cars


30 seconds that made road car history


MPH l&Omph. select sixth... Palmer at rest (left) ami heading beyond 230m ph


(rig h t middle joined tests




Speed limits are in force most of the time at the Nardo te st track and JP had a plane to catch: it was now or never for McLaren

The most extraordinary part o f the event that took place that day, 8 August 1993, is that it actually happened. It was not planned, nor was it even mooted as a possibility. And, had Dr Jonathan Palmer’s flight back to Rome been scheduled for a quarter o f an hour earlier, it would never have happened at all. The Nardo test track is a savage place. The fortunate reach it by flying to Rome, catching a connection to Brindisi on the heel o f Italy and driving to its location on the in-step, near a place thoughtfully named Gallipoli. The less lucky drive through the desert that makes up the bulk o f Italy’s landscape south o f Rome. It’s a place o f such poverty that many Italian politicians want to devolve and disown it. Y ou’d never go there unless you had to. Yet if you asked a computer to select the absolute theoretical ideal site o f a European test track, its choice would be few miles indeed from Nardo. It has everything: the year-round Saharan heat tests cooling systems to a level where you can be quite sure that, if your car will keep its cool here, it will do so anywhere. You can almost guarantee it will be dry, too, and the ability to run tests safe in the knowledge that rain w on’t wash away your results can be worth millions to a leading manufacturer. And it’s secure: in the middle o f nowhere, nearly a thousand miles from Italy’s car industry in the north, it will be an unusually

dedicated spy photographer that camps out at Nardo on the off-chance o f catching a prototype at work. There was one further compelling reason that persuaded M cLaren to decamp to Nardo last summer: its size. W ith dirt cheap land prices and few residents to complain, Fiat, which owns and runs Nardo, could afford to build a proving ground large enough so cars could not only run non-stop at sustained velocity but also w here that velocity could be higher than anyone then could have envisaged a road car would ever reach. So Fiat built a bowl, the only structure which will allow constant speeds to be maintained indefinitely. But where Britain’s bowl, Millbrook, was constructed with a two-mile circumference, Nardo takes 7.5 miles to circumnavigate. And where, at Millbrook, the curve o f the circle and the angle o f the banking cancel each other out at precisely 1OOmph — the speed at which you can remove your hands from the wheel as the car is effectively travelling in a straight line — at Nardo the “h ands-off’ speed is 150mph. W hich means that at around 177mph, M illbrook’s upper limit for the very bravest, at Nardo you’d be hardly trying. W hich is just as well if you’re in a M cLaren FI because, at that speed, you’re not even in top gear. The real purpose behind McLaren’s visit to Nardo was as close to boring as any


aspect o f the incredible FI project comes. The team needed to perfect the car’s engine mapping under full load conditions. Which meant prolonged excursions at maximum effort in maximum heat. Which meant Nardo. The weather did not disappoint, providing temperatures which never sank below 4 0 deg C and made the air around your body substantially hotter than its core temperature. W orking in such conditions was hellish, especially if your name was not Jonathan Palmer; for him, there w as at least the rew'ard and relief o f frequent high speed excursions onto the banking. For the others, from designer Gordon Murray and his engineers to the men from BMW looking after the car’s engine to the technicians from TAG Electronics whose wizardry governed that engine, there was nothing to alleviate the heat and monotony. You w aited while Palmer made his runs, studied the results from the telemetry readouts, made your adjustments and then waited patiently again in the awful heat while Palmer put your theory to the test. Yet, all the time, everyone’s heart was beating just a mite faster than you’d expect in the circumstances. There was expectation in N ardo’s thick and arid air, a hope bom from five years o f waiting for an answer and that, this weekend, they’d finally find it. Every last person felt it and no one said a word. Palmer, circulating

high above everyone’s head on the banking, felt it too. The car he was driving w as XP3, the third experimental prototype FI that McLaren had built. Since XP1 had been destroyed in an almighty accident in Namibia and XP2 was largely at the disposal o f BMW (it, too, was later crashed but under rather more controlled conditions; into a wall at MIRA during homologation tests), it was to this silver car that the bulk o f the FI programme’s development mileage was entrusted. Behind Palm er’s head chattered the hard-pressed, but still game, 6.1-litre BMW Motorsport V I2, specially created for the McLaren. This third unit out o f the Motorsport department was not, it has to be said, in ideal condition for what Palmer was just beginning to contemplate, being perhaps 50bhp short o f the 627bhp the production pow erplant would boast, but, under the circumstances, it was all they had. If he was to discover just how fast the FI really would go, then it would be in XP3. Or not at all. The grounds for not doing the run towered over the single reason for having a go like the Sears Block over a bungalow. McLaren was running out o f time for starters. Nardo is not the kind o f place where, if you fall a few hours behind schedule one day, you can get up a little earlier the next day and catch up. Six days a week, Nardo carries a 150m ph speed limit: only on Sunday can you reach for the heavens. And there was no question o f McLaren delaying the entire FI programme just to gather a piece o f interesting but ultimately academic information. Shadows were lengthening and Palm er’s plane would not wait. The next consideration was the track. N ardo’s surface is far removed from the slick-smooth tarmac o f the test driver's dreams. It’s concrete, the lanes are narrow and. much above 180m ph. rather bumpy. The protective barriers at the edge do little to inspire confidence either: the two rows o f Armco. reckoned Palmer, would not hang on for too long to an FI spinning at considerably more than 200m ph. And then there was the car. Even on N ardo's vast banking, at the speed the computer said it could do. the FI would be cornering very hard indeed. Though the computer confirmed that, mechanically and aerodynamically. there was no reason why XP3 should not be stable at such a speed, the computer would not be driving the car.


McLaren went to Nardo for exhaustive checks on the F I’s engine mapping at BMW’s request. Top speeds were not on the agenda...

The computer would not have to decide what to do if a tyre let go at that speed. The computer would be safe, the car would be doing 225m ph. Only one person can make a decision like that. As Palmer puts it: “This is not like running a maximum speed on a conventional car and no one was going to come up to me and ask me to have a go. After all, if something does go wrong at that sort o f speed, you’re looking at a fairly major accident.” Aside from the obviously horrific personal implications, if that had happened the effect on the FI project could have been catastrophic. But, in the end, as soon as it was clear the work o f the day was done and there was time for just one more run, there was never really much doubt. All Palmer said was “I’ll just go and have a look,” and everyone knew. When the ambient air is 4 0 deg C, a blown tyre is both the most likely and most dangerous source o f trouble so slicks were bolted on to XP3 for the run. Once they had been checked for flaws, Palmer climbed back on board and went to work. Between standstill and 180m ph a McLaren F I, even one with only 570-580bhp, moves faster than your brain. Every time you look at the speedometer, it registers around 20m ph higher than your head’s best estimate. Slamming through the first five gears, Palmer probably passed 60m ph in under four seconds and was the far side o f 1OOmph about three seconds later. He was not trying to break any acceleration records, he was merely being mindful o f the fact that the less time the tyres had to overheat, the greater the chance o f avoiding that moment when you realise it has all gone terribly wrong. At 180mph, Palmer selected sixth, hammered the accelerator home for the last time and readied him self for an experience that neither 85 grands prix nor running a Porsche 9 62 flat down the Mulsanne Straight could prepare him for. Up to 200m ph, XP3 is on familiar ground. It had been here many times during the day simply because the tests required the throttle to be held wide open for twenty seconds at a time, all the excuse an FI needs to work itself up to such speeds. Palmer keeps the car as far up the banking as possible for maximum cornering help while still keeping a distance from the Armco which would, in the event o f disaster, at least give him some say in the ensuing event.

Now the needle o f X P 3’s revcounter reveals daylight the far side o f 6500rpm . The engine is pumping about 500bhp o f four cam, 48-valve V 12 power into the rear tyres as the speedometer climbs towards 21 Omph. Palmer is surprised that the rate o f acceleration remains so strong. He starts to doubt the computer but reminds him self that this is no high-downforce racer whose acceleration tails o ff dramatically at high speed. Even at 215m ph, 7000rpm and 535bhp there is still no sign o f XP3 giving up. At 225m ph, the speed the wind-tunnel computations said the F 1 would retire to the pavilion. Palmer realises that he has only 200rpm to go before the rev-limiter cuts X P 3’s fuel supply. His hands can’t help trying to crush the steering wheel even though the McLaren is tracking straight, with no sign o f instability or even understeer. The wheel feels lighter than he’s used to, for sure, but information about the car’s attitude to the track flows through its rim as consistently as it had at 180mph, a million years ago. The last few mph take longer. N ot even Palmer has travelled at this speed before and as his eyes constantly flicker between road and instruments, he realises the computer was wrong. It would be the car’s gearing, not its stability nor its sub-standard engine, which would finally decide how fast the FI would go. He reaches the maximum and decides to hold it there for two surreal miles simply to absorb the experience. Thirty seconds later, Palmer lifts o ff the throttle and eases XP3 back down to earth. W ithin three minutes he is blipping the throttle down the pit lane and in another two XP3 is stationary, M cLaren staff racing to tap into its data-recording systems to find out, exactly, how fast XP3 went. The answer was 231 mph. No one knows quite how fast it would have gone with 627bhp and longer gearing. M cLaren itself refuses to speculate beyond 237m ph. And to the people at Nardo that day, it couldn’t have mattered less. Though no official records had been broken, the people from McLaren, BMW and TAG knew that, without any doubt at all, they had created the fastest road car in the world, one that beat the previous record, albeit unofficially, by some 18mph. And suddenly all the ghastliness that comes hand in hand with testing at Nardo w as as nothing. Their car had outperformed every forecast and that w’as more than enough. For now.


