Collectability of McLarens

It’s now been 10 years since the McLaren 12C was officially launched at an event at the McLaren Technology Center.  Antony Sheriff kicked off the launch presentation and was then followed by Ron Dennis & Martin Whitmarsh, outlining the strategy for the McLaren Automotive.  The unveiling of the launch car was done by the two McLaren Formula 1 drivers at the time: Lewis Hamilton & Jenson Button.  At the launch, McLaren claimed to have 1,600 likely buyers lined up with deliveries to start in mid 2011.  While 10 years may not seem to be that long ago, a lot certainly has changed at McLaren since then.  

In my mind, ten years is the first major inflection point that a car crosses on the way to either classic status or a permanent state of ever advancing oxidation.  With the earliest McLaren’s (putting the Mclaren F1 aside as it exists in a completely different universe) now approaching their tenth birthday, I thought it would be interesting to take a shot at predicting which of the many models McLaren has produced in the last decade will become collectable classics in due time and which might not.  

Super Series

There have been three main models in what McLaren today refers to as the Super Series.  They are the 12C, 650S, and 720S.  The 650S and the 720S also had an end of run limited production special track focused editions: the 675LT & 765LT.  All were produced as both coupes and spiders.  In addition, there are 25 MSO HS’ which are a 675LT dialed up to “11”.  I have not included the 765LT as customer deliveries have not yet begun.

12C 

It can be hard going first.  The 12C was both loved and heavily criticized when it was launched.  While technically superior and quicker around a track to its main competition, the Ferrari 458, the 12C took a bashing for not having as much character or soul.  Early “swipe door” 12Cs had a reputation for having a number of quality problems which were resolved during the four-year production run.  Out of the 12C range, long term I believe the early “swipe door” 12C Coupes and, the late 12C Spiders (Our McLaren History – 3 12Cs) will be the most collectable as the former is the first of its kind and the latter the best of the bred.  

As a reference point, I believe the 12C will be viewed long term in a similar manner to the Ferrari 360.  It was the first new mid engine V8 Ferrari developed under Luca di Montezemolo (the F355 was a heavily revised 348) and the first all-aluminum space-frame chassis Ferrari.  The 360 broke new ground on many fronts but also had a number of weaknesses that were addressed by the model that replaced it.

650S

To describe the 650S as a facelifted 12C is to do it a great disservice.  McLaren claimed that 25% of the car was new but the 650S is really a combination of hundreds of small improvements that together deliver a superior car.  Compared to the 12C, it has more power, sharper and yet more compliant handling, fast shift times, and ceramic brakes as standard.  I have used ours as my daily driver for close to five years now (650S Daily Driver) and never had a single issue with the 650S Spider.  In terms of long-term collectability though, I would rank it slightly behind an early 12C.  The 650S doesn’t have the uniqueness of being the first McLaren Automotive road car that the 12C will always carry with it and it is eclipsed by the model that replaced it, the 720S.

A point of conceptual comparison for the 650S is the Ferrari 512BB.  The 512BB is a much better sorted car than its predecessor, the Ferrari 365 GT4 BB.  However, the 365 GT4 BB commands a premium among collectors as it is the first mid-engine Ferrari road car. 

675LT

The 675LT may just be the greatest car McLaren has produced in its first decade as a road car manufacturer. So far the 675LT is my favorite McLaren (Favorite McLaren) and I can’t imagine it loosing that title anytime soon.  It’s the 675LT that put to rest the criticism on McLaren’s lacking personality while burying its main competition, the Ferrari 458 Speciale, across the board in terms of performance.  With only 500 coupes and 500 spiders produced, the 675LT is also relatively rare when compared to the 3500+ Ferrari 458 Speciales.  As the best and last of the 1st generation McLaren road cars, long term the 675LT should also be the most collectable.  However not all 675LTs were created equal.  McLaren Special Operations produced a very limited run of 675LTs on steroids which were badged the MSO HS.  These are the ultimate and rarest of the 1stgeneration McLarens.

I can see the 675LT being viewed a decade or so in a similar light to the Porsche 911 (993) Carrera RS.  The 993 RS is the best and last of the aircooled Porsches with similar production numbers to the 675LT.

720S

If the 675LT was built to bury the Ferrari 458 Speciale in terms of performance, as the 1st model in the 2ndgeneration of the McLaren Super Series, the 720S was designed to outperform every possible competitor, and it did.  The 720S was the first supercar to offer hypercar levels of performance while delivering supercar levels of civility.  If the 650S was a significant improvement on the 12C, the 720S represents a major leap forward.  The 720S does both docile and feral with equal levels of confidence and composure which long term should make it a favorite for collectors.  It will also likely be not only the last of the pre hybrid McLarens but also the best. 

