Just a typical weeknight in Los Angeles… I received an invite to a special party that The McLaren Group was throwing to celebrate the opening of their newest showroom. McLaren Beverly Hills is situated on some prime real estate; it’s on Wilshire Blvd next to The Auto Gallery, only blocks away from the high end boutique shops on Rodeo Drive.
With red carpets and media walls lining the sidewalk leading up to the building, McLaren’s newest supercar was undoubtedly the belle of the ball. Invited guests were given the chance to get up close and personal with the 592 brake horsepower McLaren MP4-12C; a car that just about anyone can drive home at the bargain price of $229,999.
Upon arrival at the event, I diced my way through the traffic in the McLaren dealer showroom, which was jam packed with television celebrities like Jay Leno, Patrick Dempsey, Matt LeBlanc, Tommy Kendall, Bruce Jenner, random other successful businessmen, and women in cocktail dresses searching for their next husband. While all of this provided a great people-watching experience, my attention was focused more towards the exquisite cars in attendance. Wait… who am I kidding? While I did attempt to examine ALL the cars up close, I kept getting distracted by the silhouettes of gogo dancers as seen through the building’s frosted glass windows, and by the army of hostesses walking around with hors d’oeuvre plates filled with pulled pork sandwiches, sausages, and lemon bars. Now you know I’m being honest with you.
There may have been several notable stars in attendance, but the real star of the show was the impressive MP4-12C. McLaren’s newest supercar was dressed for the occasion wearing an expensive coat of McLaren Orange paint – this signature color debuted on the McLaren M6A race car in 1967, and was later resurrected for the McLaren F1 LM, which was built to celebrate the company’s 1995 victory at Le Mans. The 12C’s paint range includes this special variation of the original orange color to pay homage to the company’s rich racing heritage.
What an attractive rear end! (I’m referring to the car)
It’s no secret that McLaren has a long standing relationship with scotch whiskey company Johnnie Walker. There’s a huge Johnnie Walker logo on the side of the McLaren-Mercedes F1 car, so they had lots of Johnnie Blue and Black on deck for the open bar.
This being said, I met a talented new friend at the bar – her name is JeniLee Reyes. She apparently spotted me from a mile away; there weren’t many shaved-head Filipinos walking around at this party. I had to take this photo of her using my iPhone4 and my Olloclip lens adapter! Follow her on Instagram and Twitter: @JeniLeeReyes!
On the other side of the building, they were projecting the highly acclaimed Senna movie on the wall. This documentary film on Ayrton Senna is inspiring because it really engages you; if you haven’t watched it yet, GO BUY THE BLURAY or DVD!!! Trust me on this – there’s a reason the film won top honors at the Sundance Film Festival. This is yet another photo from my iPhone.
Speaking of Johnnie Walker, there’s the logo, positioned on some prime real estate, on the side of the McLaren-Mercedes F1 car. Having this McLaren Formula One car in attendance certainly helped to reinforce the company’s brand image – their cars are built with technology born on the race track.
Any racing fans want an authentic F1 helmet on your bookshelf? Stop by the McLaren showroom on Wilshire Blvd, and you can buy this helmet or an F1 steering wheel. No problem.
Company founder Bruce McLaren cemented the reputation of his cars through racing in the Can-Am series in the late 1960s. The series was officially known as the Canadian-American Challenge Cup, an SCCA/CASC Group 7 sportscar series. In 1967, McLaren won five out of the six races they entered; in 1968, the team won four out of six. The following year, the cars produced by McLaren proved themselves as unbeatable, winning all 11 races in the series. In two races, they even had an amazing 1-2-3 finish, with cars being driven by Bruce McLaren himself, Denny Hulme and Mark Donohue.
Looking at the Can Am McLaren on display, I couldn’t help but get caught up in the incredible STYLING of the car… from the bullet-shaped fender mirrors to the detailed pinstriping that enhances the body lines, to the massive air horns/velocity stacks sticking up in the rear. I also noticed how the car had Firestone decals on the body, but it was running Avon race tires.
