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    Mark Dixon
    Mark Dixon unlocked the badge Bookworm
    Someone who loves to read through blog posts.
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    Along came three Spiders

    / #2013-McLaren-12C / #2019-McLaren-600LT & / #2019-McLaren-720S-Spider-S / #McLaren-720S-Spider-S / #McLaren-720S / #McLaren / #2019 / #McLaren-600LT / #McLaren-12C

    by Mark Dixon

    Spider or Spyder? Both versions of the word have long been used by the motor industry to describe an open-top roadster: Audi calls its new soft-top R8 a Spyder (as reviewed by Matthew Hayward on) whereas McLaren prefers Spider with an ‘i’. Best guess for the origin of the term is that it was a 19th Century coachbuilder’s coinage for a lightweight, high-wheeled carriage that was thought to have spidery qualities of lightness and agility. Which makes it particularly appropriate to McLaren.

    A recent opportunity to test the new 600LT and 720S Spiders in Arizona also seemed a good excuse to revisit its first attempt at the genre, the 12C Spider that made its debut in late 2012. The example pictured left is a 50th Anniversary limited edition from 2013, which was available in just three colours: black, silver or orange.

    I was lucky enough to attend the original 12C’s launch and, like many hacks back then, I expressed some doubts about the car’s styling. It seemed too supercar-generic, we thought, too lacking in adventure. Well, guess what? We were wrong. Its sultry curves now look better than ever, and its distinctive rear end appears almost understated compared with the aero-dictated complexity of more recent models.

    A Spider version of the 12C was planned right from the start, so the open version involved no structural compromises later. The hinged hardtop is electrically powered and folds away in 17sec; clambering over the high sills is a lot easier with the top stowed, especially if anyone has had the temerity to park too close alongside – those dihedral doors need a lot of space.

    Once you are in, the 12C feels almost old-school in its simplicity, with a pleasingly large central revcounter and a digital read-out for mph. The twin-turbo, 3.8-litre #V8 has never been the most soulful of units – it was arguably the 12C’s greatest weakness against its Italian competition; supercars are about emotion as much as technical ability – but the Spider has a slightly louder exhaust than the Coupé and, of course, having the roof down allows you to savour it a lot more. It sounds gruffer, more bassy than the Coupé’s, and there’s an appealingly anthropomorphic breathiness from the intake system as the turbos spool-up.

    The 12C Coupé set new standards as an all-rounder for its combination of comfort, handling and performance; the Spider offers the same – plus more of the visceral stuff, roof down. With 616bhp propelling a 1475kg kerb-weight, it’s still ballistically fast, but on a more prosaic level there’s also a decent amount of storage space under the front lid. Those doors would drive you mad in urban spaces (or rather, lack of them), but otherwise the 12C Spider makes a surprisingly good fist of being a real-world regular drive. And now we have two further variations on the Spider theme.
    The new 720S and 600LT Spiders are from McLaren’s Sports and Super Series respectively, the latter car being rather more track-focused – henced the ‘LT’ suffix for Long Tail, its rear end extended 47mm over the 570’s for increased downforce. The 720S starts at £237,000 whereas the 600LT’s base price is £201,500.

    The 720S feels closest to its 12C ancestor in spirit, although it has a character all its own. The V8 engine has been upped from 3.8 to 4.0 litres, with 41% new parts content, and it makes a very different sound: there’s a breathy V8 burble as you pull away, which transmutes to a crisp braaaap as you pile the revs on. Even with the roof lowered this is a genuine 200mph car yet, despite the big power and performance increases, McLaren’s relentless pursuit to pare weight means that the 720S Spider weighs about the same as the 12C Spider. It’s also even more livable with, thanks to glazed panels in the rear flying buttresses that make a huge difference to over-the-shoulder vision, although top-down it feels a lot less claustrophobic, as you’d expect. McLaren’s chief test driver, Indy winner Kenny Bräck, told Octane that he would definitely choose a Spider over the Coupé for just this reason and, indeed, the sales split is forecast to be 75:25 in favour of the open car.

