A tour of McLaren factory with Lucas Pro Tools

mclarenThanks to Lucas Pro Tools I had the very rare opportunity to have a VIP tour of the McLaren factory and see first hand what it takes to build some of the countries most iconic vehicles. The event was held to introduce Lucas’s entry in to the British made tool market with their launch of a brand new paint Brush. I was generously given a sample at the event so will write a review post on the merits of this £60 paint brush very shortly.

What strikes you as the round the corner towards the main entrance of the McLaren factory is the stunning beauty of the building itself. The Norman Foster designed building is truly breath taking. Externally it bears a passingly likeness to the ancient Chinese yin-yang symbol inscribed, unexpectedly, in the Surrey landscape. Inside it is utterly unlike any preconceived ideas I had of an automotive factory. No sparks fly from mono-armed robots (in fact there are not robots at all) and no grease blackened machinery line the the factory floor. It is actually more reminiscent of a NASA facility or science lab than a factory at all. The steel and glass internals interspersed with long gloss white corridors are ultra-modern and strangely calming. The only hint that I was in a car factory at all was a slight smell of hot greased steel in certain areas of the building.

We started our tour with the trophy cabinet. By all accounts the largest single collection of trophies in the world line a wide corridor, prominently placed so that staff have to pass it each day to reach the dinning hall. The trophies, from the 1930’s onwards, mark some of motor racings greatest achievements. Underneath the rows and rows of cabinets are just a small selection of some of the most recent F1 cars responsible for adding to their collection of silverware. I am not a huge F1 aficionado but even I could not help but be impressed by the quality and beauty of these engineering masterpieces. Each one subtlety different. Advancing and improving year on year. Seeing the cars lined up in date order was like seeing the direct evolution of motor racing over the last 40 years. To my eye the most visually appealing cars were from the mid to late 80’s but I am sure that is a matter of personal preference.

The-roof-of-the-McLaren-Production-Centre-collects-rainwater-and-is-designed-to-integrate-photovoltaic-panels-in-the-futureNext we moved on to the factory floor itself. Here I was able to see the current production lines of the limited edition P1 (costing upwards of £800,000) and the comparatively modest  650s (starting from £300,000). Each vehicle is designed and spec’ed to the owners specification. This is evidenced by the sheer number of colours the cars on the production line display. By all accounts the most popular colour being orange.

The tour continued now to the F1 development pods. Even at 6-7pm there were still small numbers of people working away. One team dismantling gear box and another working on getting a vintage car driven by Senna back in working order after over 10 years of inactivity. These guys are working with engineering of such high tolerance that even holding certain parts on your hand for too long can mean that they heated to the point that they no longer fit. This really is precision engineering at the cutting edge of technology.

My tour concluded with a look at some of the oldest vehicles in the collection. Further evidence of how far F1 motor racing and McLaren themselves have pushed automotive technology.

celineterry_1399023242_140I am very thankful to Lucas Pro Tools for the opportunity to see this example British manufacturing, British engineering, British design and British architecture at it’s very best. A real privilege.

– James


Here is a quick video about the event… for once I managed to avoid the camera! 😉


  1. Great visit 🙂 Mechanical Engineering doesn’t have to be dirty & noisy! In fact in the precision mechanics of today have such delicate systems, dirt is absolutely not tolerated!
    The Engineering Institutes don’t seem to be making a very good job of relaying this to our youth though.
    I wonder if anyone records the number of UK students in STEM topics vs International students at Universities – I fear less than a third are from the UK (based on my perception only!)

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  2. chris pigott says

    We led the world once in ships, cars, steam engines, and aircraft and if given the opportunity we could go back to being world beaters in many things.

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  3. What an excellent opportunity. I have had the pleasure of Morgan and Jaguar factory tours and would love to go to Mclaren. School trips should go to such places as well as museums!

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    • Good idea about school trips to manufacturing plants. It should be compulsory!

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      • Ed Sutcliffe says

        It’s a nice idea, but what if your school was on Shetland. Most schools in industrial areas have links with local manufacturing. I’ve seen what Rolls-Royce does in Derby at least.

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  4. What a great review of a fab event at McLaren. Looking forward to the review of the Protools brush. My brush is still in the lovely presentation box!

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