Perhaps my favorite detail about the car… the super fat lip rear wheels, with a centerlock hub and a wheel face that looks like the predecessor of the rare classic Work Equip 01 (one piece/monoblock) wheels that I proudly use on my AE86 – the very car that I drove to the party. I need to get myself a set of these old McLaren wheels for the collection! I snapped this photo with my iPhone as well, with an Olloclip fisheye lens and a Fenix LED flashlight providing off-camera lighting.
As the famed CEO of the McLaren Group, Ron Dennis CBE* was certainly the man of the hour at the party. He gave a speech at the party, and was kept quite busy during the entire evening by several people competing for his attention. Luckily, I was able to catch him right before he left the party (with a tall, attractive woman on his arm, of course), and persuaded him to let me shoot a photo of him with the Volcano Orange McLaren MP4-12C parked right outside the building.
McLaren cars are made-to-order, and have several different paint options available, separated into three categories: Standard, Special, and Elite. The Elite Volcano Orange option was developed to closely match the color of the last McLaren F1 ever built. The color incorporates a special metallic paint base and an orange lacquer to achieve its tone and iridescence.
*CBE is term that refers to a British order of chivalry, or Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire. It’s basically two steps below knighthood; it’s an honor that is given to only the most distinguished of gentlemen.
Perhaps the thing that most intrigued me about meeting Ron Dennis, albeit briefly, was the fact that he had been the team principal of the McLaren Formula One team since 1981. I had a million things I wanted to ask him, but I had to respect the fact that he was a busy man on his way out the door; my questions would have to wait. This was a man that helped shape the history of Formula One, winning constructors’ and drivers’ world championships for McLaren with drivers like Niki Lauda, Alain Prost, Ayrton Senna, Mika Häkkinen, and Lewis Hamilton.
Ron Dennis lived through an amazing time in Formula One that people like me have only read about in books or watched in movies; an era that has been documented and romanticized in countless Senna vs Prost stories, and most recently, in the Senna feature film. As well as the filmmakers captured the intensity of the era, one can only imagine what it must have been like to work so closely with the legendary Ayrton Senna da Silva; a man that most people (including Michael Schumacher) consider to be the greatest F1 driver of all time. Well, Ron Dennis actually knows what it was like. He was directly responsible for signing Senna to drive for McLaren!
Back inside the showroom, there was quite a crowd gathered around the F1 driving simulator that was provided by Marina del Rey-based company CXC Simulations. I didn’t wait in line for the full driving experience myself, but I was impressed by the fact that the simulator had full motion technology and force feedback. Maybe I’ll have to visit these guys and try it out some day – their office isn’t too far from where I live.
As I walked towards the bar to meet up with my friend Johnnie Blue, I couldn’t help but notice the female performers doing Cirque du Soleil style moves while hanging from the ceiling. Looks pretty dangerous to me.
I just had to pull out my iPhone to shoot a photo of this dancer performing acrobatic moves close to the ground. When she did the splits, she captured everyone’s attention – even the poster of Mika Hakkinen looked intrigued!
As I made my way towards my parking spot across the street, I spotted BMW M5 driver Alex Roy, who I met previously either on the Gumball 3000 Rally or on the Bull Run Rally. In the photo, he’s sitting shotgun in this peculiar looking Citroen, as his friend prepares to pull away from the curb for a test drive.
What a great night to be out and about in Los Angeles. It’s nights like this that remind me why I love living in Southern California. Thanks to Cie Studios President Edward Yu and auto dealer Mike Sage from Sage Automotive Group for the invite to the party, and thanks to Julia from The Auto Gallery for all the kindness and help while I was taking photos!
Make sure to Follow @MOTORMAVENS on Instagram, Twitter and Tumblr for more behind the scenes photos from the event!
:: Antonio Alvendia
McLaren Beverly Hills
9022 Wilshire Blvd.
Beverly Hills, CA 90211