The Car: McLaren MP4-12C

 

The Mods:

  • Larini Catted Downpipes
  • BMC Filters
  • Renaissance Speed Intercoolers
  • Pure PT900 Turbochargers
  • ID1050x Injectors
  • NGK Spark Plugs 2 Heat Ranges Colder than OEM
  • Snow Performance Water/Methanol Injection System (for track use only)
  • Dyno Spectrum Custom Tune
  • Gas: California 91 Octane Pump

 

The Mods: A Breakdown

 

First, let’s get the scoop from World Motorsports cofounder, Craig Paisley, who led the upgrade of Ryan C.’s McLaren MP4-12C.

 

“Ryan brought his McLaren to the shop with some modifications already done on his car.  He already had Larini catted downpipes, BMC air filters and a performance tune.  Our first step was a baseline run on the dyno to get power and torque figures and a look at some data.

 

We worked on Ryan’s car at the end of December 2019 and again in April 2020.  We added new intercoolers, injectors, turbos, spark plugs, coil packs and upgraded MAP sensors.

 

This was the first McLaren that we installed intercoolers on.  Ryan brought us some Renaissance Speed intercoolers. The intercooler cores are a bar and plate design, rather than the tube and fin design of the factory intercoolers. They also use tig-welded construction rather than the stock ones that are bolted together.  The purpose is to handle higher boost pressures more easily than the stock ones.  They also have ports for methanol if the customer wants to add a meth injection kit to the car. We did not use that option during our 2019 work, but Ryan used these ports when he installed a water/methanol system in early 2020 before bringing it back to World for a recalibration of the ECU.

 

The turbos were upgraded stock units from Pure. When you buy Pure turbos, you are purchasing upgraded factory turbos that use all the factory lines and mounting points. Pure usually upgrades your stock turbos and rebuilds them, which you should expect to take at least 4 days. Ryan had a set of used Pure turbos that he purchased from someone, so he didn’t have to wait for the stock ones to get upgraded. Lucky him.

 

The fuel injectors were upgraded with a set of Injector Dynamics ID1050x injectors.  We upgrade the injectors in these cars for additional fuel to support more power.  We have full control of injectors using our dyno, because we can custom tailor the programming to compensate for the larger injectors quite easily.

 

Next up, we upgraded the spark plugs.  We installed a set of colder, high performance NGK spark plugs.  We have NGK plugs that are an exact match to the factory ones, but in colder heat ranges. We have these available in 1, 2, or 3 steps colder than factory spark plugs. If you are modifying your McLaren to any level of performance beyond the factory setting, it’s essential to address the plugs.

 

Ryan brought us some aftermarket coils, but they didn’t work well.   The car did not like them and refused to run properly, so we quickly put the stock coils back in and got the car on the dyno.  The factory coils in this car have been able to handle any upgrades that we perform.

 

In 2019, Ryan wanted a tune for the fuel that he runs every day in his car—91 octane with a can of Lucas Octane Booster in every tank.  We spent many hours on the dyno tuning Ryan’s car to get it dialed in with all the new parts.  Less than 6 months later, annoyed with needing to always carry extra octane booster in the car, Ryan added the aforementioned water/methanol system which removed the need for the extra fuel additive.  The end results are pretty dramatic, as you can see from the dyno sheet.”

 

Q&A with Ryan C.

 

Next, we sat down with Ryan to hear more. Ryan is a space propulsion engineer by trade, having earned his Ph.D. in aerospace engineering. He is also an avid car enthusiast and has worked with McLaren as an out-of-industry expert for reviewing their products. Clearly, he really knows his stuff when it comes to the technological aspects of fast cars.

 

Where does your passion for fast cars come from?

 

It mostly comes from my dad. He was the lead designer of the interior of the 1958 Corvette, and he was responsible for a number of patents for how modern dashboards function. As such, he was always passionate about cars and would frequently bring me to car shows to “educate” me about the automotive world.