P atoef has drive* grand p ra aad la Mam c a n — 180fnpta pkts

a no itraager

ta U a — M nothing n r » n d Mai far 231*9*1

A lost race, a late plane and a 30-year dream realised


Gordon Murray drew his first sports car aged 15. His sketches for the ultimate supercar were


finally realised in 19S 8



On Sunday 11 September 1988, McLaren made history by losing. Two laps from the chequered flag in the Italian Grand Prix, Ayrton Senna’s attempt to lap a back-marker ended with the cars touching and the McLaren spinning o ff into oblivion. Berger’s Ferrari won by default. As it turned out, Monza was the only race M cLaren didn’t win that year: 15 out o f 16, one victory from perfection. End o f story. Well, not quite. Later that same afternoon, while waiting for their plane in the bar o f M ilan’s Linate airport, four men began a casual conversation that would create the w orld’s ultimate supercar. McLaren boss Ron Dennis, fellow director Creighton Brown, Gordon Murray and Mansour Ojjeh — the powerhouse behind McLaren — actually spent little time mulling over thoughts o f what might have been. “We were talking about the future,” remembers Murray. “You know how it is when you’re stuck in an airport; each one has a captive audience with the other.” At the time, Dennis was looking at M cLaren’s longer-term future and considering ways to broaden M cLaren’s engineering base to take advantage o f the team ’s increasing reputation for success and excellence. There was talk, that day, o f McLaren involvement in another form o f racing: Indycars or long distance sports car racing. Murray w asn’t enthusiastic. “W e were on a hiding to nothing after winning 15 out o f 16 GPs. I f we didn’t win people would say what are you doing, if we won they’d say so what...I w asn’t keen.” The choice seemed to be between an R & D centre like Porsche’s, or even moving into aerospace. Until.

“1 really can’t rem ember the exact conversation,” claims Murray, “Even who started it, but the first time the sports car thing came up was at Linate. It was clear that Ron and Mansour had always harboured a desire to build a sports car. I’ve wanted to do one since I was kid. Probably would have, except I fell into racing at such an early age. “W hen I look back through my college books they are full o f drawings o f cars, gearboxes, engines, motorbikes and electric guitars, in about equal amounts. Even then I was fascinated by packaging. The very first car I drew, when I was about 15, was a little wooden monocoque city car powered by a 50cc engine. It was wood so I could build it myself. Then I went into slot car racing, then go-karting — there are so many phases from 16 to 19 — then I built a Lotus 7-type sports car, which I raced for two years. “It was in that period that I did a little sketch o f a mid-engined sports car with this hip and shoulder clearance thing and three seats, which is basically the whole concept o f the F I. That’s where it comes from.” Murray had left Brabham for M cLaren at the end o f 1986. “W hen I joined McLaren, Ron told me he didn’t want me to look at the next seasons but to look at where the company will be in five years.” In 1988 M cLaren wras restructured, staffing levels rose from 80 to 150 after a massive investment in R & D , but Murray wras looking for another challenge aw ay from racing. “In 1978 I stood in the drawing office at Brabham on my own and drew every part o f the car. W hen I left M cLaren’s racing department we had 30 people in the drawing office. There’s no such thing as a

The concept of a central ‘single seated driving position and passengers on either side was fundamental to Murray's FI dreams



racing car designer any more; there’s a technical director and lots o f racing car designers. I was becoming a technical manager and not a designer. “These days, it’s so much harder to make any steps at all, let alone big steps. I liked the cavalier days in the ’70s when, if you had an idea in the bath, you’d get it drawn, put it on the car and find a second and a h alf a lap.” His three-year contract was also coming up for renewal. Murray had achieved all his goals in racing. Then came the sports car. “The thing that appealed to me was that it had to be the very best car McLaren could make, regardless o f cost. “We could have jum ped on the bandwagon when the market for supercars went crazy and built a British-Italian car using a steel frame and aluminium body, with a conventional layout, that weighed 1400-1500kg and used somebody else’s modified V8 engine, stuck a McLaren badge on the thing, sold it for £ 1 5 0,0 0 0 and made a lot o f money.” That w asn’t M cLaren’s brief. A car on its own w asn’t enough. It should be borne o f a new British car company, too. From the beginning Murray only sketched a three seater. “I remember getting quite excited and doing lots o f drawings and handwritten notes on timing and budgets.” Together with Creighton Brown, Murray moved into a building in W oking across the road from the racing HQ. “Creighton was very good at organising and taking care o f setting the company up, allow ing me to get on with designing the car.” Murray begun to think about the people he’d need to help fulfill his dream. “In areas I didn’t have expertise — like body engineering — I knew there w as no point in re-inventing the wheel so I went looking for a body engineer and found Barry- Lett from Lotus.” Harold Dermott (the former head o f M idas) became production boss, three years before he’d actually begin building a car. in order to follow the entire development process. Bruce McIntosh, w ho'd been in racing for years, was hired to set up an R & D department to build all the prototypes. Mark Roberts, a technical illustrator, also came from Lotus to organise the technical systems. But M cLaren still didn't have a designer. “On the styling side I didn’t know what to do,” explains Murray. M cLaren went public about the car in M arch 1989 and

Murray spoke to a number o f designers. “I knew exactly the sort o f car I wanted, the shape, the feel, but all the designers I talked to were so narrow minded. They w ouldn’t consider packaging or aerodynamics and I knew they w ouldn’t last five minutes with me.” Maybe, Murray decided, the answer was to employ a bright student. “I knew we w eren’t going to touch the styling until w'e’d worked out the package and done the w ind tunnel w ork. I ’d drive the design and he’d do the renderings.” To find the right student, Murray contacted Lotus Elan designer Peter Stevens. “He was the original art college student in this country,” says Murray, “Knows everybody and been everywhere. I’d w orked w ith him doing the Brabham graphics years in the early ’80s. “We meet over a few beers and talked about the car, w ithout me giving too much aw ay, and in the end he said, T ’m the guy you w ant.’ Honestly, I hadn’t considered Peter until then. Then I thought, I know the guy, the ego thing isn’t important to him and he can manage the styling studio.” Murray' relished the prospect o f w orking w ith a small team again: “I can be a bit dictatorial. I know what I want and how to get it and the idea o f working with four or five hand-picked people again reallyappealed." W ith the key staff installed in the new W oking factory7, Murray set aside 12 March 1990 as the day — a now famous 10-hour downloading o f his ideas. “Until then I’d driven everybody mad by insisting they set up all the necessary systems. They w ere getting very’ frustrated.

2 1

Murray’s design objectives included a 1000k g weight, 1.8m width, minimum overhangs and a low polar moment of inertia

“W e had packaged the car around a five-litre V 12 and time was short. We started talking to others manufacturers.

wanting to know about what we were going to build. I talked philosophy. I told them we wanted to build the best sports car in the world. Myself, Ron and the others had already set down one critical objective: it had to be a driver’s car, which immediately ruled out offset controls and poor visibility. 1 told them about the three seats. We also want a long-legged, grand touring car. “The other design objectives were more detailed. The weight target was 1000kg, we wanted to keep the width to 1,8m and the overhangs at an absolute minimum because 1 wanted the polar moment o f inertia to be low. 1 also wanted to maintain the centre of pressure position, which production cars never address and is h alf the reason for high-speed instability problems. In fact, if you make a list o f what I wanted to achieve, make a list o f everything you think is bad about mid-engined sports cars.” What Murray didn’t have was an engine. “O f course, the engine was a priority from the beginning. I knew absolutely that I did not want a turbo so we made a list o f those who can build high-revving, large capacity, normally aspirated engines capable o f lOObhp per litre. It’s a short list: Honda, BMW and Ferrari. Not Porsche, not Mercedes, though Lamborghini gets close.” Honda, o f course, made most sense with the racing connection. “I had several meetings with the technical people at Tochigi and the only discussion was whether it should be a V I0 or a V I2. In those days I set 450bhp as a minimum. The F 40 and 9 5 9 were 450-480b hp and heavier so I knew w e’d have a better power-to-weight ratio. “Things progressed very well with Honda. They discarded the idea o f using a racing engine because if you try turning a racing engine into a road-car engine you need to change pistons, rods, use a different concept o f rings, change the valve seating, the exhaust system and add all the emission gear. It’s cheaper and easier to start from scratch and do a lOObhp per litre engine, than detune a 200bhp per litre racing one. “The funny thing with the Honda engine programe was they never really said no. It ju st sort o f drifted into oblivion. I think they were nervous about the green movement. Then Jaguar and Bugatti came along w ith 550bhp and even though I knew they were going to be 50 per cent heavier. I started to get nervous about engine capacity1 and increased it to around 5.3-litres from a V 12. Honda really started to go cool on the idea.

Three were serious, and one [an unnamed Japanese maker] was very serious and prepared to build a 5.3-litre V 12 from scratch” . Fate intervened. For an unremembered reason, Murray decided to go to Hockenheim for the 1990 German Grand Prix at the end o f July. It was the first race he’d attended since the end o f the 1988 season. There and, he swears, quite by accident, he m eet Paul Rosche, BMW M otorsport’s engine designer. The same man who designed the BMW engine that powered the M urray-designed and Piquet driven Brabham BT52 to the championship title in 1983. “Paul asked me, ‘H ow ’s the engine going?’ and I told him I didn't really know, that we were running out o f time and still didn’t have a decision. “Paul smiled and told me, ‘W e could do the engine for you’ At the time, M otorsport was working on four-valve heads for BM W ’s disappointing five-litre V I2 and were encouraged by the results. “But when they showed me that engine it was too heavy and too big. We were going to use the engine as a semistructural member and I wanted a dry sump and a much higher rev limit o f seven five. ‘W e’ll do a new engine’, Paul said.” It was Rosche who suggested going to six-litres to guarantee 550bhp. Murray agreed but only if the engine could be limited to 600m m in length. “They have this amazing ability to produce w'onderful. free-rew ing, gutsy and reliable engines. The technology is in their blood.” Today, BM W ’s V 12 produces 627bhp and 4701b ft o f torque at 5600rpm with 6 0 per cent o f that — in other words 2821b ft, or more than a Jaguar four-litre six’s maximum torque — at only 1500rpm. “ If you move the throttle more than quarter o f an inch in any gear all hell breaks lose, instantly, even in sixth.” says Murray. “T hat’s when you get the F40 feeling. Yet, I ’d also be happy to drive the FI into London on a wet Friday night. “One o f the early prototypes broke the throttle cable and I drove it 15 miles back to W oking in sixth gear on idle. A t 1OOmph you can hardly feel the throttle is open at all. It’s a true dual purpose supercar.” During this engine developm ent o f course, Murray and his team were also w orking out how to fit three people in ...


