The Complete History Of McLaren In Detail - SUV VEHICLE

The Complete History Of McLaren In Detail



  • Established in 1963 by Bruce McLaren, McLaren has evolved from a racing team to a world-renowned supercar manufacturer.
  • McLaren’s rich history includes Formula One victories, Indy 500 wins, and iconic production cars like the McLaren F1.
  • The future for McLaren looks promising with a focus on innovative design and upcoming electric P1 successor set to launch by the end of the decade.

Throughout automotive history, very few brands are as iconic as McLaren. Being able to trace its roots back to the 1960s when Bruce McLaren launched his own racing team, the manufacturer has developed into one of the most advanced in the industry with an incredibly rich heritage.

Over the years, McLaren has transitioned from being solely a racing team to a manufacturer of some of the world’s fastest, most advanced supercars. The brand’s commitment to innovation, engineering excellence, and attention to detail has allowed the McLaren name to break through the walls of the industry and become recognizable worldwide. Here’s a detailed look at the extensive history of the McLaren brand.

In order to give you the most up-to-date and accurate information possible, the data used to compile this article was sourced from McLaren’s manufacturer websites and other authoritative sources.

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Founded In 1963 By The Legendary Bruce McLaren

Everything started for McLaren back in 1963 when Bruce McLaren decided that he would produce sports racing cars, all while remaining one of the best drivers in motorsport with his existing teams. Bruce arrived in the UK in 1958 as part of the ‘Drive to Europe’ motorsport scheme, which was put together to bring the best drivers from around the world to compete with the very best that Europe had to offer.

Breaking Down Barriers In Motorsport

As soon as Bruce McLaren arrived in the UK, he proved his abilities behind the wheel in Formula One, the pinnacle of motorsport. He had one of the best possible mentors in Jack Brabham, who introduced McLaren to the London-based Cooper Car Company. McLaren would race for the team in F2 in 1958 before stepping up to F1 in 1959.

In his very first season, Bruce McLaren won the 1959 US Grand Prix, becoming the youngest driver of all time to win a race (a record that is now held by Max Verstappen). In the same year, Bruce would go on to win three more races with the Cooper team.

Moving forward to the 1960s, Bruce McLaren’s achievements didn’t stop with his Formula One success. He also raced in multiple other motorsport categories for a variety of different teams, most notably with Ford in 1966 when he won the Le Mans 24 alongside Henry Ford II and Chris Amon.

Becoming A Constructor In 1964

In 1964, after his success in different categories, the first McLaren racecar, the M1A, was built. The first true McLaren, however, wasn’t an F1 car but a sports race car that was instantly competitive in both Europe and the United States. Two years later, the improved M1B was unveiled. It competed in the first-ever Can-Am championship in 1966, where the team placed third overall.

The year after, now painted in Papaya orange, Bruce, alongside the massively talented Denny Hulme, would go on to win five out of six races, with Bruce achieving McLaren’s first title as a constructor. Bruce also won the 1969 Can-Am championship, with Hulme winning in 1968 and 1970.

Just one year after becoming an official constructor, Bruce decided to leave the Cooper team to develop the first McLaren Formula 1 car. After taking part in testing sessions in 1965, McLaren entered the 1966 Formula One championship with their first car, the M2B. Only two years later, McLaren took the top step in Formula One, winning the 1968 Belgian Grand Prix with Bruce behind the wheel. In 1970, Bruce McLaren tragically lost his life when testing at Goodwood.

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The Beginning Of McLaren’s Motorsport Golden Age

Emerson Fittipaldi Winning The 1974 Formula 1 Championship

After the manufacturer’s rapid rise to success within multiple categories, and despite Bruce’s death in 1970, McLaren continued to build upon previous achievements, growing into the legendary brand that it is today. Over the next few decades, McLaren continued to win countless races and multiple championships with some of the greatest drivers of all time behind the wheel of their cars.

One Of The Greatest Runs In Formula One History

White McLaren MP4/8 Formula 1 Car

After winning your first race in Formula One, the next milestone is to win both the driver’s and constructors’ championships. It didn’t take long for McLaren to achieve this, winning both titles in 1974 with Emerson Fittipaldi winning the driver’s title in the M23. Two years later, in one of the greatest battles in the sport’s history, James Hunt won the 1976 driver’s title after barely beating Ferrari’s Niki Lauda.

