The McLaren Pure Experience Is 50 Years in the Making
In the span of 50 years, several generations have been born and many technological leaps have occurred, which make the 1960s look archaic. So when McLaren invited us to their McLaren Pure Experience 12C Spider Media Day as part of celebrating their 50th anniversary this year, we couldn’t refuse.
When McLaren first explored creating a road car, it came in the form of the 1969 M6GT. Bruce McLaren was obsessed with creating the fastest road car the world had ever seen, his own knuckles bled assembling the first prototype. He wasn’t creating the M6GT to compete against Ferrari, The M6GT was something his competitors never saw coming. Several decades later, the F1 (designed by Gordon Murray) would step out onto center stage and make the same claim the M6GT did in 1969. To say the 12C Spider had some mighty big shoes to fill would be an understatement.
When Bruce McLaren began tinkering in his shed with a 1929 Austin Ulster, he could never have imagined his company becoming a globally respected F1 team, creators of an iconic hypercar (the F1) and producing products that make Enzo Ferrari himself blush.
While we took in the refined silhouette the 12C Spider exhibited motionless, we were reminded of the days events. We were here to applaud McLaren’s ascent upon supercar Mount Everest. By applause, we mean jam our right foot down around a race track.
I came to the track to see what all the fuss was about, was the 12C Spider as great as buff-books say it was? After a full day of driving on and off the track, YES, IT WAS!
Acceleration is as gut-wrenching as a blown big-block Chevy hurling down a drag strip and under hard braking, the G-forces nearly send you through the windshield. The stability of the suspension provides F1-like overconfidence that can easily get you in trouble. We experienced first-hand a dose of overconfident cornering as co-driver, pro Seth Thomas, switched the knobs to full TRACK mode. The 12C’s back end swung out immediately, but luckily the on-board computer caught the drift and powered over onto the back straight.
It wasn’t too long ago that the McLaren F1, arguably one of the most magnificent road cars ever created, shocked the world with its one-million dollar price tag in 1992. A BMW V12 power plant, carbon fiber construction and NASA derived gold foil heat shielding in the engine bay, would play to the car’s rocket ship like qualities.
Before that, McLaren’s first crack at designing a road car was the 1969 M6GT. The M6GT was equipped with a Chevrolet LT1 motor and was the fastest road car on the market at the time. Once completed, Bruce used the car as his daily driver to figure out what could be improved and tweaked––essentially becoming his own test driver. Bruce planned to create a limited 250 production versions but sadly this would never come to fruition. His untimely death was the end of the car’s production dreams.
Bruce McLaren’s successor, Ron Dennis, follows one rule established at McLaren: every car built, every product created and every progressive step taken is driven by their relentless pursuit of engineering perfection. This pursuit of excellence lives today as it did when Bruce set his first record during the Muriwai Beach hillclimb in New Zealand at the age of 15.
With the 12C carrying the torch as a modern benchmark for the company, McLaren continues to push into the future—the P1 lurking around the bend. Fifty years from now, I’d like to look back at this story in disbelief of what the Kiwi-Brits accomplished during the stone age of 2013.
Photography by Ezekiel Wheeler for Petrolicious and Dirk Abinakad