In Hare* 1 9 8 9 . McUren revealed its plans to build the supercar. The engine, packaging and styling had yet to be decided...


Pencils were the last thing the designer needed

A LOOK TO LAST McLaren spent months defining the package — cabin, wheelbase, height —


before Peter Stevens (left) started sketching



In the summer o f 1988 Peter Stevens was finishing o ff his work on the Lotus Elan. H e’d heard stories about a M cLaren but thought no more than "that’s interesting”. “I assumed they had a designer in mind and didn’t make any attempt to put m yself forward,” he says. Then the phone rang and it was Stevens didn’t draw for months so as not to let styling interfere with his and Murray's painstaking wind tunnel research

Murray asking Peter how he should go about finding a designer. “ I’m sure he had no idea before we talked that 1 could do the job, but the more he told me the more interested I was. W e’d worked together with Bemie [Ecclestone] on tweaking the lines o f various Brabhams and knew we understood each other.” Before he could start at McLaren, Stevens had agreed to design the Jaguar X JR-15 for Tom W alkinshaw, a concept he and Murray felt could contribute to an understanding o f the McLaren. So it w asn’t until M arch 1990, ju st in time to be present for M urray’s 10-hour briefing on the philosophy behind the car, that Peter Stevens began work at Woking. Like grand prix cars, this McLaren was going to be designed around a package and in the wind tunnel. Everything was to be beautiful in itself, displaying quality that, until now, you only found in Formula 1. One month before Stevens another Lotus refugee, Barry Lett, had signed up. Lett had worked on the Ford R S 200 and the Jaguar F-type before Lotus’s M 300 supercar and specialised in packaging and details. Murray had w'anted his small team o f eight design engineers to feel like his old team at Brabham and that meant having a key man, “a shadow” in M urray’s words. Lett became the shadow , constantly helping Murray to climb the steep learning curve o f

using bits o f wood to represent the confines o f the car. W e knew the concept would live or die on whether or not the driver could actually get in and sit comfortably. The next step was to use racing buckets, so we could experiment with the door sills.” An adjustable, full-sized wooden buck was made, but without pillars or any other styling clues so as not to prejudge the way the car would look. This established the body height at 1 140mm. Murray also set a width restriction o f 1.80m and refused to enlarge the car. (H e eventually had to when the clay model was discovered to be 20m m too w'ide. Murray was faced with the choice o f scrapping all the w ork already done on the project or re-engineering the suspension. After “one o f the toughest nights on the project”, he decided to alter the suspension.) Everybody wanted the three-seat/central driving position idea to work. Murray, Lett and Stevens were, however, opposed to the idea o f off-setting the passenger seats from the car’s long axis, but were tiring o f ever finding a solution to the passengers feeling

road car design. "W hat Gordon set before us w as a mechanical specification with a large capacity engine and transverse gearbox to keep the masses w ithin the wheelbase.” says Stevens. “He also w anted three seats, although at that stage w e w eren’t sure it

‘outside’ the car. “We worked to make it feasible,” says Stevens. “W e w eren’t negative about the idea and looking for ways to disprove the sense o f it.” One o f M urray’s justifications was an ideal driving position: “Ron and the directors desperately wanted the single seater thing to work.” Stevens knew the target: “We wanted to give something close to the FI driving experience. It’s not an FI car for the road, but uses the same uncompromising approach to the design and construction. So you end up sitting in the middle w ith everything equi-distant from the wheel. You can see the comers and judge distance so much more easily than in a conventional supercar.” The answers came when, rather than endless re-arranging o f the seats, the solution lay in the architecture o f the ro o f spider. “W e just moved the A-pillars out so that the passenger’s viewforward was ‘inside’ the pillar. It worked perfectly.” says

could be made to work. “W e literally started by putting chairs on the floor and sitting next to each other.

Murray. Stevens admits that at this stage he

Four different 3/10th s models were tested in the National Physics Lab's wind tunnel — just across the road from Autocar & Motor


hadn’t opened his sketch book. “I deliberately didn’t do any drawings. I didn’t want any preconceptions o f how it was going to be. W e still didn’t know about the engine, though we did have our transverse gearbox. The engineers had come up with an ingenious offset final drive gear alongside the flywheel and that made the powertrain incredibly compact.” M eanwhile Lett had begun to finalise the cabin package. From L ett's layout, Stevens knew where the front axle was and where the driver’s feet were. “T hat’s the exciting thing. If you put the driver in the middle you can move his feet much further forward. The passengers are sitting where the driver and passenger are sitting in a conventional car. So for no extra length we get the third person in. “The moment BMW gave us an engine length w'e knew the wheelbase. That’s when we went to the wind tunnel.” Still no sketching. “In the past, I would have begun drawing but then you compromise and force the design. Sometimes you fall in love with the design too soon and try to force it to fit an inappropriate package.” Stevens was kept busy building a 3/10ths scale model for the wind tunnel. The cabin area w as known as well as the desired windscreen angle, height and width, so they took a series o f different rear glass slopes, various height tails, four alternative front ends, three front undersides plus some body mounted wings (just to the see i f they m ight be necessary) to the tunnel. Using M cLaren’s laser ground clearance and attitude setting equipment, they w ent through every' combination o f setting. The target was a sensible 0.35C d with the centre o f pressure alm ost coincident with the centre o f gravity. Murray wanted 1601b o f downforce at 150mph and very' little change to the centre o f downforce as the pitch or attitude o f the car altered. Pop-up headlights w ere soon discarded as dangerous. A t the extremely high speeds that the car would achieve, they introduced a massive increase in dow n force ahead o f the lights by moving the centre o f

pressure beyond the nose o f the car. It soon became apparent that any holes under the car at the tail were disastrous in reducing downforce. However, it was still necessary to get cool air to pass through the engine compartment to counter catalytic converters that reach 700deg C. “W e talked about the Brabham fan car and wondered if the same idea might work here. Gordon w asn’t sure if the fan should suck or blow7. So I went out and bought a ducted fan kit for a model aeroplane and carefully built it into the model with a reversible m otor so w e could run it at different speeds. W ith a three-piece diffuser in place under the rear we were surprised to find it had an immediate, beneficial effect on downforce and lower drag.” Despite now knowing the height o f the tail, Stevens had yet to pull out his crayons. Barry' Lett w as continuing to w ork on the package o f the car, telling both Murray and Stevens what they could and couldn’t get away with on details such as tail height. “Because I was doing the wind tunnel work I w asn’t aggrieved that someone was imposing restrictions on any future design,” says Stevens. “W e reached a height o f the tail I was happy with and I knew if I went any higher it was going to start to look like a dog. “The thing about Gordon is, he is prepared to try something new' and, if it works, incorporate it into the car. T hat’s one reason w hy w e made such good progress.” McLaren built four different 3 lOths scale models — each getting more representative o f how the car w ould finally look — for wind tunnel testing and ran more than 1100 tests. By late 1990 it was becoming clear to Stevens how the car was going to look. It w as time.

Stevens (standing) and Murray with tape drawing. The two agreed on cars they liked and the classical look they wanted for the FI

Wind tunnel tests showed underbody cooling problems so Stevens built in a small electric fan... It helped downforce, too

According to Stevens, "Gordon didn't impose anything, but he would come by every day and chat. We both like similar kinds o f cars. There was an exhibition at the Design Museum o f old Alfas earlier in the year: the 33 Stradale and Ganguro, gorgeous cars. ” According to Murray, however, he

door ends up. We did loads o f videoing o f people climbing in and out to see what they did and then put bits o f door in the way, all without knowing how it would hinge.” The toe board lacked any serious structure so it was impossible to use conventional hinges. “Bruce McIntosh [M urray’s ex-chief mechanic at Brabham and another key F 1 player] made a small welding rod frame,” says Stevens, “o f the door and we all stood around and held different bits and waggled it around to see what would happen. What w e’ve ended up with is a bit like a Porsche 962, though w e don’t own up to that. “We quickly made one for the other side to see they didn’t crash into each other, and

did impose certain themes and details. "Some items were fixed, like the air intake on the roof. 1 knew' 1 wanted it there for clean air and easy water separation. That meant we were committed to a spine. There were other details defined by the package. The tw in radiators meant a high nose and 1 wanted a lobster-claw look like the early Brabhams. I also told Peter that I wanted the car to be more mechanical the further back you got. with grilles, vents, stacks etc. That's why. when you view the car from the back, you can see the engine, although not as much as I'd have liked to because o f the size o f that silencer.” “I’d also wanted something that was sixties, all soft curves, but it couldn't look retro. Neither o f us wanted a fashionable shape that would date. The way I see it is that Peter's skill was inventing the look o f the F 1 in spite o f everything I imposed.” "Gordon and I talked about w hat makes cars look different or causes advances,” says Stevens. “If the packaging is different that's what sets the hard points on paper, so when you fill in the car gets a different feel. Sitting the driver in the centre gives a cab-forward look for genuine reasons and not ju st as a styling gimmick. "W e didn't want anything extreme or whacky that would go out o f date quickly, there couldn't be too many contemporary styling cues on the car. We wanted a classic.” There was still the question o f the doors. McLaren didn't want to copy the Countach Diablo scissor style, but still needed forward opening doors. "W hat we discovered, when we did a mock-up o f the seating buck, was that the Lambo system was totally unsuited for this layout because the bit o f door you step through is right w here the com er o f the

it worked” . Once the clay was finished, Stevens wanted everybody to see the car outdoors. “Cars look different when you take them outside. We had plans to hire trucks and an airfield, but eventually on the August Bank Holiday in 1991 we said, ‘Stuff it, let’s come in at six one morning and wheel it out into the car park next to G ordon’s N SX ’. We were even worried about trains going past, but nobody else saw it. “It looked tiny, tough and aggressive and it instantly made the NSX look like a tired, square old motor. Gordon couldn’t believe it. W e were pumped up with excitement. “I think they were all surprised to discover the painstaking effort required to get the highlights and reflections right on the full scale model so the thing looks gorgeous when it’s finished.” In November 1991 the clay went o ff to MGA in Coventry to be turned into the model that was shown in Monte Carlo the following year. The completed car arrived back in London exactly on schedule in late February. “This was when Ron and Mansour could really see how the car was going to look. They could get into it, and ju st sat there beaming. I think they wTas pretty proud o f what they had caused to happen.” The package of the FI b defined by the three-seat cabin and the length of the BMW V12 pkis rts very compact transverse box