The reference point that comes to mind with the 720S is, a bit ironically, the Ferrari 458 Italia.  The 458 was both a significant improvement on the Ferrari F430 and the last in the line of the normally aspirated mid-engine Ferrari V8s dating back to the Ferrari 308.

Ultimate Series

In ten short years, McLaren has launched four Ultimate Series hypercars: the P1, Senna, Speedtail, and Elva.  In the history of hypercars, the number of models in this a short time frame is impressive unprecedented and yet concerning (Too Much of a Good Thing).  For this article, I’m only going to include comments on the P1 and Senna as customer deliveries of the Speedtail have only just started and the Elva is still at least a year out.

P1

Of the 2014 Hypercar Holy Trinity (Porsche 918, Ferrari LaFerrari, McLaren P1), long term I believe the McLaren P1 will be the one to have.  In this league rarity counts and with over 710 LaFerraris (coupe & spider) and 918 Porsche 918s produced, the 375(ish) McLaren P1s make it a significantly rarer car.  If the LaFerrari is polished and the 918 is a complete technology showcase, then the P1 has a raw edge the other’s lack.  The P1 is also the fastest around a track and is held in very high regard among the very fortunate few who own all 3.  If the P1 has an Achilles heel, is too much technology that may not age well.  The other major concern when it comes to long term collectability is the battery pack. The issues with the 1st generation battery packs were a key reason we sold ours (P1 Farewell) and a long term solution will be critical for P1s remaining viable.  

In terms of collectability, the car that most reminds me of the P1 is the Ferrari F50.  While today the F50 is highly regarded and highly sought after, that wasn’t always the case.  It was more respected than loved most of its existence and got quite a bit of mixed press at launch.  Build numbers between the two are similar as is the purity of the driving experience.

Senna

McLaren’s brief for the Senna was to produce the ultimate road legal track car.  What it lacks in polish, it makes up for with brute force.  It’s a binary car, either you love it or hate it.  In terms of performance, nothing else with a license plate is going to come close to it on a track.  The 500 units produced do detract slightly from its long-term collectability.  Raw focused cars like the Senna do tend to both age well and remain high in the public’s imagination.

Since the first time I drove ours, I’ve thought that the Senna was a modern version of the Ferrari F40 (F40 & Senna).  The F40 & Senna demand similar levels of skill and concentration to drive well while being both immensely rewarding and potentially terrifying.  

Sport Series

To date McLaren has only produced one model, the 570S, in its entry level Sport Series.  The replacement to the 570S is expected to be announced shortly.  The 570S had two end of run special track focused editions, the 600LT and the limited production 620R.  I have not included commentary on the 620R as customer deliveries have just begun.

570S

As McLaren’s entry level sports car, the 570S was targeted at doing everything the Porsche 911 could do, but better.  Whereas the Super Series McLaren’s have all been produced in both coupe and spider versions, the Sports Series included a more practical coupe variant badged the GT with extra luggage room and softer suspension settings.  Commercially the 570 has been a major success for McLaren with the Sport Series making up almost 2/3rd of the cars McLaren has sold in the last several years.  Long term the relatively high production numbers will hold values back but as a highly usable and accessible sports car, it should remain popular. 

I believe the Aston Martin Vantage is a good comparison for the 570S.  The Vantage opened up Aston Martin ownership to a whole new group of people.

600LT

Like the 675LT, of the first-generation Sport Series McLarens, long term the 600LT will be the collector’s choice.  The 600LTs already have a very loyal following among track day enthusiasts for both their superior capabilities and drivability.  Comparing the 600LT to the 675LT is unfair (2 days with a 600LT) but it is still best in its class.

If the Aston Martin Vantage is good comparison for the 570S, then the Aston Martin V12 Vantage provides a good reference point for the 600LT.  Cramming a V12 into the nose of the Vantage transforms the car from quite civilized to just a bit feral while remaining decently civilized.

New GT

The McLaren GT sits on its own outside of the 3 main series of cars.  Its McLaren’s second attempt at attracting competitive Grand Touring driver’s after the moderately loved and short lived 570GT.  The new GT, like all McLarens, is mid-engine which puts inherent constraints on luggage space.  In terms of performance and comfort, it sits right between the 570 and 720 series.  GTs tend to be better loved when new than as collectors’ cars and I can’t see the McLaren GT being any different.

The McLaren GT reminds me of the Ferrari 599 GTB, technically excellent and wonderful to cruise in for hours.  However, it is a car you more like than love (Like but Not Love).

In summary, all McLarens will always have a decent degree of collectability and a loyal following.  Of the models produced to date, my guess is 20 years down the road, the 675LT Spider, MSO HS, Senna, and P1 will be the four most highly sought after with the early “swipe door” 12C Coupes having a cult following.  Time will tell.

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April 2020

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