You have done an exceptional job of keeping the car under wraps. One magazine printed a spy shot purporting to be the F1, but which looked to me like a Schuppan Porsche 962, but there’s been nothing else…
“That was a Schuppan 962! It’s been quite hard to keep it under wraps, because obviously it’s been picking up a lot of interest. We felt that it was more exciting for people if we just got on quietly with the job, did it and then told people when it was done. I hope that it’s helped make a good launch. I think it would have been very unfair to have given it to any one magazine. We wanted to make it the same for everybody and make it as fair as we could do, and we’re very happy with the enthusiasm we’ve seen. “
Can you put a figure on the number of customers who have placed deposits?
“We’d be happy to do that further into the future. At the moment in all honesty I can say that it has been better than we anticipated by quite a long way, but we can’t know until people have seen the car just how many are speculating or how many are serious. So as far as we are concerned it’s really the orders we are taking now that matter. Some people may drop out, others may come in; I really have no idea. Over the next few weeks we’ll find out…”
Do you detect that attitudes to such cars from governmental and environmental quarters are still positive?
“Well, I hope so, because one of the key factors on this car right from the start is that it’s not just about very high performance. It’s about efficiency and safety. What we have tried to do is not only to build a very, very exciting car which I hope will give great pleasure to the owners, and various people, but also a car which will embrace the very, very best technology which we can bring from our Formula One experience to apply to a road car. And that is really all about efficiency and safety. The other parts of the car in terms of construction techniques, strength, its braking, stability and roadholding, ore all aimed not only at driving pleasure but also at safety”
Will you be offering your customers a driving skill enhancement course?
“I think this car will be very user-friendly but I think realistically it’s probably true of any high-performance car that if you mistreat them, they can bite you. But I think if you drive responsibly and you understand the car and are prepared to learn and be sensible then it’s probably a lot less of a problem than you might think.
“Yes. though. I think we most certainly will offer some sort of course. I think that’s very important,”
What is the timescale now, given that the Monaco car is not a runner?
“This car is a purely a show car, although it’s got the real engine in it, and certain things. We have two test cars already running. They have tubular space frame chassis but a lot of running gear on them. The first one was built before the engine was ready and that has a 7.6-litre V8 Chevy in it, which gives about 4.50 horsepower That’s not as powerful as the real one, but is enough to give us a lot of miles on transmission, brakes and some of the running gear which we wanted to put a huge amount of mileage on as early as possible. The second car, which we’ve now just completed, has the real engine in and that is pretty staggering already, even though, of course, again it’s not the real car. Again, we can find out the usual things, transmission, brakes, the oil system, the electronics .”
Who has been doing the test driving?
“We have our own test drivers in McLaren Cars. Gordon does some, I’ve done a little bit. We tend to shore it between us, because we want a direct feedback with what’s going on.”
Have Senna or Berger helped yet?
“Not yet. because I don’t think there would have been any real point at all so far. It’s more systems which we’ve been working on so for. When we have the first of what will probably be five pre-production prototypes, at the end of this year, we will certainly be involving the Grand Prix drivers. We’ve already had quite a lot of assistance of that sort in other areas of the car, particularly some of the interior aspects, such as controls.
Is this the predecessor of a number of McLaren road cars in the years to come?
“This is not just the launch of a new car, but the launch of a new roadcar company. So this is not the last, but the first. It would be a tragedy to see Gordon’s talents go to waste. He’s really put his heart and soul into this car, and it’s a remarkable achievement, what he’s done, and we have put together a tremendously talented team of 50 very motivated people, and I think perhaps that’s why the car has come out so well.”
How have you and Gordon found coming from the racing side to the roadcar discipline?
“Bloody hard! It’s meant tremendously hard work. It’s been far more complex in certain respects than building a Grand Prix car. It’s a different kind of animal altogether. You’re talking about much longer lead-in times for a significantly greater number of components, we’ve had to do testing schedules for the vast number of miles we’ve accumulated, legislation, all these things.
What about the mandatory crash test?
“That will be done early in 1993, but I honestly don’t think we have too much worry about crash testing because the car is just immensely strong, Like the Grand Prix car. In fact, in some respects it will be even stronger because it’s less of a compromise in some areas.”