A ugly duckling proves the concept works


S tÂŤ two years from a first prototype. McLaren needed a mule to te st components like the gearbox and brakes


so Albert (top) was bom


A 7.5-litre V8 Chevy track engine and a chopped-up kit car became Albert, used to put road miles on the Traction Products gearbox

While designers at Woking grappled with the package and BMW Motorsport benchtested the V I2, it became clear that road miles were needed to put the suspension, brakes and gearbox through their paces. McLaren had two problems: the first chassis was 24 months away, the first engine six. The solution was a mule based on the British Ultima kit, acquired on the sly by Bruce McIntosh, M cLaren’s factory manager. The only w ay to simulate the torque o f the BMW was to fit a 7.5-litre Chevy truck engine. McIntosh set about the business o f mating the two: “He lives for prototyping,” says Murray. McIntosh also coined a name, Albert, after Albert Drive, W oking, M cLaren’s home. A lbert caused a few furrowed brows: if pictures o f it were leaked, buyers would hardly be turned on by its awkward look. But for Steve Randle, the car’s dynamicist, A lbert’s worth far outweighed that risk. It had already been decided that the FI would be a refined road car. A harsh, noisy ride was out o f the question but so too was the compromised wheel control that results from road car rubber-bushed suspension. Randle was therefore charged with creating a stable suspension which did not incur the NVH penalty o f a rose-jointed race set-up. Suspension design does not begin, though, when the chassis engineer starts to sketch wishbones and spring/damper units. In racing circles, the first requirement is to arrange the car’s principal masses correctly a discipline w hich Gordon M urray imposed on the F I design from day one. Instant steering response needs a low polar moment o f inertia in yaw, w hich means a w heel at each com er and the main masses — engine, fuel, occupants — close to the centre o f gravity. In m ost road cars this is compromised by packaging limits.

but Murray was having none o f that. The F I ’s weight distribution (42/58 front/rear) changes by less than one per cent from a full to empty fuel load, and even luggage is carried close to the centre o f gravity. Having achieved the right distribution in plan view the same must be done in side elevation. Starting with undesirable weight transfer under cornering and then correcting it with anti-roll bars is a compromise Murray could not accept, so the distances between the suspension roll centre and body mass centroid had to be the same front and rear. Since the roll centres must be low to avoid jacking effects, this meant the engine had to be as low as possible in the body. Dry sump engine lubrication also reduced engine height by valuable inches. Only when these basics were correct could design o f the suspension itself begin. Adaptive damping and ride height control were ruled out on weight grounds. Progressive rate springing was omitted, too, but for different reasons. Firstly, the only way to achieve a stepless increase in spring rate is either by using complex pushrod linkages or costly taper-ground springs. Secondly, too much progression can suddenly increase weight transfer when a wheel hits a m id-com er bump, making handling unpredictable. W hat small amount o f wheel rate progression there is in the FI is an inherent feature o f the suspension linkages themselves, supplemented by carefully optimised bump rubbers. Wheel travel front and rear was set at a generous 90m m (3 .5in ) in bump and 80m m (3.1 in) in rebound, and the target unladen bounce frequencies at 86 cycles per minute (1 .4 3 H z) at the front. 108cpm (1 .80 H z ) at the rear. With the finalised car slightly over target weight, the actual ride frequencies have fallen slightly to 84.5 and 105cpm.


Murray pushed hard to

Although these frequencies are higher than those o f everyday road cars, they are still low for a sports car o f this potential. It was the wheel rates and wheel travel which determined the downforce generated by the underbody. Too much downforce would simply have squashed the car on to its bump stops, making the handling dangerously unpredictable at high speeds. Describing the suspension as double wishbone sells it ludicrously short. Its cleverness lies in how longitudinal wheel compliance has been engineered in without loss o f wheel control. It is this compliance which allows the wheel to move backwards when it hits a bump, endowing the FI with its remarkable ride. Murray didn’t know how much longitudinal wheel compliance to provide. In racing cars every effort is made to

develop carbon-fibre brakes but, despite light weight, they couldn’t reach working temperature and lacked feel

Wheel control is again exceptional, the priority this time being to control toe changes under braking and traction. Measured values are 0.04 deg/g toe-in under braking, 0.08 deg/g toe-out under traction, both o f which are negligible. Equivalent figures for the 9 28 S were 0 .30 and 0.35 deg/g, both toe-in. Otherwise the steering and suspension broadly conforms with road car practice. The castor angle and king pin inclination, for example, are both relatively low at 4.6 and 8 degrees. However, the ground level offset (the distance between the centre-line o f the tyre and where the steering axis

eliminate compliance to maximise control. So McLaren bought a Honda NSX and put it on the electro-hydraulic measurement rig at Anthony Best Dynamics. A Porsche 928 S and Jaguar X J6 were also measured. Different methods o f achieving the required compliance are used front and rear in the FI because the suspension pickup points, the forces acting on the wheels and the required geometrical constraints are different at either end o f the car. At the front wheels the priority was to prevent castor w ind-off under braking, w hich compromises stability. Here, where braking and cornering forces are reacted through the tyre contact patch, a solution was adopted which M cLaren calls Ground Plane Shear Centre. Subframes on either side carry the wishbones on rigid plane bearings but are mounted to the body by four compliant bushes, each 25 times stiffer radially as axially. These are aligned at tangents to circles which have the middle o f the tyre contact patch as their centre. The castor control o f this arrangement is outstanding. Castor w ind-off has been measured at 1.02 degrees per g o f braking, whereas the NSX. 9 28 S and X J6 measured 2.9 1, 3.60 and 4 .3 0 deg/g. Toe change under braking and camber change under lateral force are also very small. A t the rear, where cornering and braking forces are again reacted through the contact patch but tractive forces through the wheel hub, a different configuration is used, called Inclined Shear Axis. Complicated by the low er wishbone mounting on the gearbox, w hich is itself compliantly attached to the body7, the suspension and engine mounts w ere designed as an integrated system.

meets the ground) is 25m m , compared with the sub-10m m values typical today. Aside from longitudinal wheel compliance, one o f the critical determinants o f a car’s ride quality and its ability to maintain consistent tyre contact on bumpy roads is the ratio o f its sprung to unsprung masses. In a light car it is therefore essential to have light suspension — easier said than done in a vehicle which needs tyres and a braking system commensurate with a top speed o f over 230m ph. Everywhere that unsprung weight could be saved, it was. The tyres — 235/45Z R 17 front and 315/45Z R 17 rear, developed specially for the car by Goodyear and Michelin — were kept as small as possible, consistent with the tractive, braking and cornering grip demanded o f them, and then subject to strict w eight targets. Likewise the 17x9in and 17x 11,5in cast magnesium wheels, finished in a tough protective p a in t Items such as the steering knuckles are specially manufactured because readily available alternatives were simply not light enough. The top wishbone/bell crank, which converts vertical motion o f the front wheels into horizontal motion at the


Kalian specialist Brembo designed huge brakes with one-piece aluminium alloy calipers. For maximum feel, pedal travel is only an inch

transversely disposed spring/damper units, is cast in aluminium alloy, while the lower front wishbone and both rear wishbones are (like the front subframe) machined from solid aluminium alloy on CNC machines. Although it may sound like an indulgence, manufacturing the wishbones this way was cheaper than forging them. Despite this concerted effort to keep down the unsprung mass, the final figures are, inevitably, still relatively high for an 1100kg car: 921b (42kg) per comer at the front and 1211b (55kg) per comer at the rear, equivalent to sprung to unspmng mass ratios of 5.5:1 and 5.8:1. The equivalent ratios for a representative hatchback (Peugeot 306 1.8 XT) are 9.8:1 and 7.3:1. This careful engineering of generous longitudinal compliance into the F I ’s suspension is intended to play a big part in determining the quality o f the ride and whether or not it can retain its composure over broken surfaces. Brake system development for the FI was entrusted to the Italian company Brembo, well known for its motor racing expertise. But. o f course, the design brief from Gordon Murray was explicit. In order to maximise brake pedal feel, he insisted that the brakes be unservoed. This ruled out anti-lock, which in any case would have added unwelcome weight and complication. To achieve acceptable pedal effort demanded long moment arms at the wheels, so the ventilated discs are of large diameter — 332mm at the front and 305mm at the rear. Cross-drilling o f the rotors provides improved pedal feel and helps clean the pad feces. Even with the discs and carefully created brake cooling, though, developing a friction material capable o f hauling the car dowii

from 200mph-plus speeds without fade, while still providing sufficient bite when cold, proved a considerable design challenge. Front and rear brake calipers are all four-pot, opposed piston types as favoured in racing circles, not the floating calipers more typically used on modem road cars. Naturally, they are constructed of aluminium alloy to save weight. Because of their racing origins the rear calipers have no handbrake facility, so a mechanically actuated, fist-type caliper is added. Gordon Murray’s insistence on maximum brake feel dictated the use of calipers machined from solid rather than bolted together from two halves. Again this is standard practice in the senior race formulae, and for precisely the same reason: it maximises caliper stiffness and so minimises lost motion. Pedal travel is still only a little over an inch. Although the F I ’s pop-up rear spoiler was not intended to be an air brake — it is there to prevent forw ard migration o f the aerodynamic centre o f pressure w hen the car pitches under braking, increasing braking stability and allowing greater braking force to be applied at the back wheel — it actually raises the car’s drag coefficient from 0.32 to 0.39. Activation of the spoiler is controlled by brake line pressure, with a threshold speed o f 40mph. W hen the spoiler is raised, air pressure is developed at its base which is exploited to force cooling air to the rear brakes. Ducts at either end o f the spoiler, w hich are uncovered when it deploys, convey the airflow down to the rear discs. All this w as created to provide a chassis equal to a 627bhp V12 engine. But what could be used to test such a monster powerplant? Enter, stage right, Edward...





