Perhaps because it’s aged so nicely, it’s hard to believe the Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren is now two decades old. Well, sort of - it was in September 2003 that the car made its public debut at the Frankfurt Motorshow, but McLaren has chosen to celebrate a little early, by bringing along members of the SLR Club to the McLaren Technology Centre (MTC) in Woking.
In total, 21 cars were brought along, while McLaren itself rolled out four additional SLRs - the open-topped SLR Stirling Moss, the more potent SLR 722 GT in prototype form, the SLR by MSO and the SLR HDK. The pictures are, as you’d expect, rather lovely.
The last two are particularly interesting, as they came long after SLR production concluded. Despite McLaren Automotive being founded after its predecessor company stopped making the SLR, it’s still very much interested in the model.
The SLR by MSO (McLaren Special Operations) came out in 2019, bringing all sorts of upgrades - including weight savings, better aero and “luxurious appointments” for the interior - based on owner feedback. Then in 2023, MSO completed its first SLR High Downforce Kit (HDK) conversion, inspired by the 722 GT track version of the road car.
That’s the one in the snaps with the huge rear wing (inspired by the McLaren F1 GTR’s) and the striking blue paint if that wasn’t clear. It also features 60mm wider tracks at each end with flared arches to suit, less weight, and a shoutier exhaust. MSO is making 12 HDKs, and yes, they are all sold.
The SLR was an unusual project, and one born out of a fractious relationship between McLaren and Mercedes. The pairing had plenty of success in F1 together but seemed to struggle to agree on what their road car would be like, leading to something with a somewhat confused identity.
It’s nice, then, to see that all these years on, McLaren wants to not just celebrate the car, but keep improving it, too.