 

On my own, I have always liked things that go fast – cars, airplanes, spacecraft; speed and the technology behind it is definitely a passion of mine. When it comes to cars, I recognize that buying an expensive toy is, well, expensive, so I try to do it the most fiscally responsible way possible. Most of the cars I’ve bought were (lightly) used, allowing me to avoid the majority of drive-off depreciation.

 

Tell us the story behind your McLaren. What shape it was in when you purchased it?

 

I got the car in 2016—it’s a 2012 McLaren MP4-12C. It was used but in great shape, with about 10,000 miles on the odo. I didn’t modify it for about 18 months, then got the itch to start making little tweaks here and there… seems to happen with all of my cars! I started with a simple exhaust, and then got a McLaren based ECU upgrade, and finally got to the more interesting updates that Craig and World Motorsports helped install.

 

How does your McLaren perform after the upgrades?

 

World Motorsports did the install (save for the more recent water/methanol system), and their partner Dyno Spectrum did the tuning for the ECU calibration. None of the mods affected the overall dynamics of the car, especially at typical city and freeway speeds.  However, the overall sensation of the car (the new vibrations, sounds, etc.) have been made more intense.  And that is all before you pass 3,000 RPM.

 

When accelerating aggressively, a massive wave of torque appears at least 1,000 RPMs sooner in the RPM band than when the car was stock; being within 10% of peak torque happens as early as 4,000 RPM—that’s pretty low on a car with an 8,500 RPM redline! The car pulls insanely hard in every single gear, and breaking the 305-section Toyo R888R rear tires loose is something that needs to be considered at any gear below 6th. Put another way, I’ve found that objects very far in the distance end up very close to me in an absurdly short amount of time.

 

It is also worth noting that, during the dyno tuning process in 2020, this car broke the world record for power output from a 3.8 L McLaren engine (M838T) with stock internals running pump fuel–864 RWHP.  We dialed back the output for engine longevity to a slightly more conservative 812 RWHP, but the capability was proven!  The press release can be found here.

 

What do these upgrades allow you to do that wasn’t possible before?

 

I’m gearing up to do more trackwork and trying to get the car in better shape for track duty, both straight line and twisties. The upgrades not only provided more power for fun and acceleration enjoyment when on the street, but also incorporated some cooling upgrades to make sure the car can withstand track duty in high temperature environments, such as sunny Southern California.

 

What has been your favorite upgrade so far?

 

The most exciting has been a set of the Pure PT900 (previously called Stage 2) turbochargers, because not only do they provide wicked acceleration but they already had upgraded blowoff valves attached.  I love that the engine sounds are much more audible. You hear the turbos spooling up, the air whooshing through the intake, and the blowoffs stuttering at virtually any speed—it just creates a more involved experience when you can hear all those fun mechanical sounds.

 

McLaren’s recent products have done a better job of allowing the drivers to hear these very involving sounds. In the early cars—specifically the 12C, a lot of these sounds were muted because (I assume) they were trying to make it a more civilized environment in the cabin. The car rapidly got a bad reputation for being boring and uninvolving.

 

When you combine everything synergistically—the upgraded intake filters, turbochargers, and the exhaust—you start to have a much more involved auditory experience at any speed. Even cruising down city or highway streets at the flow of traffic, you go to pass a car, and you hear more happening, making it a more enjoyable driving experience. Not to mention, in a straight line, it goes like stink!

 

How was your experience working with us?

 

It was great. A piece of cake. Back in 2019, I dropped the car off and got a tour of the shop. The guys were really professional, and got the car done when they said they would. The prices were reasonable, especially when compared to the McLaren service network. I was super impressed with the dynamometer setup. I’ve never seen a dyno with multiple 3 to 5-foot diameter fans, and an entirely enclosed booth to create a wind-tunnel effect with as much airflow passing over the car as possible. The 2020 work was no different.  A minor ignition coil problem arose during the early stages of dyno tuning.  World quickly diagnosed the issue and replaced the coil, enabling the tuning to resume in about an hour.