BM W ’s awesome V12 comes to M cLaren’s rescue


627bhp from 6 .1 -litres atone would be remarkable, but BMW's S 70/2 engine b also one of worW s most


efficient and most tractable


Such was the close understanding forged between Gordon Murray and Paul Rosche during their Brabham days that, once plans from eight manufacturers (including Honda) to build special engines had fallen through, a link up with the BMW Motorsport team seemed ideal. There wasn’t much time to do it. BMW Motorsport only began its work in March 1991, yet by Christmas of that year the first prototype of the 6.1-litre, 60 degree V12 was on the dynamometer. Less than three months after that — on 4 March 1992 to be precise — the first running prototype was delivered to Woking for fitment in Edward, the second FI development mule. Again based around a tweaked Ultima — this time with the kit car company’s knowledge — the V12 and most of its ancillaries were positioned in Edward as they would end up in the F I. “It’s really BMW’s car,” said Murray at the time. “They can get us a long way down the road to passing the emissions test, I which take one hell of a long time to complete.” Although it is the numbing 627bhp peak power o f the engine (codenamed S70/2 within BMW) which gamers headlines, in many ways that represents the least of the I challenges which faced the design team. First V12 out of the BMW workshop went to Woking to be fitted into Edward then back to Germany for emissions and road tests

The fact that the 550bhp originally demanded by Murray has been exceeded by a comfortable 14 per cent proves the point. It was in other respects that BMW’s considerable experience in designing road and race engines was to prove invaluable. Firstly, Murray set the length and weight — 600mm block length and 250kg (to include all ancillaries, the exhaust and silencer). It finished up the correct length and only slightly too heavy (by 16kg). Secondly, this prodigious powerplant had to be rendered thoroughly user-friendly so it could trickle along in traffic as willingly as it would thunder along autobahns. It is natural to regard any powerplant capable of delivering 627bhp and 5001b ft of torque (about 50 per cent more than a modem Formula One engine, incidentally) as a thoroughbred race unit, but that’s not so. It is instructive to compare the S70/2 with one of BMW Motorsport’s less exotic creations, the six-cylinder engine fitted to the M3. In most key areas — specific output, specific torque, peak power revs, bore/stroke ratio and compression ratio — the two units are matched to within 8 per cent. Only in its length and weight does the FI unit set itself significantly apart. This is what you would expect of an engine which, in addition to being road-


Mimimal flywheel effect from the dutch was a Murray requirement. The aluminium clutch plate is as thin as possible

tractable, must be moderately stressed for a long service life and practicable maintenance schedules. In the course of its development the F 1 engine was put through the same punishing 500-hour bench test as all BMW road-going powerplants, and its nominal service interval is 5000 miles. Emissions performance has not been compromised either. As in the M5 engine, secondary air injection is used to reduce pollutant levels during the critical warm-up phase. Until the four catalytic converters reach light-off— relatively quickly since they are closer-coupled in the FI than in the M5 — air is injected into the exhaust manifold to bum off excess hydrocarbons produced by cold start over-fuelling. It is a reflection o f its short development time that the FI engine uses, in the main, only tried and trusted technology from BMW’s mainstream units. The variable valve timing, for example, is closely based on the VANOS system used in the M3. This simple, hydraulically-actuated phasing mechanism retards the inlet cam relative to the exhaust cam at lowr revs, reducing valve overlap and ensuring good idle behaviour and low-speed torque. Fligher up the rev range, under the control of the engine management computer, the valve overlap is increased by 42 degrees (25 degrees in the M 3) to improve engine breathing and maximise power output. Despite their common valvetrain technology, though, the FI and M3 engines are tuned for significantly different torque characteristics. Whereas the M 3’s torque curve has its maximum at 3600rpm and is virtually a plateau from 3500rpm to almost 6000rpm. the F I’s displays instead the inexorable climb o f a traditional sporting engine, peaking at 5600rpm. only 1600rpm

below peak power output. The F 1 unit delivers a beefy 3981b ft at 1500rpm even so — 69 per cent greater than the M 3’s peak output and quite sufficient to ensure vivid performance in a car weighing around 1200kg including driver. In fact, ensuring that the F 1 was not over-willing on small throttle openings posed one of the principal development difficulties. Making the engine fuss-free in traffic was not enough; it also had to be sufficiently controllable not to bury the car under the lorry in front at the merest twitch of the pedal. Careful design, o f the throttle linkage and TAG’s expertise in engine management were relied upon. Although considerable attention was paid to the induction system (length, diameter and surface finish o f the inlet tracts, and the volume of the plenum chamber) variable geometry was resisted by BMW as an unnecessary complication. A familiar problem in high-speed racing engines is mixture preparation. At the high inlet air speeds encountered at high revs there is insufficient time for the fuel to atomise fully if the injector is placed close to the inlet valve, as it is normally is in road engines with multi-point injection. Although the FI engine runs at nothing like the 13,000rpm-plus o f state-of-the-art racing engines like the Ford HB, BMW’s engineers found that mixture preparation from a single injector was not ideal across the whole rev band, so two Lucas injectors are used per cylinder. The first, positioned close to the inlet valve, operates at lowr engine speeds, while the second, positioned further up the inlet tract, takes over at high revs. A ‘soft’ transition between the two, controlled by the engine management computer, covers up the switch-over.


Mixture preparation is further assisted in the lower injector by air assistance. A narrow jet of air, drawn into the inlet tract by the partial vacuum created on the induction stroke, ‘shears’ the fuel spray and breaks it up into smaller droplets. As you would anticipate in an engine of this sophistication, the closed-loop fuel injection is sequential. Fully mapped, contactless ignition is likewise no less than you would expect, each cylinder having its own miniature ignition coil, just as in the M5. Engine load is sensed by hot wire. Combustion conditions are sufficiently remote from knock limits that no knock sensor is necessary. The materials usage in this engine, like the core technology, is also relatively conservative, drawing again on BMW’s own production engines. No titanium valves or conrods here. Both the head and block are cast in aluminium, with a Nicasil coating to the cylinder bores providing the necessary wear resistance. The lightweight pistons are of forged aluminium, the con rods and the crank of forged and twisted steel, and the exhaust valves are sodiumcooled. Significantly, most o f these features can be found in the M5 powerplant. One notable exception is the exhaust system, a bulky and potentially heavy item

on a V12. To reduce weight the F I ’s is constructed, from the block to the silencer, o f Inconel, a particularly durable, heat resistant grade of stainless steel which allows the use o f a thinner pipe gauge (0.8mm). Further weight saving is achieved by making the large, 65-litre silencer of titanium and having it double up as a crush member for rear impacts. A race engine feature which Murray did insist on for the FI was minimal flywheel effect. What the clutch mounts to is an aluminium plate no larger or thicker than necessary to transmit the engine’s torque, and which has minimal rotational inertia. This should allow the V 12 exceptionally throttle responsive and rapid rev shedding on lift-off, permitting the fastest possible gear changes. O f course, this is only feasible in an engine without secondary couples (hence the pure 60-degree vee angle) and which is carefully balanced, otherwise the level of engine vibration would be unacceptable. BMW has also fitted a torsional vibration damper. A second race car feature, found on very few road cars, is dry sump lubrication. Although more complex and costly than a conventional wet sump, it shaves vital inches from the height of the oil pan and so allows the engine to be mounted lower.

Variable geometry was rejected as too complicated but much time was spent perfecting the elements of the induction system

BMW utilised much of its tried and tested technology for the F I’s V12 but called on race-style dual injectors to improve fuel mixture


First prototype born at Christmas, destroyed by Easter

XP1 High spirits at Xmas 1 9 9 2 were dashed when the first car was destroyed three months later in a massive


testing accident in Africa


A puff of smoke and the first McLaren FI hursts into life (top), Murray at the wheel, 2 3 December 92

After the excitement (and a*ooety) of the first run (right) McLaren quickly started testing with Palmer

The message on the Christmas card was simple: “The first McLaren FI will run on 23rd December.” Bang on schedule, there was a new star in the firmament — XP1, experimental prototype 1. The job of building the first monocoque had been made easier with the timely acquisition, off-the-shelf, o f one of Britain’s most advanced composite facilities. At Shalford, just 20 miles from Albert Drive, and empty for six months was GTO, Ferrari’s Guildford Technical Office built at the request of Formula 1 designer John Barnard during his first sojourn with the Italian team and redundant since the Englishman’s defection to the Benetton team. It had ovens the size of houses and was going for a song. X P l’s monocoque took 6000 hours to build, and was delivered to Albert Drive at the start of December. “The guys thought they’d escaped from all-nighters when they left Formula 1...” said Murray at the time. Come lunchtime on the 23rd there were some very draw n faces in the workshop, not least Murray who had a plane to catch back home to South Africa at 3.00pm and had promised himself a drive in the car before he left. After a couple o f false starts in the workshop, the BMW burst into life just after 1.30pm and with Murray at the wheel drove two laps around the car park. There were niggles, sure, but there was a palpable sense o f relief that all the systems w orked, including and especially, the gearbox.

