About McLaren Special Operations:
The McLaren Special Operations division was launched at Pebble Beach in August last year. It offers a personalization service that varies from simple trim changes to a whole new car – as showcased by the X-1.
“We can realize almost anything,” says Program Director Mackenzie. “The only limit is the size of the customer's imagination.”
Changes are typically to color and trim, although Mackenzie is eager to do more mechanical work too. “We are not just about styling,” he notes.
At the beginning of this year, Mackenzie expected 10 percent of all 12C customers to choose some level of personalization – over and above that offered from the extensive McLaren option list. In fact, the percentage of customization is currently 15 percent and rising. MacKenzie expects 20 percent of all 12C customers will ask for some degree of personalization by the end of the year. “There is a major trend to individualize premium cars, and we expect the demand to continue to rise,” he notes.
MSO grew out of McLaren's Customer Care program, which goes back 20 years to the days of the McLaren F1 road car. It looked after servicing and maintaining cherished F1s for owners. It also undertook personalization when cars changed hands: new owners often wanted to put their own marks on their vehicles. Today, MSO continues to service and look after F1 road cars from around the world. It also travels to destinations around the globe, to service and maintain cars.
During the production period of the Mercedes SLR McLaren, the Customer Care department moved into personalizing new cars for owners. “On the Stirling Moss limited edition version, about a third of all SLRs had an element of bespoke build,” says Mackenzie. “It varied from more visual carbon fiber, to different colors, to retrimmed interiors, to radios – all above and beyond the normal options list.”
MSO was officially founded in August 2011 and encompasses design, project engineering, technicians and purchasing. It also has technical and design access to other companies within the McLaren Group. MSO is headquartered in a dedicated building close to the McLaren Technology Centre in Woking, UK.
Currently the most popular areas for personalization include external visual carbon fiber body panels, carbon fiber exterior trim, carbon rear wings, vented wheel arches and different wheel finishers. Different graphics are also in demand, while custom color schemes are popular. Interior changes typically include different trim and unique upholstery stitching.
“But it's certainly not just color and trim,” notes Mackenzie. “A number of cars have had different front and rear bumpers, which has increased downforce and boosted performance. These cars had to go through full aerodynamic CFD testing before engineering sign-off.”
Adds Mackenzie: “We're here to help the client personalize the car to their precise taste. They typically come to Woking to see us, or talk to their dealer, or we go to see them. We'll sit down with them, listen to their requests, then come up with a new color or mechanical components, or – as with X-1 – a new ‘tailor made' car. Of course we make recommendations but we're certainly not here to be style police. Every client is different. Our main job is to listen and then to interpret the owner's requests into a superb car.”
As Mackenzie concludes: “This is the first fully client commissioned MSO car, but it certainly won't be the last. The carbon fiber MonoCell chassis used in the 12C, is not only stiff and light, it allows for great flexibility in body styling and provides an affordable structure from which MSO can develop unique cars, as is demonstrated with X-1.”