McLaren is now a world class supercar maker with a range of incredible cars, all the way from the £135,000 540C to the £750,000 Senna, but where did it all start?


Ron Dennis was born in Woking, England, in 1947. He studied motor vehicle engineering at Guildford Technical College and when he was 18 started working for cooper formula 1 team as a mechanic.


Ron Dennis

Dennis arrived at McLaren in September 1980 and five years later founded McLaren Cars. In 1987 Gordon Murray left Brabham and accepted an offer from Dennis to become technical director at McLaren.

Gordon Murray had been dreaming of creating a three seat supercar for years, and while on a flight home from the Italian Grand Prix in 1988 he sketched his dream car. When he arrived home he pitched the idea to Ron Dennis and work on the car started soon after.

1992 – MCLAREN F1


Gordon Murray, left, explains the F1’s Dihedral Doors

On Thursday the 28th of May 1992 in Monaco, McLaren announced its first road car (well, technically its second) the McLaren F1.

The F1 was designed to be the purest driver’s car, this resulted in the central driving possession to give the driver the best possible view. Murray was obsessed with saving weight, saying “Mass is the essential enemy of dynamic performance“, the finished car weighed just 1,138kg or about the same as a modern Ford Fiesta.

Early McLaren F1 designs

Early McLaren F1 designs

At the time the F1 was being designed McLaren‘s Formula 1 cars (confusing I know) used Honda engines, so McLaren requested that Honda build a 4.5L V10 or V12 with 550bhp but Honda could not be persuaded. McLaren then turned to BMW who created a 6.1L V12 that produced 618bhp.


1998 – 240MPH

The F1’s famous 240mph top speed record was set on the 31 March 1998, driven by Andy Wallace at Volkswagen’s Ehra-Lessien test track. The record wasn’t beaten until 2007 when the Bugatti Veyron hit 253mph on the same track. McLaren still holds the record for the fastest naturally aspirated production car ever made.


In 2007 McLaren started work on a new supercar which would eventually become the MP4-12C. They secretly purchased two Ferrari 360s to test the new 3.8L twinturbo V8 and a Ultima GTR to test the brakes and suspension.

2009 – MP4-12C

McLaren announced the MP4-12C on the 9 September 2009, it used a all-new 3.8L twin turbo V8 making 592bhp. To keep the weight as low as possible the 12C uses a carbon fibre tub chassis that only weighs 80kg, and the entire car weighs just 1,301kg, that’s 264kg less than a Ferrari 458 which also has 30 fewer horsepower.

With The Stig at the wheel the MP4-12C set a time of 1:16.2 on the Top Gear test track, making it second fastest at the time.

Rather than me telling you what I think of the 12C here is Jeremy Clarkson comparing it to the 458.

2013 – P1

The McLaren P1 was shown as a concept at the 2012 Paris motor show but we had to wait until 2013 for the final production version, which was shown in Geneva.

Being McLaren’s first hybrid you might think it would be a bit boring and sensible but this is no Prius, it uses the same 3.8L V8 as the 12C but now with more power and combined with the hybrid system produces 903bhp.

Here is Chris Harris to tell you more about it.

2014-2015 – 650S AND 675LT

McLaren took some of what it learned with the P1 and applied it to the 12C to create the 650S. Although McLaren say 25% of the car is brand new it used updated versions of the 12C‘s carbon fibre tub, engine and gearbox.

650S Coupe & Spider

650S Coupe & Spider

When the 675LT launched in 2015 it could have been mistaken for a slightly updated 650S but it was so much more than that. It has improved aerodynamics, more power and less weight this made it one of the best modern supercars ever made. There was a total of 1000 made split between 500 coupes and 500 spiders.

2015-2016 – SPORTS SERIES

Until now all McLarens have fit into two categories, super series (12C, 650S and 675LT) and ultimate series (P1), but with the launch of the 570S McLaren added the sports series to the lineup. After the launch of the 570S they added the 540C, a lower priced 570S, and the 570GT to the sports series range.

Left to right: 540C, 570GT, 570S

Left to right: 540C, 570GT, 570S

2017 – 720S

The latest super series car from McLaren is the 720S, it’s the replacement for the 650S and possibly the best all round supercar currently on sale. Power comes from a 4.0L twin turbo V8 which is a heavily reworked version of the 3.8L found in McLaren‘s previous cars. Work on the 720S started before the 650S was even announced and McLaren says 91% of its parts are completely new.

2018 – SENNA

After the P1 the Senna is the second car in McLaren’s ultimate series, and it was designed with only one thing in mind, lap times. The number to remember when talking about the Senna is 800, it has 800hp from the same 4.0L V8 as the 720S, 800Nm of torque and 800kg of downforce at 155mph.

What do you think of the looks, form follows function taken a step to far? Comment your thoughts.

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