 

Did we hit the mark?

 

World did exactly what I contracted with them to do. I had the parts in hand; it was just a matter of trust for who would install them. There are only a couple places in SoCal that can do McLaren tuning after upgrades have been made to them. World and Dyno Spectrum hit the nail on the head during both of my visits. They did a great job.

 

What kind of driving do you enjoy with your McLaren?

 

It’s been everything from canyon runs in the early morning when there is no one else on the road, to getting groceries. I take every opportunity possible to drive the car because I absolutely love it.

 

I’ve driven most of the modern McLarens across all of the platforms, and I haven’t found an incentive to move away from this one quite yet. It’s just so good. Improvements from the factory are, in general, relatively incremental and, after performing the aforementioned upgrades at WMS, the car can fairly easily outrun anything that McLaren has released to date.

 

On weekends, when the kids are taking their naps, I like to cruise over to Topanga Canyon, the Malibu canyons, or Angeles Crest. You cannot get near the car’s limits on public roads (and I do try my best to drive in a safe way on public roads). I’d like to get more involved in a track-going group in the near future. I’m really excited to see what this car can do… I have no doubt I will run out of skill before the car runs out of capability!

Do you have any more upgrades planned for your McLaren?

 

I’m doing a variety of aero-based upgrades, especially now in quarantine. I just did a custom exhaust fairing upgrade—the rear exhaust fairing from the factory does not allow for much airflow, so I removed much of that and installed an open mesh to allow better airflow out of the engine bay. I completed gold wrapping of key areas inside of the engine bay to stave off heat soak. I’ve also added pressure venting ducts in the rear wheel arches. I’m looking at a new high-downforce air brake, front lip, side skirts, and rear diffuser, all of which are functional but also help improve the more conservative appearance of the 12C.

 

It’s near the end of its line for performance upgrades (at least for now) because further increases in power require breaking open the engine and swapping out piston rods, sleeves, etc. for beefier parts.  That is a VERY involved (and expensive) process… I will wait until I somehow get accustomed to the car’s current setup.

 

Are you doing these upgrades yourself?

 

Yes, I’m fairly handy with a wrench thanks to my education and work history. I have a standard hydraulic lift and race ramps in my garage, so I can prop the car up to make all of the required modifications at home.

 

What’s the most surprising thing about owning your car?

 

The fact that so few people know what a McLaren is. The most surprising is when I park it somewhere, and someone asks, “What is that?” It’s been on the market for about a decade now and it’s been taking the industry by storm, but it doesn’t have the same visual recognition as a Ferrari or Lamborghini. Even though it has a completely different design language than its Italian or German competition, people just don’t recognize it yet.


What happens when you’re driving your McLaren on the street? How does it feel?

 

You feel like you’re in a go kart with a sh*t ton of power. It’s extremely well connected to the road, and very, very low. I’ve gotten used to looking at the middle of other cars’ doors as opposed to looking into other cars. Especially SUV’s—I can’t even see the people even if they are in the next lane.

 

From anyone else who has a similar echelon car, I either get a wave or thumbs up in appreciation of each other’s vehicle, or a loud rev followed by quick acceleration to incite a race or show their car is louder.

 

My favorite response is when I am in a parking lot, I’ll see a parent with a young child who is just staring at the car, and the parents try to keep the kid from staring. I’ll call them over, open the door, and ask if they want to sit down. The kid will jump inside and their parents, after profusely thanking me, will take a few photos. The grins on the kids’ faces is the best.

 

I’m not a billionaire. I don’t have a 12-car garage to fill with the latest and greatest from every high-end auto manufacturer. However, I am lucky enough and have worked hard enough to own my McLaren.  Sure, it is almost 10 years old, and yes, I got it used, but it is still beautiful and drives like a dream. It gives me great joy to be able to share it with everyone I can.