    Curiously, while the Spider is claimed to give nothing away in terms of structural stiffness, both this reviewer and our sister mag evo’s tester – driving different cars – noted mild steering column shimmy and windscreen shake on less well-surfaced stretches of the very road pictured left, although it wasn’t dramatic. It clearly doesn’t bother Kenny, anyway.

    But if extracting the last nth of on-the-limit handling ability is vital to you, the 600LT Spider is probably more your bag anyway. McLaren says simply: ‘We asked ourselves, what’s the absolute lightest we can make a roadgoing car?’ And they’ve really pulled out the stops, to the extent that even the windscreen glass is thinner. The correlation of this stripped-out approach is that the 600LT feels conceptually older than the 720S – even its sat-nav looks a bit dated. But it’s more obviously a driver’s car, with a simpler console layout and manually adjustable race seats. Its exhaust note is different again – buzzier than the 720S’s, like an angry wasp – and its V8 is a 3.8, not the 720S’s 4.0-litre.

    The 600LT really comes alive on a circuit, where you can fully appreciate its incredible brakes and neck-snapping acceleration. Selecting ‘Track’ mode and keeping the steering wheel as straight as possible at all times minimises driver-aid interference, so drifting round corners is the fastest way to proceed. As if you needed any excuse…

    Clockwise from left 12C Spider was launched in 2012 but is ageing well; 12C interior is refreshingly uncluttered; new 720S Spider is faster and more powerful, but weighs the same as the 12C.

    From top 720S Spider will pull 200mph with the roof down; 600LT has a slightly smaller engine, a little less power, but has been optimised for the track.
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    Mark Dixon
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    Public squeaking

    CAR #1966-Ford-Mustang / #1966 / #Ford-Mustang / #Ford / #Mustang / #Mustang-Mk1 / #Mustang-thermostat


    It just happened, out of the blue. One day the ’Stang was performing sweetly, the next it had developed an irritating noise from the front suspension. Not just an occasional chirp, but a relentless squawk induced by even the tiniest road ripple. Googling revealed that this is a common phenomenon with early Mustangs; so common that it is known as ‘the Mustang squeak’. But it can originate from one or more of several places in the suspension and identifying the source is very difficult, even if you enlist someone to bounce the front end up and down while you stick your head under the car.

    The noise was coming from the driver’s side, so I jacked the car up and whipped off the front wheel. Pumping the lower ball-joint full of grease made no difference, and my money is now on the upper wishbone pivots – built with no means of lubrication – or the spring perches. The latter are miniature platforms that pivot on top of the lower wishbones to support the springs. With no lubrication points, they rely on the elasticity of rubber bushings.

    Thanks to the Mustang’s fantastic parts support, you can now buy wishbones with grease nipples built in, and spring perches that pivot on roller bearings. The latter are relatively expensive but will last forever and are said to have other benefits for the ride and steering feel, because the entire weight of the car’s front end bears on these perches and the standard items have innate ‘stiction’ under load.

    Otherwise, the only problem I’ve had in 2000 miles of sunny springtime motoring is that, as bought, the engine was running too cold. There are three temperature options for a Mustang thermostat – 160, 180 or 195ºC – and the one fitted turned out to be a 160, presumably to help it cope with summers in Los Angeles, where it lived for almost 50 years.

    I’m blessed with a choice of two major US car parts warehouses within 30 minutes’ drive of the Octane office, so obtaining a replacement ’stat was an easy lunchtime jaunt.

    Experimenting with a 195 made the #V8 run too warm but, like Goldilocks’ porridge, a 180 was just right and the car is now averaging just over 21mpg, which I think is pretty good for a 289 V8. I was amused to see that the thermostat housing gasket fits all #Ford-V8 s from 1948 to 1989 – you gotta love Henry’s parts rationalisation!

    Right and above Mark attempts to cure ‘the Mustang squeak’ and fits a new thermostat, which has improved fuel consumption.
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