In this five-minute film, McLaren’s Design Operations Manager, Mark Roberts, discusses his first job with the company: illustrating the owner’s handbook for the F1 road car back in 1992. As he did with the car itself, McLaren chief Gordon Murray oversaw every aspect of the handbook’s creation. No surprise, the book was a clothbound work of art, every bit as meticulously crafted as the car it described. The illustration style – pencil drawings with colour washes that highlight relevant areas – is one that, with a modest smirk, Roberts calls “almost Leonardo-like.”
Fitting for a car that came with a gold-plated titanium Facom tool set and a serial-number-engraved TAG Heuer wristwatch, Roberts’ handbook illustrations contain a few Fabergé-quality Easter eggs, including a digital clock set to 2:31 (a reference to the car’s rev-limited 231mph top speed) and a Kenwood 10-disc CD changer cartridge ready to receive Bob Dylan’s Street Legal (Murray’s favourite album).
Because McLaren built only 72 road-going F1s between 1992 and 1998, the car’s handbook has become the Gutenberg Bible of owner’s manuals. Moreover, each copy of the book was tied to a specific car, with details such as chassis and engine numbers written in by hand – by Gordon Murray’s hand, in fact. Says Mark Roberts: “Gordon had the best handwriting in the office, so we got him to do all the writing! Seems funny now, to think of him sitting down in the office doing that.”
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