See inside McLaren's incredible 650S supercar factory (pictures)

CNET visits the astonishing McLaren Technology Centre, the space-age factory and headquarters where its brand-new 650S and P1 supercars are painstakingly designed and lovingly built.

Andrew Lanxon
Andrew is CNET's go-to guy for product coverage and lead photographer for Europe. When not testing the latest phones, he can normally be found with his camera in hand, behind his drums or eating his stash of home-cooked food. Sometimes all at once.
Andrew Lanxon
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This is the McLaren 650S. It's the latest high-performance supercar from McLaren, designed and produced at the astonishing McLaren Technology Centre (MTC) in Surrey, in southern England.

We took a rare look inside McLaren's home -- designed by the same architect as Apple's new spaceship campus -- to see how highly skilled mechanics and an obsessive eye for detail help create some of the world's best supercars.

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As well as the sort of eye-popping looks that adorn a million teenage car fans' bedroom walls, the 650S has impressive specs.

Its V8 twin-turbo engine delivers 650 horsepower, allowing it to accelerate from 0-60mph in only 3 seconds. It's constructed from a mixture of aluminium and carbon fibre.

At just under £200,000 for the coupe or £212,250 for the convertible Spider seen here, it's not for the casual driver.

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Welcome to the factory floor. This is where McLaren's 650S and its top-end P1 are produced by hand.

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I recently ventured into Nissan's vast production plant in Sunderland -- McLaren's production facility couldn't be more different.

For one, McLaren's factory is a crisp, clean, all-white affair. It's a far cry from the loud, smoky, oily floor of Nissan's plant. I didn't even have to wear ear defenders in McLaren's building.

While Nissan relies on humans to work side-by-side with armies of robots to produce its cars, McLaren's are all built by hand and tested by the human eye.

Of course, Nissan is producing hundreds of cars every hour for all corners of the globe. McLaren meanwhile will only make eight cars a day, at max capacity, each of which is built to order. It's a very different type of manufacturing.

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At the heart of both the 650S and the P1 is a carbon-fibre cockpit, known as the MonoCell. It's the underlying skeleton of the car.

Carbon fibre makes the vehicle lightweight (the 650S's MonoCell weighs less than 70 kg), yet incredibly strong.

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Here are all the panels ready to be attached to the chassis. McLaren doesn't keep a big stock of parts waiting -- everything is built to order so it only keeps the right amount of parts on site.

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This is one of the machines that fuses some of the panels to the frame.

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The skeleton of the car is pushed into the pressing machine.

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The 650S's suspension systems, before they're attached.

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And here are the enormous carbon ceramic disk brakes. Apart from being vast, these brakes are designed to withstand incredibly high temperatures as the cars brake hard from high speeds.

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These exhaust vents are huge.

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This is the 650S in one of its earliest skeletal states, ready to be made into one of the most ferocious supercars on the planet.

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The MTC itself is a spectacular building. It's built around an artificial lake, the two of them forming a perfect circle from above.

The interior boulevard and corridors are extremely minimalist, full of glass and metal.

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It's no coincidence that it bears a striking resemblance to Apple's currently-in-development "spaceship" headquarters -- the same British architect, Norman Foster, was the mastermind behind the MTC.

Foster's architectural works have won him and his company awards all over the world.

He is also responsible for the "Gherkin" building in London, the restored Reichstag building in Berlin and the tallest bridge in the world, the Millau Viaduct in France.

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The lake outside isn't just for appearance's sake. These huge pipes circulate lake water throughout the building to act as natural coolant -- particularly for the huge wind tunnels that lie beneath the ground.

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Along the boulevard are parked classic cars from McLaren's lengthy history. Shown here is the Austin 7, the car in which Bruce McLaren, the company's founder, made his racing debut at the age of 14 in 1952.

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"Geometric and Surface Validation." That's quite an impressive name for a room.

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In here, robots and lasers are able to check 304 different points of the 650S to see if there are any problems in its construction.

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Any deviations more than 1,000th of a millimetre will be flagged. Every single car is put through this taxing procedure.

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Here are the windscreens of the 650S, ready to be put into place.

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I doubt anyone would feel grumpy about going to work if this was their office.

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It's a very flat building from a distance.

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Inside, however, it's huge. These enormous glass windows provide superb views over the Surrey countryside.

