Formula 1 heritage and technology powers the new McLaren 12C Spider
Take the roof off most sports cars and you make them slower, heavier, softer, and less satisfying to drive.
Not the new McLaren 12C Spider, because at McLaren we have nearly 50 years’ experience in building the lightest, stiffest, strongest, most aerodynamically advanced roofless racing cars in the world.
That tradition goes back to 1964 when our founder, Bruce McLaren, bought the ‘Zerex Special’ sports car to use as a benchmark for the first McLaren race car, the M1A. Finding it had “the torsional rigidity of a wet bus ticket,” Bruce took the Zerex to pieces and rebuilt it, using a wire model he had built as a guideline for the new chassis.
Technology has moved on since then, but our devotion to maximum strength with minimum weight hasn’t changed. The 134th open-top McLaren is equally at home on the open road as it is on the racetrack; it was shaped in the same windtunnel, meticulously honed using the same simulator, features many of the same technologies, and is built alongside the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes Formula 1 cars at our base in Woking.
The 12C Spider, developed and built by Vodafone McLaren Mercedes’ sister company, McLaren Automotive, is the newest car in the 12C family. It’s based around the same revolutionary F1-inspired carbon ‘MonoCell’ chassis as the 12C coupe, which gives incredible rigidity and a new dimension of performance when applied to a convertible road car.
When McLaren pioneered full carbon chassis design in F1 three decades ago, only a handful of contractors working in the space industry had the expertise to fulfil our vision. It was, quite literally, rocket science.
The Monocell has reinvented this concept for the 21st century, bringing full carbon construction out of the realm of low-volume elite cars. Its inherent strength meant no additional bracing was required for the 12C Spider, preserving the performance and dynamic handling of a coupe while delivering the open-top exhilaration of a convertible.
12C Spider drivers benefit from ProActive Chassis Control and Adaptive Damping technologies that we developed with Formula 1 in mind, but which are not currently permitted because they give too great a performance advantage. On the 12C Spider these give a choice of ride and handling modes to suit the terrain and the driver’s mood, whether the location is a smoothly surfaced permanent racetrack or a potholed mountain pass.
We pioneered the Brake-Steer system in F1 in the 1990s to give our drivers better grip and precision while cornering at speed. It was banned from the track for giving too much of a competitive advantage, but for the 12C family we’ve brought the concept right up to date for the road: where Mika Hakkinen and David Coulthard used a third pedal to activate the system, on the 12C Spider it is fully automated with cutting-edge electronics.
With so much F1-derived technology under the skin of the 12C Spider, what about the elements you can actually touch? For many owners this may be the best part. When we designed the steering wheel we used the same 3D data from Lewis Hamilton’s wheel grips to optimise its shape.
So when you get behind the wheel of the 12C Spider, you really are taking hold of a piece of Formula 1.
To learn more about the 12C Spider visit the brand new spider microsite at spider.mclaren.com or join the McLaren Automotive Facebook page or follow McLaren Automotive on Twitter at @Mclarenauto