Legend of the Longtail: McLaren’s high performance LT cars explained
The Longtail name is reserved for McLarens of the finest pedigree with track-focussed performance
McLaren just dropped the 765LT at the Geneva motor show that never happened, and the motoring press world over went nuts. The 720S was already a wild, wild supercar and for McLaren to turn up the wick means we have something very special heading our way. The LT badge, short for Longtail, has been reserved for higher performance, lighter, more aerodynamic versions of McLaren’s road cars and the 765LT is the third car in the recent past to be honoured with it. But the LT badge isn’t a clever name that some marketing dude holed up in Woking came up with. It is actually a name steeped in McLaren history. It all started in the '90s...
McLaren F1 GTR Longtail (1997)
To understand what the F1 GTR Longtail was, we have to rewind a little bit to 1993 when McLaren launched its first ever road car — the legendary F1. It was a car envisioned by McLaren, a company that had only built race cars up until that point, to be the greatest car to ever hit the streets. And it sure as hell succeeded. It got BMW to build it a wild 6.1-litre naturally aspirated V12, ostentatiously lined the engine bay in gold to reflect heat and dropped it in a finely honed chassis. The bodywork was fully carbonfibre, making it the first ever road car to pull of this (still rather uncommon) stunt, keeping it ultra light. This car was the fastest naturally aspirated production car in the world when it came out, and guess what — it still is. Yep. think about it. Nearly thirty years on, it still holds that title. The central driving position was a nod at McLaren’s success in Formula One, as was the name.
The F1 GTR was a race car based on the F1, built by McLaren and supplied to race teams (never run as a factory team) in 1995. It raced in a number of GT races including the 24 hours of Le Mans, where it won on its debut. To get the F1 race-ready, it had updated suspension, body panels and a big wing. The ‘Longtail’ specifically refers to the F1s that raced in 1997 — they got additional bodywork in the form of longer rear overhangs to make them more aerodynamic and also lost about 100kg in weight. This Longtail version had a lot of changes under the surface too, with adjustable suspension and a sequential gearbox. Only 10 were built (if you count the development prototype as well), and they did see a fair amount of success in racing, finishing second and third in Le Mans overall and winning its class. The Longtail name then, has proper motorsport heritage attached to it. It disappeared for a long time while McLaren focussed on its F1 cars, and reappeared years later, when the company made a comeback with road cars.
McLaren 675 LT (2015)
The revival of the Longtail name happened in 2015. McLaren had taken a long break from building road cars, and had nothing to show for it save for the Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren. But honestly, that was more or less a Mercedes, with McLaren just helping out where needed. The company made a serious comeback to road cars in 2011 with the MP4-12C and then forced the world to pay attention it followed the 12C up with the P1. The F1 had shamed the establishment back in 1993 when it hit the roads, and the P1 was a successor in spirit — sealing its position as part of the holy trinity alongside the LaFerrari and Porsche 918 Sypder. Over the next few years, McLaren demonstrated how committed it was to its road car department and launched model after model — the 650S, 570S and 625C, along with their droptop versions. And then it happened. The Longtail made a return, in the form of the 675LT.
It was essentially a 650S that McLaren made lighter, more powerful and keeping in with the racing heritage, more track-focussed. The numbers were staggering — 0-100kmph in 2.9 seconds, 0-200kmph in 7.9 seconds and a top speed of 330kmph. It doesn’t get mega rear overhangs like the F1 did but it did get a longer front splitter and an active air-brake that was 50 per cent bigger than what you got on the 650S. The engine was heavily reworked as well, with everything from new turbos, camshaft, con rods, and design changes to the cylinder heads and exhaust manifolds. And, like the original Longtail, it was put on a diet to reduce 100kg. They eventually followed it up with a Spider, you know, because rich people like to be seen in their track toys and these two cars gave the LT name a reawakening it deserved.
McLaren 600LT (2018)
Three years later, McLaren unleashed their third LT on the world. McLaren calls it their fourth one, but that’s because it wants you to think of the 657LT Spider separately from coupe. I refuse to do that. The 600LT is based on the 570S from the Sports Series, that slots under the Super Series that the 675LT found itself in. Think of it as a more affordable track car from McLaren — with performance that is marginally dialled back, but still follows the ethos of lightweighting and on-track performance.
Power was up from the 570S by 30bhp, but weight was down a whole 96kg to give it a far better power to weight ratio. Being a Longtail, McLaren did increase the length of the 600LT by 74mm with new bodywork, a new splitter, longer diffuser and a super-hot fixed rear wing. And no, I’m not calling the rear wing hot only because of how good it looks — those top mounted exhausts that sit quite close to it actually spit flames! Again, a Spider version followed soon after.
McLaren 765LT (2020)
Yes, McLaren’s latest LT is an anagram of the 675LT but five years is a long time and the 765LT is a massive step up from the 675. Based on the 720S, which already had some serious performance cred, the 765LT follows the same formula of bumping power up and lowering weight, to make it a more focussed track tool. Power has been increased to 755bhp, the already lightweight 720S has been shaved of 80kg before the LT badge could go on to it and weighs in at just 1229kg (dry) in its lightest spec. The reworking is comprehensive — bespoke springs and dampers, titanium exhaust (that will also spit flames), air-con and music system delete, brake calipers from the Senna and plenty of carbonfibre everywhere.
We have a comprehensive story about getting up close and personal with the McLaren 765LT in the April 2020 issue of the magazine, that you can download for free.
McLaren may not have officially entered the Indian market yet, but the fact that they are giving their road cars some serious attention and pushing the limits is heartening for enthusiasts world over. The 600LT impressed so much, that it managed to win the coveted evo Car of the Year title in 2018, a year after the regular 720S won. Just imagine what the 765LT treatment would do to it! Who could have ever guessed that an aerodynamic modification made to a 1997 car would lead to such an illustrious line of performance cars!