Model Perspective: McLaren 570S MSO-X Edition

McLaren Made Just 10, and One is For Sale

What happens when a connoisseur of 200-mph exotic cars gets his own ideas for a track version of an already stellar model? In the old days, you’d turn to a tuner shop to do the job and potentially get mixed results.

On the other hand, one McLaren collector got what he and nine friends wanted just by asking (and paying). The result was the 2018 McLaren 570S MSO-X. Of the 10 made, #8 will be offered at the Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale auction in January. This one-owner car shows just over 2,600 miles.

Because all Barrett-Jackson auctions are no reserve, this super-rare McLaren will definitely sell to the highest bidder.

Cracking the MSO Code

Let’s start by decoding this rare model’s name. “MSO” stands for McLaren Special Operations. This McLaren Cars division handles a wide scope of projects, from creating special editions to building the one-off X1 model for an anonymous client. If you bang up your decades-old McLaren F1, send it to MSO to put it right again.

Naturally, such wish-list stuff costs lots of money. But you already knew that. So, what if you could get nine of your car buddies to go in on a special series build? Enter the McLaren MSO-X. That “X” is the Roman numeral for 10, for the number of cars made.

The Right Connections

The idea that became the MSO-X began in 2016 with a request from a client of  McLaren Newport Beach in California. Motor Trend identified him as a supercar collector named “Dan,” known to have a considerable social media presence.

Dan asked if McLaren might consider building a special track-ready version of the 570S in a series of 10 cars. The dealer asked McLaren. Later, a reported conversation between Dan and MSO head James Banks at Monterey Car Week hashed out the brief for the build: “A road-legal race car that’s great fun on the track but is perfectly enjoyable and drivable on the road.”

McLaren said “Yes” and agreed to build 10 cars thanks to a hefty up-front deposit for the whole bunch.

White McLaren MSO-X side view
The McLaren 570S MSO-X was built in a series of just 10 cars. (Source: McLaren Cars)

McLaren Chassis Magic

“Perfectly enjoyable and drivable on the road” is a tall order for a car that can lay down serious laps. McLaren handled it mainly by leaving the 562-horsepower twin-turbo V8, seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, and the Proactive Chassis Control suspension as-is from the 570S. A revised rear wing developed 220 pounds of downforce to enhance track handling and stability. McLaren shipped the MSO-X cars with the same Pirelli P-Zero Corsa tires as on the standard 570S.

It’s worth revisiting the suspension to understand why McLarens are so good on the track yet comfortable to drive on the road. Proactive Chassis Control is hydraulic anti-roll technology that was first developed for WRC rally cars. It replaced traditional anti-roll bars and their limitations.

Thick anti-roll bars that resist vehicle roll to enhance cornering also contribute to ride stiffness and discomfort. Instead, when cornering compresses the dampers on one side, hydraulic fluid flows to the opposite side’s dampers to help the car resist roll and corner flatter. McLaren’s system still uses steel coil springs at each wheel.

White McLaren MSO-X rear three-quarter view
The rear wing for the MSO-X could add 220 pounds of downforce at track speeds. (Source: McLaren Cars)

Le Mans Inspiration

Leaving the engine, seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission and suspension in stock 570S spec kept the price of building just 10 of these special cars from going too high (relatively speaking, of course). One company official anonymously cited by Motor Trend hinted that the MSO-X wasn’t too far off doubling the $186,600 starting price of the 570S. 

Each of the 10 MSO-X cars was given special wheels and a one-off look thanks to liveries inspired by McLaren F1 GTR racers from the 1990s. The #8 car offered by Barrett-Jackson wears Anniversary White with red and blue accents like the F1 GTR Longtail (#26R) that placed third overall at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1997. The #8 car was also one of the two MSO-X models that McLaren Cars featured in its official media photography.

White McLaren MSO-X front three-quarter view
Livery for the #8 car in the MSO-X series took inspiration from the McLaren F1 GTR Le Mans racer that placed third in 1997. (Source: McLaren Cars)

Scoop on the Roof

A carbon-fiber air scoop on the roof feeds the air intake for the 3.8-liter twin-turbo V8. The hood, styled after the 570S GT4 racecar, features air vents that direct air to the roof-mounted scoop, according to McLaren.

By ramming intake air into the engine at higher pressure, such scoops might add a slight bit of power at very high speeds. As with the hood scoops on classic muscle cars, though, the effect was likely minimal. McLaren did not alter the engine output figure but said the scoop “additionally delivers a unique cockpit sound.” We might take that to mean it added some “psychological horsepower.”

White McLaren MSO-X front three-quarter hood view
Vents in the MSO-X hood directed air over the windshield to the roof-mounted scoop for the engine intake. (Source: McLaren Cars)

Racecar Sound and Style

McLaren Special Operations reduced weight from the 570S by stripping out the cabin’s sound insulation, headliner, and trim to leave much of the car’s carbon-fiber Monocell II structure and some mechanical elements exposed. The door panels and other areas not exposed were covered in Alcantara.

An exclusive carbon fiber bulkhead behind the occupants had stowage space for a race helmet. The carbon-fiber center console came from the 570S GT4 racecar. Each MSO-X featured a plate on the center console showing the car’s number in the series.

McLaren MSO-X dashboard view
The 570S MSO-X cabin blended exposed carbon fiber and Alcantara trim and included key amenities. (Source: McLaren Cars)

Racecar Feel

The bare-bones cockpit certainly created a racecar look and feel, as well as sound – meaning loud. The MSO-X cars also came equipped with a color-matched harness bar to anchor the six-point racing harnesses for track driving (in addition to regular three-point seat belts). McLaren Track Telemetry with a full suite of cameras also came with the bespoke MSO-X group build.

The titanium Super Sports exhaust cut a few pounds from the car and dialed up the engine roar for good effect. The special carbon-fiber roof, hood, side skirts and engine cover also cut weight from the 570S. As the MSO-X cars were still intended for road driving, all came with air conditioning, parking sensors, rear view cameras, plus the vehicle-lift feature (for clearing steep driveway aprons).

Performance claims for the MSO-X were the same as for the 570S: 0 to 60 mph in 3.1 seconds and a 204-mph top track speed. McLaren fans who wished they could have gotten in on the MSO-X deal now have a chance at bidding on the #8 car from the series, offered at no reserve at Barrett-Jackson’s 2024 Scottsdale, Arizona auction.

McLaren MSO-X front racing seats
Six-point racing harnesses augmented the mandatory three-point seatbelts. (Source: McLaren Cars)
Jim Koscs
Written by Jim Koscs, Audamotive Communications