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Mad Macs: a history of hardcore McLarens

On the eve of the McLaren 675LT's launch, we take a look at the history of hardcore McLarens.

McLaren has a reputation of being one of the most refined, detail-obsessed inch-perfect marques in motoring. Its Woking factory is much more laboratory than back-street garage, hence the production of some of the most spectacular cars in modern history.
McLaren is far from ‘boring’ mind you. A look back through history on the back of the 675LT’s launch tells you that when push comes to shove, the boffins at Woking can turn into the speed-obsessed mad scientist inside us all. The following list proves just that.
The M6GT was the genesis to the McLaren Automotive empire today. Having enjoyed rapturous success in Group 7 Sportscar racing, Bruce McLaren announced his intentions to enter the Group 4 category, alongside the likes of Ferrari, Ford, Alfa Romeo and Porsche. In the early ‘70s Bruce’s dreams were dashed when the FIA introduced new homologation rules, stating that any race car had to have sold at least 50 production versions. Attentions soon turned to the road, and a prototype M6GT was born with a Bartz-tuned Chevrolet engine, space-age frame and a top speed of 165mph. Bruce approved, in-fact he drove one himself, until his death in 1970. The M6GT project died alongside its father, and the promise of a world-beating GT racer for the road was lost.
M81 Mustang
The M81 is earmarked as the rarest Mustang ever put into production, and is the product of an odd tie-up between McLaren and Ford. The car was the first produced under the Special Vehicle Operations (SVO) department set up by Ford in 1980, which tasked McLaren with making the Mustang-name one to be feared again in the sports car industry. The result was a turbo-charged ‘Stang with variable boost control, a maximum of 175bhp and aggressive styling quirks such as a grille-less nose, a low-riding "skirt" spoiler, functional hood scoops, beefed-up fender flares, and BBS alloy wheels. Including the prototype, only ten were ever built- a figure somewhat short of the 250 planned by Ford SVO and agreed by McLaren.
The McLaren F1 GT was the final variant in a long-line of F1’s, and by far the most hardcore. It was built as an answer to Mercedes-Benz and Porsche in the FIA GT Championship. With race cars in the series needing to be based largely on their road-going counterparts, McLaren set to work ahead of the 1997 season by extending the rear bodywork for aerodynamic benefit (hence its ‘Longtail’ nickname), flaring the wheel arches further and adding extra louvers to the front of the car. The result was a car that- minus the massive rear wing, was a racer for the road, built in just three months. McLaren’s hasty work paid off, with the F1 GT taking the chequered flag in five out of the 11 rounds in the FIA GT Championship in ’97. Only three road-going machines were ever made, with the prototype being retained to this day by McLaren and the final two being sold.
The P1 is one of the most advanced supercar's ever put into production, so when McLaren announced that ‘GTR’ was going to join the name, tongues were set wagging. Built without the stranglehold of road-going regulations, the P1 GTR is much like the Zonda R in how it stands to be the best a car can be when the best in business get unlimited access to the armoury. The result is 986bhp from the twin-turbo hybrid-engine, Formula 1-style Drag Reduction and Electronic Recovery Systems, a top speed exceeding 200mph and a price tag just shy of £2,000,000. That’s a kit for a car without a tax disk, but can you really put a price on the best a car in 2015 can possibly be?
Much like the GTO name is to Ferrari, ‘Longtail’ (or LT in abbreviated terms) has its roots hearken back to the track. Longtail was the sub-name given to McLaren’s F1 racers of the late ‘90s, and now returns with the 675LT. Wider, lighter, more agile, and more powerful than the 650S it takes its form from, the 675LT features suspension from the P1 supercar, a wider front track, increased spring rates, 10% quicker steering, and an extra 15bhp thanks to a refined engine. Fittingly the car has been developed on the track by none other than Chris Goodwin, one of the drivers who championed the original GTR ‘Longtails’ pre-Millennium, in addition to Bruno Senna, nephew of Ayton. With a top speed of 205mph and 666bhp, the 675LT marks the devilish return of the Longtail name.

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