The new McLaren Sports Series is a luxury high-performance sports car, with race-derived technologies including a unique-in-class carbon-fibre chassis and blistering performance courtesy of an unmatched power-to-weight ratio. Bringing supercar performance to the sports car market for the first time, it is a sports car like no other – built like no other.
Designed and engineered in the McLaren Technology Centre (MTC) in Woking, each Sports Series model is crafted by hand in the adjacent McLaren Production Centre (MPC). Both buildings were designed by Lord Foster’s Foster + Partners architectural design team, and the state-of-the-art MPC is every bit as clever and innovative as the vehicles it produces. It was created with the unique purpose of combining hand-built construction techniques with the precision, accuracy and craftsmanship of motorsport engineering, and fuses the world of Formula 1 with automotive manufacturing. It is the world’s finest production-car facility.
Like the MTC, the MPC was designed from first principles to have a minimal environmental impact, with the building’s semi-submerged construction reducing heating and ventilation costs. There are two levels, with a logistics floor beneath the production area for storing components and parts. This gives the assembly floor far more space and light than a typical car factory, effects reinforced by white ceilings, fully tiled light-grey floors and white panelled walls. The layout of the assembly hall has been carefully designed to deliver the most efficient workflow and, at the same time, the open-plan format makes it easy to see what’s going on throughout the whole facility.
One of the first things that strikes visitors is how quiet the MPC is – there are no robots or clanking conveyors, so you can have a conversation at normal volume. Computer modelling was used extensively during the building’s design phase to make assembly as efficient as possible. This has ensured the best working conditions for the highly skilled assembly technicians. Parts are delivered to the assembly hall from the logistics level as required to minimise clutter. Every component is presented like jewellery and every production technician is an expert in their field.
One of the biggest challenges was to locate the paint facility within the MPC, despite the need to operate within a sealed environment. The answer was to create a room in the assembly hall itself, with glass walls to let in light and make it easy to see the cars passing through. Paint technicians spray every McLaren by hand, which gives great flexibility and manoeuvrability around the subtly complex shapes and form of the Sports Series.
Safeguarding quality remains critically important, with the hand-built assembly not reducing the need for absolute accuracy. This supports one of McLaren’s cornerstone philosophies – no compromise. That’s why every Sports Series made in the MPC is measured using a Coordinate Measuring Machine, its two automated ruby-tipped probes gently touching each car up to 470 times to ensure it is within McLaren’s demanding tolerances. Measuring with an accuracy of 50 microns (a typical human hair is 30 microns thick), it’s a process that takes around 40 minutes for each car, and even the temperature and humidity of the room are monitored to control every variable.
It is yet further proof of the precision that underlies everything McLaren does, and how McLaren is able to build its cars, largely by hand, to an accuracy that would be the envy of any mass-production robotic factory in the world. Accountable for every part of the production process, technicians take huge pride in their work. The torque of every bolt is measured, the quality of the paint finish is meticulously checked and every detail of the interior is inspected by hand. When each Sports Series is finished, it undergoes a Dynamic Test road simulation, and visits the Monsoon Room, a bespoke water chamber that releases over 1,200 litres of recycled deionised water onto the car to ensure there are no leaks, whatever climate it will live in. These are all time-consuming procedures – but they’re the only way to ensure every McLaren is flawless.
All McLaren Sports Series models will be hand-assembled in the MPC, alongside the Super Series and Ultimate Series models, and each car will take a total of 188 man hours to build, with a skilled team of 370 production and quality technicians working to ensure the highest levels of quality. It’s a labour of love, but it’s the only way to ensure each Sports Series is worthy of the McLaren badge.