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How McLaren Builds the Lightest Supercars in Its Class

Ferrari, Porsche and Lamborghini just can't match the weight benefits of Woking's carbon fiber monocoque.

Just over a month ago, McLaren Automotive announced its latest carbon fiber architecture produced in its new composite plant in Sheffield, formerly known as England’s steel city. By making tubs faster, cheaper and to a lighter specification than ever, McLaren can enter its series production electrified phase without losing its edge in the weight game. According to McLaren CEO and Lotus Elan enthusiast Mike Flewitt, this is key to the company’s success in the 2020s:

“Vehicle mass is the enemy of performance whether a car has a conventional internal combustion engine or a fully electrified powertrain, so winning the weight race is an absolute priority for us—and one of the reasons McLaren Automotive has invested heavily in the McLaren Composites Technology Centre, our own U.K. composite materials innovation and production facility.”

What you see here is the MonoCage of the new 765LT, and the latest evolution of McLaren’s MonoCell chassis, now all designed and built in-house. Back when production of the MP4-12C supercar began a decade ago, McLaren decided to source its carbon fiber monocoques from Austrian company Carbo Tech, located near Salzburg.

With the McLaren Composites Technology Centre now up and running, Woking is getting its chassis shipped in from just 173 miles away to the north. What’s more, having come up with a patented dry-shaping technology that led to the creation of a custom machine over 36-feet tall, McLaren owns a highly efficient and completely industrialized manufacturing process.

McLaren Elva, McLaren

As explained by plant director Wes Jacklin, ten square feet of the dry carbon fiber material they laser-cut to shape weighs about as much as two sheets of A4 paper, while each millimeter of the finished chassis requires about seven layers of carbon fiber. Certain parts of the MonoCell can be between one and 20 millimeters in thickness, with all additional weight coming from the aluminum inserts required at the suspension and subframe mounting points.

Overall, following the resin-transfer molding and CNC-machining, McLaren’s carbon fiber is 45 percent lighter than aluminum, and some 80 percent lighter than steel. Drive one of its cars and the benefits of this technology will become as clear as the sky above an Elva speedster.

Meanwhile, Maserati will be getting its MC20 monocoques from Dallara.

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