The McLaren 12C Spa F was the first modified McLaren
In 2012, shortly after the McLaren 12C had gone on sale, a number of Pfaff Tuning/McLaren Toronto employees asked each other, “what if?”
The 12C was fresh to the market then, and the international press was full of praise for its incredible breadth of ability: dial up track mode on the powertrain and handling dials, and it would out-corner and out-power almost every supercar on the market with its combination of a twin-turbocharged, 3.8-litre V8, seven-speed seamless shift gearbox, and innovative hydraulic suspension. Back on the road, and in one of the more conservative drive modes, the 12C exhibited ride quality and refinement that rivalled many luxury cars – supremely comfortable thanks to its uncompromised driving position, comfortable seats, and killer audio.
If there was one criticism of the 12C when it launched, however, it’s that it could, if you weren’t on track or pushing it hard, feel a little bit unemotional, a little bit detached. It was so good at everything it did, it delivered such incredible performance with such effortlessness, that some drivers felt it needed a bit more edge. And that was the foundation for the group’s thinking.
They started with a fully-equipped 12C coupe, the best basis for performance enhancement. It was packed with factory options including ceramic brakes, elite paint, carbon mirror casings, carbon sill panels, stealth package, leather/alcantara interior, electric and heated memory seats, parking sensors, and the upgraded IRIS sound system and Meridian sound package.
Around the time they started discussing what the ultimate 12C would look and sound like, several Pfaff Tuning partners were developing new parts for the McLaren, and knowing that Pfaff also sold McLaren vehicles, these partners worked closely with the team to develop their enhancements.
On the outside, the Spa F – named for the famous, heart-in-mouth Belgian racetrack – features a front bumper from McLaren Special Operations and a skirt and rear bumper/diffuser package by Vorsteiner. The rear diffuser, similar in look to, but quite different in detail from, that of the 650S, has a wide central carbon element and aggressive diffuser. Extended side skirts add additional definition to the side of the body, better tying in the custom front and rear bumpers.
A modified supercar requires, of course, a great set of custom wheels. ADV.1 supplied 19- and 20-inch units of similar size to the factory McLaren alloys. The adv6 six-spoke alloys in gunmetal finish perfectly match the grey exterior wrap, and feature custom engraving, the etched logos painted yellow to match the contrasting stitching of the car’s leather/alcantara interior. Lowering springs from McLaren GT drop the ride height to provide the perfect stance, and Pirelli Trofeo R tires deliver awesome cornering grip.
The Pfaff tuning team saved their best work for the engine bay. While original McLaren 12Cs had just under 600 horsepower, updates brought that power output to 616 in later models; in addition to having those updates, this car sports an EvoMS software upgrade that bumps power output to over 700 hp. When delivered to the rear wheels through that seamless-shift gearbox, 0-100 times in the low three-second range are easily repeatable, and midrange torque is simply massive.
The best bit, though, is a custom exhaust system developed fully in-house by Pfaff tuning. The first aftermarket exhaust on the market for any McLaren, the exhaust features high-flow catalytic converters, and no crossover, which adds additional aural definition to the 12C’s distinctive sound, enhancing the edginess of its flat-plane crank V8 and letting you clearly hear the whistles, whines and burps of the turbocharger. There is, the team thinks, no better-sounding exhaust for any McLaren on the market.
In my eyes, there’s no better-looking, or overall, better-resolved McLaren you’ll find out there, either. This car is the proverbial complete package – visually unified front to rear with subtle but noticeable enhancements, with a great stance, gorgeous wheels, and a thoughtfully- but impressively-enhanced drivetrain that delivers even better performance than a new 650S. It also has exclusivity going for it, being one of the first modified 12Cs, and certainly being one of the best.