Murray admits to having been at a loss as to how to configure the F I’s six-speed transmission. He studied every longitudinal and transverse engine layout used in other mid-engined cars and rejected all of them on the basis of weight, frictional losses, poor packaging or — in the case of the engine-over-gearbox layout used by Ferrari in the Berlinetta Boxer — the high centre of gravity. Determined, for reasons o f good handling, to achieve the lowest possible polar moment of inertia in yaw, he had decided on using the Formula 1 solution instead: placing the engine as far forward within the wheelbase as possible, with a transaxle behind. But however he drew it, the resulting assembly was too long. As the block length of the V I2 was already pared to the bone at 600mm, the space saving simply had to come from the transaxle. But how? It was Patrick Weismann — son of Pete Weismann, founder of Traction Products and another old associate from Murray’s Brabham days (the two first worked together on an Indycar project in 1971) — who came up with the solution. Like all the best ideas it was ludicrously simple: a transverse gearbox which allowed the crown wheel o f the differential to be positioned beside the clutch rather than behind it. thereby saving vital inches. The F I ’s transverse ‘box has six forward speeds, o f which the first five form a classic close-ratio set for speeds up to 180mph. Sixth is an overdrive, pulling a high 30mph per lOOOrpm to permit an ultimate top speed o f over 230mph. A lock-out reverse obviates the possibility of any nasty mishap when negotiating the four-plane gate. The carbon carbon clutch had been thoroughly tested in Albert and Edward, and unlike the carbon brakes, had passed the test. Murray was determined to make the FI a thoroughly user-friendly road car and that ruled out the thigh-straining clutch


effort typical o f powerful mid-engined supercars, while the elimination of all unnecessary addenda on weight grounds and an emphasis on preserving control feel banished any thought o f servo assistance. Considerable time and effort was expended on refining the clutch’s hydraulic actuation. Another idea o f Pete Weismann’s — a cam system o f operating the clutch mechanism — was also incorporated as a simple method o f providing adjustability o f clutch action during development. It w'asn’t until X P1 was run in anger at McLaren road car, was totally destroyed. the Silverstone circuit w ith Murray, Ron The driver, wearing just shorts and T-shirt, Dennis and Creighton Brown at the wheel stepped out completely unharmed —a more that the gearbox niggles took on a powerful vindication of the safety of the consistent pattern. The FI, even with three F I ’s monocoque design is, frankly, on board recorded some spectacular times unimaginable. and would regularly hit 170mph plus on the XP2 was finished shortly after X P l’s Hanger Straight, but testing was being accident and became BMW’s test vehicle, interrupted by a gearbox oil overheating before returning to Britain for DTp crash problem caused by its proximity to the testing at MIRA where it made history. catalytic converters, but easily solved with As far as anyone knows, it’s the only car to the addition of an oil cooler w ith its own have survived the test; after hitting the wall air scoop just behind the engine air intake. it could have been driven back from MIRA. With production sign-off looming McLaren Three more prototypes were built, each a took advantage o f its grand prix alliances little closer to the final production spec, and brought in FF Developments as each a little closer to production quality. consultants. The production boxes are now Each a little heavier. manufactured at FFD. From the very beginning McLaren’s The project, however, hit big problems in target was a staggering 1000kg (22001b). March. BMW had taken XP1 hot-weather The sheer audacity of this goal is only put testing to Namibia to complete the first into its true perspective when you realise a stage o f the long-winded engine mapping rear-wheel drive Lamborghini Diablo process. On 22 March, with a BMW weighs 1575kg, Jaguar’s XJ220 tops the engineer at the wheel and the car loaded scales at 1470kg. Ferrari’s F40 1235kg and with test-equipment, XP1 began a series of Bugatti’s 4wd EB110 at 1620kg. tests the wrong side o f 150mph. There had What few people realised immediately, been slight problems with overheating and however, was that Gordon Murray was part of the rear bodywork had been talking in terms of dry' weight. Add 65kg removed for the final run of the day over for 85 litres of fuel and another, say, 35kg the same section o f straight road. for lubricants, radiator water — even Out o f sight of the other engineers — windscreen washer water adds another nobody know s for sure what happened next few kg — so, in terms o f kerb weight, — the driver lost control, hit a sun-dried, we’re talking 1100kg. Nevertheless it rock-solid mud bank and the car went into remains a remarkable achievement. a lurid series o f rolls before coming to a “I set the target o f 1000kg when the rest and catching fire. XP1. the first engine was going to be 4.5-litres,” says

Part sales drive, part test, McLaren took XP5 to the Far East where Palmer ran into the Hong Kong law...

2 2 March 1 9 9 3 . Namibia: th e photograph was taken not long before XP1 was completely destroyed

At a two-day Nurburgring test: Ron Dennis (left), Murray and BMW’s Paul Rosche with XP5

The grand prix team helped out on the FI project wrth the loan of its pit garages — and Mika Hakkmen

Murray. “From the beginning 1 knew it was virtually impossible to achieve if we included sound proofing, air conditioning, the luggage and sound system. But 1 decided not to make it 1100kg, so it was really difficult and everybody knew I was going to be looking at every nut and bolt. That’s the way you do it on a Formula 1 car. 1 wanted them to understand that was to be our philosophy.” Inevitably, though, the weight crept up. “We tried carbon fibre brakes on Albert for three months. We couldn’t get them to work in wet, cool conditions so we switched to iron brakes and gained 18kg. My own realistic target for the car then became 1080kg.” The first one to go on the scales was X P1 which, admittedly, lacked sound proofing, had parts missing and wasn’t painted. It came in at 1003kg. When the engine jumped from 4.5-litres to 6.1-litres the gearbox needed strengthening, increasing weight by another 20kg. It was about then that Paul Rosche told Murray he wanted to fit variable valve timing to the engine. “I know the car is to weigh 1000kg and I know it’s got enough torque to move a block of flats,” said Rosche, “but if you w ant the pinnacle of modem technology, you should have it.” “I asked him how' much more the engine would weigh.” explains Murray, who admits to being against the idea. “The answ er w as 9ke. so I told him if he could

meet the original weight target with the variable valve timing we’d have it. And he did.” XP4 weighed 1067kg painted, with sound proofing, but without the liquids. Today Gordon concedes that the production FI will weigh around 1100kg dry, say a 1200kg kerb weight. Like we said, by the standards of every other supercar it’s an astonishing achievement. There were thousands of detail changes. At least five different nose undertrays were tried, some with and some w ithout the spot lamps that gave the studio model its distinctive wide-mouth look. The rear view mirrors and turn indicators, originally mounted at the top of the door frames, were declared illegal and Murray traded them for a four point harness with the type-approval boffins at the DTp. That meant new wing mirrors and Peter Stevens went, originally, for what he knew best; the Citroen CX 'supercar’ units he’d used on the Lotus Esprit Mkll and Jaguar XJR-15 (and subsequently taken up by others on the Aston Vantage and XJ220). The production car now' has mirrors from another source, but Stevens isn’t saying from where. The front turn indicators, from the Lotus Elan, w ere also relocated to below the headlamps. The changes had a dramatic impact on the car’s drag, which dropped from 0.34 to 0.32. This, in turn, w as one of the reasons why Jonathan Palmer hit the rev limiter during the 231mph run at Nardo. one of the circuits used by the McLaren Cars team for testing. In Britain the four surviving prototypes could be seen testing alongside grand prix cars at Silverstone (and they never looked slow !), and at Goodwood. Chobham. MIRA and regularly on the two-mile strip at Bruntingthorpe. On the continent. McLaren used BMW’s own test track, Nardo, Goodyear's Miravel track in the South of France and. o f course, the biggest challenge o f the lo t the 14-mile Nurburgring.



Production starts, with a little help from Ferrari


001 The keys to production: in November 1991 McLaren acquired GTO from Ferrari and late last year Derek


Waetend joined from Lotus




standards the others can only dream about. W aeland’s concept o f quality starts with the layout o f the spotless, highly ordered and brilliantly lit Woking assembly

Chassis 001, reserved for McLaren, waits at Woking for its engine and doors. FI is assembled using doorsoff mass-production methods

Most people believe it’s the McLaren F I ’s style, speed, design and technology which makes it the w orld’s most exotic sports car, but Derek Waelend, manufacturing director at McLaren Cars and the man responsible for building the FI right, begs to differ. The car’s stunning shape and enormous road ability attract potential buyers in the first place, he says, but it is engineering excellence, quality finish and fanatical attention to detail w hich finally convince them that a McLaren FI is worth their very large investment. “Our owners are very special people,” W aelend says. “They’re successful, they’re smart, they know cars and there’s no pulling the wool over their eyes. They know quality when they see it, and they know you can’t just bolt it on. For a lot o f them, coming to McLaren is like coming home, because Gordon Murray is fanatical about getting the thing right to the last detail, and so am I.” W aelend came to McLaren about 10 months ago, via Ford. Jaguar. Lotus and GEC, having built a high reputation as a man w ho could get things done. At W oking he w as charged with the task o f getting the first FI to a private owner on time, then raising production to its planned three-a-month level by next August — while maintaining quality7and consistency at the expected level, a far higher rate than anything previously seen in the exotic car business. W hereas improvements over the past decade have seen quality mass production cars (Mercedes. BMW, Lexus) push well past existing labour-intensive or hand-built cars, W aelend's jo b is to set

operation itself. The concept, he explains, is that this very special car is made in the atmosphere o f an office, not a conventional workshop. There’s no dirt, no debris, no pools o f oil on the floor. There aren’t even any dirty overalls. The production director looks anything but complacent as he stands and views production car 002, about to be delivered to the F I ’s first customer (001 being M cLaren’s own F I). “We made over 1000 detail changes to the early production cars, compared with the last prototype, XP5. W e’ve made an all-out effort to deal with things which turn into ‘niggles’ when the car’s been in service for a while. Look at th is...” And he begins a tour o f the car’s inner workings calculated to send ‘details' junkies right into orbit. The gold-coloured spanners, nestling in their elegant leather tool kit, are beautifully wrought in titanium (because it’s 50 per cent lighter than steel). The fusebox includes not only spares, but a fuse tester the size o f a matchbox. Every hose connection on the engine has a high-tech ‘dry break’ seal called a W iggins coupling. The bespoke Kenwood CD player weighs less than h alf what they normally do. The box spanner for the car’s central wheel nuts looks like a piece o f sculpture, machined from solid. So is the amazingly light screwin towing eye, snug in a little housing under the bootlid. Inside the car, every trim line and upholstery seam runs straighter than an arrow. The small carbon aerofoil on the windscreen wiper not only looks great, it's also been tested beyond 200mph. Every door hinge is rose-jointed. W aelend could go on. He has the gift o f the gab. O f course, there’s much more to the FI than eye-catching detail, the manufacturing director points out. The car is as tough as anything on the road, and a damn sight tougher than other exotic cars. The prototype used for the F I ’s recent crash test survived so well that it has been repaired and sent o ff for further duties. The chassis now “awaits another allocation". Another prototype survived four times the usual pave test inflicted on production saloons, with no problem but the failure o f a couple o f electrical connections. Rust prevention has become such a fetish at W oking that McLaren buys the finest, aircraft-quality nuts and bolts on the



