Cleanliness is next to Godliness: Autoblog visits McLaren

Autoblog UK was invited to McLaren's Technology Centre in Woking yesterday for a closer look at the new MP4-12C and to tour round the facility that houses both the F1 team and the automotive division of the company.

Prior to the visit we'd been warned that McLaren's headquarters was a temple to the virtues of sterility, and could easily be mistaken for a Bond villain's evil lair.

That opinion may be the product of an overactive imagination, but there is something undeniably special about the building that distinguishes it from being just another Surrey office block.

For one thing there is a car factory being built opposite. McLaren's ambitions for the MP4-12C have outgrown the Technology Centre's modest production line so the manufacturer is constructing a £40m facility adjacent to the current building that will eventually be capable of producing 4,000 cars a year.

The site was a hive of activity when we passed, and is apparently already ahead of schedule. The Production Centre's basement was taking shape, as was the tunnel that will link it to McLaren's current HQ.

The other thing that separates the Technology Centre from its glass and steel siblings is the artwork on display. All car companies display their products in sweeping foyers, but none have the prowess or implied motion of McLaren's former machinery.

Ex-Formula One cars jostle for attention with F1 LMs and GTRs in the spartan cocoon of the centre's gunmetal grey surroundings. The MP4-12C will need to be good to earn a place amongst its blood relatives.

Finally, there is the sheer vibe of the place. Conventional car factories don't hum, they shout and shove and quiver with activity, but the Mclaren Techology Centre rustles with the studious air of a code-breakers convention.

The production line (such as it is) and the F1 team's operation room are, indeed, clean. Very clean. We would have been happy to dine off the tiles on the floor, but the lasting impression is the efficiency and focus implied by all that cleanliness.

Attention to detail resonates throughout McLaren, and the company believes it is that which will guarantee it success against the world's finest supercars. That, of course, and supreme confidence in the kind of engineering expertise that has garnered it eight constructors' championships since 1966. "We exist to win," said Mclaren Automotive supremo Ron Dennis.

The manufacturer's execs certainly could not sound any happier with the MP4-12C. According to them, every compromise faced by a sports car maker has been met with the application of cutting edge technology.

The suits at any car company speak about their range in glowing terms, but McLaren's bigwigs are like schoolboys proffering a secret with excitable grins and knowing glances.

Either the surroundings are going to their heads or they really are putting something special together in Woking.

We'll find out in six months.
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