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This is one of the scale models McLaren used as part of the research and development of the P1. It's subjected to high winds in the wind tunnels to test the aerodynamic qualities of the curves of the body.

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This is the M7C from 1969. Pay particular attention to the spoiler plonked above the car.

This became known informally as the "guillotine" because it was so dangerous. It was quickly banned.

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This little chap has only one role; to shake this bottle. It might seem a humble task, but it ensures that the the particles within the bottle of sealing primer are evenly distributed.

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Properly shaken, the primer is much more effective when applied to the edges of the frame, ready for the windshield to be slotted into place.

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The back of the 650S. If you drive it properly, you should never see your car like this.

The disc brakes have been fitted and the radiators are in place -- remember that on this car, the engine is mounted at the back.

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The car is lifted up to allow the engineers to begin to fit the electronics.

Notice the flat underside -- that's there to protect components such as the exhaust from stones flying up, which can be damaging at high speed.

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The electronics are threaded through nearly every part of the car.

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Of course, McLaren is a huge name in Formula 1 racing. One of last season's F1 cars sits on display in the MTC.

The F1 research and development is all done on site too. Sadly, it's an extremely closely guarded secret and I wasn't allowed anywhere near it.

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The retractable roof on the Spider model is installed and tested. The Spider weighs marginally more than the standard Coupe, but what could be better than cruising through Tuscan countryside, with the roof down to feel the sun on your face? Nothing, that's what.

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The 650S weighs 1,330 kg (2,900 pounds), which is pretty light for a sports car. Even so, the mechanics need some assistance lifting it up this high.

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Here's the raw, beating heart of the car -- the engine.

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The heart being prepared for transplant...

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...and wheeled into the operating theatre. Note that this too is a manual process -- there are no conveyor belt systems at play here.

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The car is then lowered onto the engine.

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These filtration pipes are hooked up to the engine when it's first turned on.

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They extract any particles left inside the engine, as well as preventing any fumes going into the production area. The pipes lead underground.

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Welcome to the paint room. If the name didn't give you a stinking great clue, this is where the panels of the outside of the car are given their lick of paint.

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The bulk of the painting is done by these chaps wearing slightly terrifying-looking air filtration suits. Unlike most car manufacturers, McLaren insists that all of its paintwork is done by hand, and not by robots.

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The panels are suspended on these rods to make it easy for the workers to get at all parts.

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The lights meanwhile are designed to be extremely precise, allowing the team to see any blemishes in the paintwork.

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McLaren explained to me that the different colours of the bulbs are to give an indication of how the paint will look in different conditions around the world -- with different settings for London, the Middle East and New York.

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The McLaren F1 -- the fastest production car of its time, with its driver's seat famously mounted in the middle -- has evolved into the plug-in hybrid P1 (right).

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Any imperfections are sanded off and reapplied to ensure an absolutely perfect finish overall.

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There's no escaping the fact that it looks like the sort of laboratory where government agencies would house a downed UFO and run exhaustive tests.

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The cars are put through various light tests at different stages of the painting process.

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McLaren aims to ensure that every fleck of paint is up to its exacting standards.

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A technician goes in for a very close-up look to check over some of the internal connections.

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A final check of some of the paintwork before the cars enter the despatch area.

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With its almost mirrored floors, spotless cleanliness and very quiet hum of work, McLaren's production centre is far from what you'd expect a car factory to be like.

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The top-end P1 is built alongside the 650S. Only a single model is made per day -- and that's at full pelt.

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The workers are all highly skilled and many have extensive engineering backgrounds. One employee I spoke to has been a motor racing mechanic for over 40 years.

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The final stages of production involves testing the vehicles. These green lasers indicate whether the wheels are correctly aligned or not.

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In this walled-off room, every car is subjected to the monsoon test. Here, 16,000 litres of recycled, de-ionised water are blasted at the cars to ensure that all the seals are working correctly.

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The cars are also driven over these large bumps to check the suspension.

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And a rolling road is used to test the car in all of its driving modes.

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The bottom section of this car has been covered with protective tape. It's going be driven on a test track and McLaren wants to ensure the paint isn't chipped during the process.

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That's millions of pounds' worth of engineering, right there.

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And here's the finished product. What a beast.

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McLaren takes a meticulous, scientific approach to its cars' design and construction that results in some of the best cars on the planet.

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I wouldn't mind being stuck behind one of these in a traffic jam.

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