market, then re-treats every one o f them. The F I, which will sell to customers in humid countries like South-East Asia, has also surv ived 1600 hours o f salt spray testing at MIRA — four times the normal test and the equivalent o f 25 years o f life under ordinary conditions. “It is my earnest hope,” says Waelend, “that no FI will ever show' the slightest sign o f rust. W e’ve taken precautions with every part, every nut, bolt and washer. We want to be sure that this car, which is a work o f art, remains a work o f art for many, many years.” This lyrical turn o f phrase, combined with a high rate o f words per second, makes Derek W aelend a very unusual person in the car business, a manufacturing type who also has PR skills and an optimistic outlook which inspires his troops. The passion is obvious for anyone to see, and those w ho have worked with him in the past say he’s never been any different. In his 30s at Ford. W aelend ran the Valencia plant, which made 1152 Fiestas a day, a body every 42sec. At the time, he proudly claims, it had the best reputation for quality and efficiency o f any plant in the world empire. Now in his early 50s and presiding over an operation that will never quite reach 40 cars a year, he still shows endless raw enthusiasm, an excellent grasp o f the cutting edge style o f technology McLaren favours, and a longer list o f supplier contacts than anyone else at Woking. When he came to McLaren Cars last May, W aelend says he was struck by tw o things: the amount that had been achieved getting the first prototype built by Christmas Eve 1992. and the amount which had to be done to get the first customer car finished by Christmas Eve 1993. If he had worries and doubts, they were caused chiefly by the relatively poor paint finish on the FI prototypes — and on various other vehicles w'ith carbon-fibre bodies w hich he swiftly set o ff to view'. "I looked at loads o f them .” he says, “Ferrari F40s. the Alfa Procar. the Jaguar XJR-15 plus various racing cars and some aircraft, too. None were very good, and some were absolutely terrible.” But at the same time. W aelend says, the Jaguar X J220’s w as the best finish h e’d ever seen on a car. He decided to make that his minimum standard for the McLaren FI. Originally. McLaren Cars had toyed with the idea o f doing its own painting but Waelend. who had set up a plant for Lotus

not many years before, suggested they forget the idea for two reasons. Latest EC clean-air legislation makes new' paint plants prohibitively expensive to build, and carbon-fibre bodies really do need specialist attention. It was better to find a firm o f

Only when the car is

established experts, he insisted. Eventually he settled on QCR, in Nuneaton, as the people to do the job, and he hasn’t been the least bit disappointed by their results. Next was a source o f finest quality bespoke upholstery, since owners were to be offered literally any colour/texture combination they cared to dream up. After a hunt, Waelend found him self one Saturday on the doorstep o f a small Coventry trim shop called Anderson & Ryan. Pleasant surprises w ere w aiting inside. “The ‘Anderson’ turned out to be Dave Anderson, whose father had been my trim shop superintendent at Jaguar,” Waelend explains. “The ‘Ryan’ was Kevin Ryan, who I’d also known at Jaguar as someone who could take the designers’ leather and trim concepts o ff the drawing board and realise them in three dimensions. They were doing some great work, not only doing specialist interiors for cars but also trimming business jets. W e knew' right aw ay that we could do some business together. G ordon's pleased, because his and Peter Stevens’ ideas are now being realised properly inside the car.” Though he won his spurs in mass production. Derek W aelend is now a devotee o f m odem flexible manufacturing techniques which, he says, can raise the

soon be with its new owner

quality' o f the w orld’s best-built low volume car to Swiss-watch level. He talks enthusiastically about CNC (Computer


nearing completion will its doors be put in place, so chassis 003 (above) will


Composite bodies are cured in the autoclave at Shalford, the former site of Ferrari’s Formula 1 technical centre

evident at Jaguar, for instance, w hen they announced a decision to spend £54 million on “a crystal palace for engineers” (the Whitley research centre) while his people had to labour on with an antiquated assembly line inherited in the ’60s from Standard Triumph. The injustice, he says, was a factor in his decision to move on. "1 think 1 might be a difficult person to manage sometimes,” he says, “because I’m headstrong and a bit more forceful than some people appreciate. But I try to act with the interests o f the company and the customer in mind.” W aelend sees no bar to a long working life at McLaren. He loves Numerical Control) machines, which allow the place, and is enthusiastic about the components to be machined, drilled, skills both Ron Dennis and Gordon punched, bent or cut to very exacting Murray have for alotting priorities. He is tolerances, without the need for delays, also very proud o f what his team has waste or huge production runs. achieved, getting the early cars to the Best o f all, he says, is the flexibility. If paying customers. you want to modify a part, you merely “ It’s no secret,” he says, “that most change the program, and the very next item projects founder in the phase between you make conforms to the new design. For prototype build and production start-up. mass manufacturers, tooling costs run into There comes a point w here you have to millions, and making small modifications start ordering parts in batches, and the to components is hardly ever on the agenda. McLaren Cars couldn’t be anywhere near huge financial commitment, coming on top o f the start-up costs, can shake the the centre o f excellence it is. says the steadiest nerv e. But w e’re past that now. manufacturing director, without the We always said w e’d have the first car remarkable abilities o f its highly skilled production car ready for delivery on technicians, most o f w hom have either a 24 December 1993. and we achieved it. grand prix or an aerospace background As a matter o f fact, w e finished it at “One o f the first things 1 learned was that about lunchtime on the last day.” As this we hardly ever have parts shortages." says is written in mid-February the first W aelend. wonderingly. "If a component customer (whose identity is a close-kept doesn't turn up from a supplier, the boys secret) has taken delivery o f his car, and w ill make it. And I'm not talking about the first seven chassis are in various jury-rigged stuff, either. They'll machine it states o f build. from solid, send it o ff to be anodised and Though W aelend admits it’s probably a have it on the car by the time you've harder exercise to build the first production registered there's a problem." car than any other, he believes the In one way. W aelend's a slightly odd challenges for his manufacturing team are fish at a place like McLaren. H e's a just beginning. “W e’ve got a car now. but genuine, old-fashioned, motor industry live at present it takes 3500 hours to make a wire in a works full o f highly intelligent, body at our Shalford works [formerly self-contained, hard to impress and rather Ferrari's grand prix technical office] and a languid technical experts. They aren't like further 2500 hours to assemble it here at him. but they appreciate his contribution. Woking. I have a target to get that down to " I f you're working late and life's a bit 3000 hours for the body and 750 hours for hard." says one regular. "Derek tends to the assembly. And by August w e'v e got to make life a bit more entertaining" be building three cars a month. Those are Actually. W aelend admits his tendency tough targets but w e’ll meet them. No to act "a bit O T T ' has ruffled a few feathers in the past. He made his discontent

argument about i t ”


FI owners can specify any upholstery they want. Anderson & Ryan ensures that all demands are met. to the highest standards


You get more than an F 1 for your ÂŁ540,000


Setting the 3 5 0 F Is began with the 1 9 9 2 launch in Monaco (top). Customer

CHAPTER 8 totfce programme ever since



Dennis (top) showed off the FI at the Monaco launch in May 1 9 9 2 , and 10 people stumped up the £ 1 0 6 ,0 0 0 deposit on first sight

Building the fastest road car the world has ever seen is one thing. Selling it to a public, many of whom still have bandaged fingers from financial forays with other 200mph supercars, is quite another. In charge of this daunting task is Jonathan Palmer who, in addition to his role of chief test driver for the FI, is now McLaren’s director of sales and marketing. There will always be a market for a car which is the best in its field, but Palmer is under no illusions whatsoever about the scale of the job he faces. “We have no right to expect people to understand why a car could possibly be worth £540,000 and convincing them that the FI is creates one o f the toughest challenges we face.” Palmer is as far removed from the shinysuited, patter-spattering salesman you’ll find in your local dealer as you could imagine. He speaks with utter conviction, not just as a man who knows every detail of the FI but, crucially, believes totally in the car. The knowledge that it was conceived by Gordon Murray’s brain and styled by Peter Stevens’s pen can be pretty persuasive and, for some, the fact that it’s made by the world’s most successful Formula 1 constructor will be enough to clinch the deal. For some. Others will be less easily convinced and will require hard evidence that this car is, unequivocally, the fastest and plain best supercar that has ever been. Simple figures should do much of that work for McLaren and Autocar £ M otor's forthcoming road test of the car will provide concrete, independent evidence of the car’s capabilities as will the numerous speed records McLaren intends to capture round the world in the next year. But before that even, the evidence already supports the contention that the FI will prove to be the fastest road car the world will ever see. Ferrari, hitherto never a marque to be outperformed by anyone, admits its successor for the F40 will not approach the performance o f the FI. Palmer also believes that future legislation

concerning emissions, speed limits and fuel consumption also reduces the likelihood of a rival bettering the FI. His second justification for charging over half a million pounds for what remains, after all, a mere car is this: “Consider the technology needed to build a car with a 6.1-litre V12 engine, room for three people in fully trimmed, air-conditioned comfort, their luggage and then put that car into production weighing just 1100kg.” Consider also that, at the moment, an FI takes around 6000 highly-skilled man-hours to build. From start to finish, the process takes around 3.5 months per car; broadly speaking, the average large luxury saloon selling for around £40,000 takes comfortably under two days to build. Palmer can be confident buyers will get more than just the keys and a cursory point in the direction of the handbook. Even before there’s money on the table customers will spend time with Murray, and with Palmer and Creighton Brown to give them a feel for the philosophy behind the car, and to let them get a foot in the door to what Murray calls the “FI Club.” Once they’ve placed an order they’ll be encouraged to visit Shalford and Woking to see, and maybe help with, the car being built. They’ll be given guidance on colour and trim since Murray is anxious the interior, especially, doesn’t lose its single-seater feel. Any colour is possible: the MGA model has been painted yellow for a customer to take a look while Derek Waelend spent a weekend buying aubergines to match a requested colour. Closer to production, customers will have the driver’s seat professionally fitted and, under the supervision of Palmer, have the pedals and steering wheel adjusted. (Discreetly, McLaren will also find out the buyers favoured music so when they turn on the bespoke Kenw'ood CD their top tune will fill the cabin). All the cars will come equipped with colour-matched luggage (including a golf bag), a Facom tool chest, a car

