McLaren Automotive: The Iron Man of the automotive world.

Jet lag is a killer. It normally takes me a good week to fully adapt to a new time zone. Christmas day this year, I found myself wide awake at 5:30 in the morning. Unusually for my family, I was the only person home this year so no siblings or grandchildren to disturb. Still, I was restless. How was I going to get back to sleep? Grabbing my laptop, I went on to YouTube to see that one of the most well-known automotive vloggers, Shmee 150, was unwrapping his new McLaren Senna at the company's factory at Woking, in Surrey, England. I have no idea where Shmee or any of these other vloggers get the money to buy such cars. This is something I am committed to researching in 2019. Anyway, this got me thinking about McLaren itself.

McLaren Automotive is most famous for the F1. This 1990s legend had a unique three seat layout, a gold-lined engine bay for better heat dissipation, a BMW designed V12 engine and was the first road going car to feature a carbon fibre monocoque chassis. It also cost millions of dollars and just over 100 examples were ever built. To this day, it is still regarded as one of the best road going vehicles ever built. Like the Iron Man Mk1 armour, built from scraps in a cave, it was something special. For me, the carbon fibre monocoque is equivalent to the Iron Man ARC reactor. It is at the core of every car McLaren builds, gives them their incredible strength and lightness and defines the brand as a maker of 'real' sports cars.

It took McLaren a long time to follow up the F1 with the MP4-12C in 2011. This car was eagerly awaited and many of its details were revealed in the press years before the final reveal. McLaren were aiming at the contemporary Ferrari 458 but the 12C fell short. Similar to the Mk2 Iron Man armour, (the silver one with the icing issue), the MP4-12C had teething issues around its aggressive handling characteristics, lacklustre styling along with a rather uninspiring exhaust note. Crucially there was a good car underneath all of this in need of refinement. McLaren is a company that never rests on its laurels.

What Iron Man and McLaren have in common is unrelenting development in the pursuit of perfection. After only three years, the 12C was replaced by the 650S in 2014. This new model was a revised 12C with 25% of its parts being new along with more distinctive front end styling. This was the car that people wanted at launch and more to the point, McLaren wasn't afraid to rapidly replace the first car with this better version. Tony Stark has been doing the same thing with his armours over the last decade from the Mk3 in the original Iron Man movie to the Mk50 in Avengers: Infinity War.

The 650S was replaced last year by the 720S. In a brief few years, McLaren also launched the P1 Hypercar, Spider (folding hard top) versions of both the 12C and 650S, a range of entry model 'Sport Series' cars and a few Long Tail (light weight) specials for good measure. All these cars use the same basic building blocks of carbon fibre cores and turbo-charged V8s. It is doubtful that there will ever be a McLaren SUV or family hatchback because McLaren really isn't a traditional car company like Porsche or Ferrari.

Indeed, like Iron Man, the armour is a means to an end. In Stark's case, it is to protect the people he loves from danger and the ever-frequent alien invasions of Earth. For McLaren, it is all about the commitment to the journey. Looking at their website they state that they expect a lot from their vehicles and drivers. Their mantra "Prepare. Commit. Belong. Are you ready?" They are not selling to customers, rather they are looking for like-minded people, drivers with deep pockets, to test the latest versions of their cars. Brand acolytes, or at the very least custodians who share the company's passion for progress and performance at any cost.

If I had the money, I'd be seriously tempted to buy into McLaren membership. Where other companies are happy to stick to a familiar formula and expand their ranges to encourage sales, there is something very appealing about the single-mindedness of McLaren.The company has come a long way in under ten years. The pace at which they have established themselves and refresh their products is nothing short of amazing. More importantly, the technology that is being developed will become more relevant as we move into the next decade with electric vehicles, that will use carbon fibre structures, need to be aerodynamically efficient and most of all light.

I may never own or race a McLaren but I am certain the car world is a more interesting place with them in it continuing to push boundaries, just like my favourite iron-clad superhero.

Happy 2019 everyone. Here is to an amazing year!

Shmee 150's unwrapping video can be viewed at https://youtu.be/FlEjIEfn9JQ

All McLaren car images from Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org)