Journalist Adam Tudor-Lane gets a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to visit the factory where space-age McLaren cars are built.
When you receive an email from McLaren asking if you would like a factory tour, you don’t say no. Four months later and I’m sitting outside the security gate waiting to be let in. Through the gate and left, you drive around the huge expanse of water adjacent to the McLaren Technical Centre (MTC). It’s an impressive sight with the lake lapping about an inch below your tyres, the MTC appearing to rise out of this watery expanse. You feel like Bond entering a villain’s lair.
I park up and walk to the main building, all glass it’s actually hard to make out where the entrance is. Silently the doors push back and glide open, where I am met by none other than Amanda McLaren, Bruce McLaren’s only child.
Walking along and listening to Amanda I realise how McLaren have really been at the forefront of design and bleeding edge tech when it comes to motorsport over the years. Moving toward the MPC – McLaren Production Centre – massive trophy cabinets adorn each wall. It is the largest private trophy collection in the world. Into a wide brightly lit tunnel we go underground. Expecting at any moment to be grabbed by Dr No’s evil henchmen, we reach a glass elevator.
Suddenly I’m transported from Fleming to Dahl, and I’m expecting to see a team of Oompa-Loompas walking past. The lift is actually glass all the way round, and if you look up you can see the sky, it’s like no other lift I have ever been in. We go up one floor into what looks like a hallway, no doors just walls. Amanda says “Welcome to the MPC” pushes back a section of wall and the whole plant comes into view. McLarens are scattered all over in various hues. Standing on a balcony we watch over proceedings, feeling as if I should be slowly stroking a white cat I gaze across the clinical surroundings.
Everything is white and spotlessly clean, but what is most impressive is the deafening…silence of the place. It is SO quiet, you can barely make out a small murmuring as people communicate, but there are no industrial machines here, no stereos, no builders’ banter. Just quiet professionalism.
Amanda says we have permission to take to the workshop floor, but to stay close to her and be careful not to scratch any of the cars with watches, rings etc. Ascending down the spiral staircase we hit the white gloss tiles, as soon as we go to walk toward the production line we have to stop to allow a man with a floor polisher to go by – it’s really that clean in here. The only robotic machine they have on the production line is one that measures tolerances, everything else is manual. Wiring looms are put in by hand, engines are mated to chassis by hand, paint is applied by hand, suspension, glazing, you name it. All done by hand: no heavy machinery involved in the build process, the employees have such pride in their work, such attention to detail, you can’t help but fall in love with the idea of owning one.
I can’t even begin to imagine how proud Amanda must be to see her father’s dream come alive in such an epic, perfectionist manner. If only he could see McLaren Automotive now.