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Inside the Wonky Woking Headquarters of McLaren Automotive

Every detail matters.

At McLaren Automotive, details matter. Company principal Ron Dennis is famously obsessive about every little thing, which is true for not only the cars his company creates but also the two buildings on McLaren’s corporate campus at Woking in Surrey, England—the production center, where cars are assembled, and the technology center, where a lion’s share of research and development occurs.

“We spent nine months defining exactly what we wanted. Everything down to what sort of electrical connections we were going to have, what the lights were going to look like, the finish of the walls, which way the doors were going to open. In the McLaren methodology, you do it once and do it properly; you don’t have to go back and change any part of the design because you forgot to include something.”

— Alan Foster, operations director at McLaren Automotive

To prevent messy, unsightly, and inefficient dripping, the soap dispensers in the tech center suck back a tiny bit of liquid after each use. The design took about six months to get right since it works only if the soap has exactly the right viscosity.

The size of the floor tiles is exactly the same on the ground floors, corridors, and interior bridges of every building. The square tiles were originally 300mm on each side, but McLaren had them trimmed down to 296mm so the width of the grout between the tiles would measure precisely 4mm.

On the Friday of a race weekend, the results of every practice session are announced over the PA system. Timing and scoring information comes directly from the McLaren pit wall at the track and goes to every office, every conference room, and even every bathroom.

The sturdy tubes from which overhead walkways were suspended—each 150mm in diameter—were too big and bulky for Ron Dennis’ taste, so he commissioned a re-engineering project that replaced them with 28mm stainless steel rods.

The production center doesn’t have a traditional air-conditioning; it has a fresh-air recirculation system that pulls outside air into the roof’s truss sections and directs the air to where people are working. In winter, heat from the drying ovens in the paint shop warms the air before it’s circulated.

All of the signage on McLaren’s campus is done in one consistent style, using a custom font called Serene MTC. (MTC is short for McLaren Technical Center, though the font is used on the production center, too.)

The air pressure of the employee restaurant within the tech center is kept lower than elsewhere in the building. Why? Because if a door to the restaurant is opened, air from outside the restaurant funnels in and keeps food smells
from escaping.