I remember when the Mclaren F1 first made an appearance. I went to see it at the Motor Show in Birmingham. Unfortunately we weren’t allowed that near it, never mind to sit in it, but then at a cool £500,000 (in 1991!) I don’t suppose I’d want thousands of people putting their grubby mitts all over my brand new sports car either!
From the performance figures though, up to 125 mph, this thing is faster. Can’t quite get my head round that… The original F1 still seems to have other worldly performance, although I’ve never had the pleasure of experiencing that.
What I have previously experienced, was the car he traded this in for. A Gallardo 560-4. That car was ALL about the engine. Whenever he started it up, it sounded like someone had nicked the exhaust system, it was LOUD. Mind you, it does make for an inspiring experience when you start to press on. The bellowing V10 behind your ears really does add excitement and drama to the proceedings. The 4 wheel drive also makes it very friendly.
Having driven someone else’s in the wet, I managed to nudge the rear out a bit, but it was very easily collected. The owner wasn’t overly enamoured with my little stunt, and I did do it accidentally (honestly!) rather than actively provoking it. However, as I did it so smoothly he didn’t immediately demand the keys back, and I short-shifted from there on to keep him happy. Wonder if the McLaren will be as friendly?
Unfortunately, it’s unlikely I’ll find out this time, as having recently had a child, my concentration isn’t what it was, and I’ve crashed a few times in the last 18 months. 9 years No Claims discount completely down the plug hole… oh well.
Anyway, details – the cabin feels quite similar to the Gallardo’s. Very spacious and a little dark. Sitting in my bog standard saloon, you’re always aware of the space behind you, and all round visibility of course is excellent, but with the engine upfront, you sit very upright and the bulkhead is quite close.
In these kinds of cars, it feels so dark because the bulkhead is right behind you, it’s up round your shoulders, and the roof is very low. You certainly feel cocooned. The seating is much lower, and also quite literally, much more laid back, but it does feel weird that I can stretch my legs out so far, (I’m 6’1″) due to the absence of an engine up front.
Being a bit of a techie by nature I was also interested in the underneath of the Mclaren. Nowadays road cars like this have serious downforce available, so I stuck my head underneath, (no piccies, because they didn’t come out in the limited light 🙁 ). It’s surprisingly simple. The whole of the underneath of the car is completely closed in of course, but there really isn’t a lot to it all, and it wouldn’t take much to modify your own car in a similar manner.
Starting at the front, the panelling gently rises to just in front of the front wheels where it flattens out, and then it’s totally flat all the way to the back wheels. No strakes or tunnels or anything, although interestingly there was a vane next to each wheel that directed air from them out to the sides. It appeared to be nothing more than a plastic strip that protruded downwards a couple of inches, starting off parallel to the wheel and then sweeping round behind it, in a kind of “J” shape.
And at the rear of course the panelling rises once again to form the diffuser, which appears to be quite a gentle affair. I’d love to know how much downforce the MP4-12C actually generates, but I can’t find any figures anywhere (if you know yourself, please feel free to post it in the comments below, ta!).
Another detail that I found interesting was the location of the engine. Not that it was mid engined or anything, but how low it was. You can quite easily see the top of the intake plenum is low, but until you poke your head in, you don’t realise that below the plenum are some quite long intake runners, so the cylinder heads must be a good 15 inches or so lower down from the top of the plenum. Meaning the top of the engine block must be somewhere around the height of your knees…
It’s no wonder cars like this can generate so much cornering force. With the heaviest component so low, their centre of gravity must be mere inches off the floor.
Anyway, that’s all for now, I’ll report back when I’ve been out in it.
I’ve now been out in it, read about it here.