After Hunt’s championship win, McLaren’s performance went downhill over the next few years. However, in 1980, the team merged with the Project 4 racing team, putting Ron Dennis at the helm. Dennis previously worked with McLaren in the early ’70s, making him the perfect person to lead the brand into the future.

McLaren rose back to the top of the sport quickly, winning races in ’81, ’82, and ’83 with Niki Lauda and John Watson behind the wheels of the cars. In 1984, Lauda was joined by Alain Prost, with Lauda taking the title despite Prost achieving more race wins. Prost went on to win the 1985 season, which was also Nicki Lauda’s last in the sport.

Moving to 1988, one of the most successful partnerships in Formula One history began, with Honda supplying engines for McLaren. Ayrton Senna also joined the team in ’88, Giving McLaren two of the greatest Formula One drivers in history for their lineup. Despite the two drivers being involved in an explosive battle over the next few years, they combined to win 15 out of 16 races in 1988 with the MP4/4.

The only other F1 car to achieve this is Red Bull’s RB19, which also had a Honda engine powering it. Ayrton Senna claimed three world championships in 1988, 1990, and 1991, with Prost winning for McLaren in 1988. The brand returned to winning ways in 1998 and 1999, with Mika Häkkinen winning the driver’s title in both years after intense battles with Michael Schumacher in the Ferrari.

The most recent F1 world champion is Lewis Hamilton, who won the title on the last lap of the last race in 2008, one year after his debut with the team. McLaren’s current lineup consists of Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri, one of the strongest pairings on the 2024 grid.

Achieving Greatness Stateside

In addition to Formula One, McLaren also saw success in the most prestigious race in American motorsport, the Indy 500. In 1972, McLaren won the Indy 500 with Mark Donohue at the wheel of the M16. Johnny Rutherford added two more Indy 500 wins to the tally, achieving victory in 1974 and 1976.


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Turning To Production Cars

1993 silver McLaren F1
McLaren Cars

After nearly 30 years of competing at the pinnacle of motorsport, McLaren decided to officially enter the production car scene, offering the same levels of performance that their racecars delivered on the road. Despite the first production car being released in the early ’90s, the McLaren as we know it today didn’t start until the 2010s.

The Iconic McLaren F1

The brand’s first production car, the McLaren F1, was released in 1992. With its center-positioned steering wheel and a 6.1-liter BMW V-12 producing 627 horsepower, the F1 has since grown into one of the most iconic cars of all time.

Despite it never being the intention at first, McLaren entered the F1 into the 1995 24 Hours of Le Mans, which was actually the first time McLaren raced at the event as a manufacturer. The McLaren F1 GTR was developed for the race with all the necessary upgrades to compete at the front of the grid. The F1 GTR never managed to win the event, with the long-tailed version achieving second place in 1997.

The Beginning Of McLaren’s Modern Production Car Run

2021 McLaren 765LT in Orange

Fast-forward to 2012. In 2011, McLaren launched the first modern production car, the 12C. The model was the perfect starting point for McLaren to expand its lineup, with the updated McLaren 650S released in 2014.

Over the years, McLaren has released some of the most groundbreaking performance cars in recent history, most notably the P1 hypercar, which is one-third of the industry’s ‘holy trinity’. Further cars include the 750S, which subsequently led to the mighty 765LT that’s available today, along with the 540C, 570S, 675LT, and 600LT.

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Where McLaren Is Today

Purple McLaren Artura Spider

In 2024, McLaren still competes at the very top of the performance car segment, producing some of the most refined sports/supercars on the market. The brand has recently released a string of limited production cars that have taken them to all new heights, most notably with the McLaren Senna and the McLaren Speedtail.

The Current Lineup

Despite models such as the Senna being limited, the current McLaren fleet manages to produce performance specs that manage to rival the track-focused beast. The most powerful McLaren available is the 765LT, producing a whopping 755 horsepower. The model that the 765LT is based on, the 720S, has been replaced by the 750S, which essentially improves upon every element of its predecessor. The 2024 Artura has also joined the lineup, along with the GTS grand tourer.

McLaren’s Future

Despite producing one of the most competitive lineups in the industry, McLaren’s focus is well and truly set on the brand’s future. With a new design style on the way, McLaren says that the new generation of performance cars will have ‘Performance by Design’ at the center of them. By the end of the decade, the all-electric P1 successor should be on the roads, opening a new chapter for the legendary manufacturer.


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