Stevens explaining the design is a great marketing tool (below), fuelled by interest from stars such as George Harrison (bottom)

Cm it reatty be worth £ 5 4 0 ,0 0 0 , twice as much as a Bugatti? If s the job of Jonathan Palmer's team to convince 3 0 0 people it is

cover and a battery charger. There’ll also be a leather-bound book of the car. BMW dealers equipped to handle any M-cars will be able to routinely service an F I, but in the event o f an emergency and the built-in. modem-link to Woking not working. McLaren will have a mechanic on the next flight. Palmer will be available to offer driver advice and. where necessary, arrange circuit time to allow customers to get more out o f their cars. About one third o f the F Is will be walled up in museums and garages but the vast majority will be used on the open road, a thought which clearly pleases Palmer. Speculators, says Palmer, have yet to raise their heads back abov e the parapet to which they retired, shirtless. from the crash of ’89. There is no escaping that the heady days


of the late eighties are gone. Back then, waiting lists for certain cars stretched to the thick end of a decade. The closest we had to this McLaren was the Ferrari F40, a car which you could not buy if Mr Ferrari did not consider you a suitable customer. It was a rare privilege even to be offered one. Now the truth is, though McLaren contacts those it thinks will be interested in the FI, it’s not in the business o f turning anyone away. Indeed, order your FI today, pay a 20 per cent deposit and, with another 30 per cent due eight months before delivery, you can expect to pay the balance and pick up the keys early next summer. Still, the list is getting longer and if this trend continues. 300 F Is will be built between now and the turn o f the century. And there, says McLaren, it will stop.

The vital statistics o f a McLaren F 1






Floor-mounted foot pedals are CNC milled from solid; plaque details McLaren’s record ia Formula 1 — wit* space left for updates; super lightweight Facom spanners made from titanium

EXTERIOR DIMENSIONS Length Width Height Wheelbase Front track Rear track G round clearance

INTERIOR DIMENSIONS Cabin Driver leg room Driver head room Passenger leg room Passenger head room Cabin width

1227mm 985mm 1174mm 973mm 1360mm

Luggage compartments Length Width Height Capacity

540mm 450mm 500mm 0.28cu m

ENGINE Type number Layout Capacity M aximum power M aximum torque M aximum engine speed Specific output Power to weight ratio Installation Construction Bore/Stroke Compression ratio Valves

Ignition Fuelling

4288mm 1820mm 1140mm 2718mm 1568mm 1472mm 130mm

S70/2 12 cylinders in 60deg Vee 6064cc 627bhp/7400rpm Over 4791b ft from 4000-7000rpm 7500rpm 103bhp/litre 550bhp/tonne Longitudinal, mid-mount, rear-drive Aluminium heads and block, magnesium cam carriers 86/87mm 10.5:1 4 per cylinder, dohc, continuous variable inlet valve timing

Emissions equipment

Lubrication system Exhaust system

Transistorised, 1 coil per cylinder Electronic fuel injection, 12 throttle valves Four catalytic converters with Lamda sensors, secondary air injection Dry sump, magnesium casting Inconel pipes and four catalysts, titanium silencer

TRANSMISSION Transverse, 6-speed manual gearbox Ratio/mph per lOOOrpm 1st 3.23/8.7 2nd 2.19/12.7 3rd 1.71/16.7 4th 1.39/20.0 5th 1.16/24.0 6th 0.93/30.0 Final drive ratio 2.37:1 Limited slip differential standard, 40 per cent lock up

CLUTCH AP triple-plate, carbon, 200mm diameter, hydraulic actuation Aluminium flywheel 200mm diameter




Double unequal length wishbones. G round Plane Shear Centre subframes, alloy dampers, co-axial springs, anti-roll bar Double unequal length wishbones, Inclined Axis Shear mounting system, alloy dampers, co-axial springs, toe in/toe out control links



Fscorn also makes complete garage tool kit (part is shown) for every car; anodised aluminium alloy tow-hook screws into bumper; six-speed gearhox console has starter button under flap

STEERING Type Lock to lock Turning circle

FUEL SYSTEM Flexible safety fuel cell with in-tank high pressure pump

Unassisted rack and pinion 2.8 turns 13m

BRAKES Automatic, computer controlled brake cooling and balance aerofoil Front 332mm x 32mm ventilated discs, four piston monobloc light alloy calipers Rear 305mm x 26mm ventilated discs, four piston monobloc light alloy calipers Anti-lock unavailable

WHEELS Size Construction

TYRES Type Size

17x9in (front), 17x11.5in (rear) cast magnesium with centre lock

Goodyear FI 235/45ZR17 (front), 315/45ZR 17 (rear)

BODY Full carbon-fibre advanced composite monocoque and body. Carbon safety cell for occupants and carbon front crash structure, including small amount o f Dyneema

AERODYNAMICS Fan assisted full underbody aerodynamics, driver selectable highdown force mode, automatic brake and balance adjustment aerofoil Drag coefficient Frontal area CDA

0.32 1.79m1 0.57

Fuel grade Fuel tank capacity Oil tank capacity Recommended oil

95-98RON unleaded 90 litres (19.8 gallons) 6 litres (1.3 gallons) Shell Helix Ultra

WEIGHT Dry weight Kerb weight Weight distribution % f/r Maximum payload

1100kg (24201b) 1140kg (25081b) 41.2/58.8 350kg (7701b)

EQUIPMENT Air conditioning Kenwood CD stereo system Electric mirrors Electric windows Electric windscreen demist and defrost Remote central locking Map reading lights Remote luggage compartment release Facom titanium tool kit Individual tailoring o f seat, pedals and instruments for owner Leather-bound, hand-made McLaren FI book Document case Map pocket Magnesium alloy wheels Metallic paint External battery charger Garage tool kit Car cleaning kit Car cover C om nlete hie^ ape spr incliiHino p n lf hao

PRICE List price




Conventional wishbones are attached in-board on the subframe; Inconet stainless steel manifolds exit through four catalysts; vast amount of luggage fits perfectly, golf bag on front seat


Upright hub carriers form part of Inclined Axis Shear mounting system; EC unit (above and right) one of the many on the FI developed by specialist TAG Electronics, a McLaren offshoot



These are the eight body colours th a t McLaren recommends — you can, ot course, create your own scheme. McLaren Cars will have its own car finished in ‘Magnesium’, same as XP3

CHRONOLOGY — McLAREN CARS LTD 1988 1 March 11 September 1989 17 March 13 April 1990 23 February 12 March 30 March 4 April 2 July 13 August 15 September 15 November 1991 15 February 14 April 29 November 1992 4 March 6 April 8 May 28 May 23 December 1993 17 March 24 March 28 May 1 August 8 August 1994 25 January'

Gordon Murray opens file on possible project McLaren loses Italian Grand Prix, Murray, Dennis, Brown, Ojjeh talk McLaren Cars Ltd announced in Rio Albert Drive premises acquired Name of ‘F I ’ chosen Original 10-hour concept meeting Seating buck finished Tea lady starts First wind tunnel test Ultima kit for Albert arrives in Woking Murray/Stevens visit Bugatti Presentation to BMW BMW V12 and FI name announced Albert runs for first time McLaren Cars acquire GTO in Guildford First engine arrives at Albert Drive MGA model finished, shown to team and board Edward finished McLaren FI launched at Sporting Club in Monaco XPI completed, first run


Studio model


XPI Completed 23 December 1992. The first experimental prototype. Crashed and destroyed in testing in Namibia. Unpainted. XP2

XP2 Completed 24 March 1993. Originally BMW’s car for type approval. Returned to McLaren in November for crash testing at MIRA. Unpainted. XP3 Completed 30 April 1993. McLaren’s first development cycle car. Did much of the durability testing including the 231mph run at Nardo. Now on gearbox development validation. Finished in bright silver ‘Magnesium’.



XP4 Completed 23 July 1993. Second development cycle car. Responsible for the bulk of the gearbox validation work and durability testing. Finished in metallic grey ‘International’. XP5 Completed 17 September 1993. Marketing department car. First to be fitted with production spec, 627bhp engine and closest to production standard including signed-off nose with Elan turn indicators and no spot lamps, and near final spec interior. Finished in metallic green ‘Silverstone’.



001 In build. Will be McLaren’s own car. It will be third off"the line. Bright silver ‘Magnesium’.

XPI arrives in Namibia XP2 finished XP2 runs at 190mph for first time „ Mika Hakkinen tops 220mph in XP4 Jonathan Palmer hits 231mph at Nardo First customer car, 002, delivered

Studio Model Build by MGA Developments in Coventry, the model was shown at the Monaco launch in May 1992 and at subsequent motor shows. Featured roof-mounted mirrors/tum indicators and spot lamps in the air intakes. Originally finished in bright silver ( ‘Magnesium’), it’s since been painted red, blue and is currently yellow.

002 Completed 24 December 1993. First customer car. Finished in metallic grey ‘International’ with red stripe. 003 In build. Dark metallic grey ‘Carbon’. 004 In build. Bright solid red ‘Grand Prix'.


005 In build. Black metallic ‘Black 235’.


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Mclaren f1  

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