Presented by Mobil 1

McLaren Special Operations is the place you go to if your McLaren F1 needs a service or if want a particularly interesting paint job on your new Artura or Senna. However, there is another car that MSO also looks after and it’s a model for which there is a particular fondness: The Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren. 

Launched in the era of supercars like the Porsche Carrera GT and Ferrari Enzo, the mad Super GT with the side exit exhausts and supercharged V8 has always been something of a curiosity. It wasn’t well received when the press first drove it (understandably), but with the benefit of time, views seem to have mellowed. The SLR has also seen numerous iterations over the years and now there is perhaps the best version of all: the HDK. Those letters stand for High Downforce Kit and the car has indeed been treated to a big wing and diffuser, but there is much more to it than that. 

The inspiration for this limited edition (just 12 will be built) is the even wilder 722 GT prototype, a race car that was built under the gaze of Gordon Murray but which never raced. Rarely seen, we managed to get it into the studio for this film. The SLR did eventually go racing, but those cars, built by RML, were never quite as crazy or beautiful as this original prototype. 

And now, 20 years later, there is a road-going version, with a paint job that might have leapt from a Disney Cars movie. It is an intentionally fun design that is meant to bring out the child in all of us and the SLR HDK is certainly a car that makes you smile when you get behind the wheel. It is intimidating and fast and yet also quite easy to drive thanks to its automatic gearbox and mountain of torque. There is both the sense that you’re driving something very close to a race car and yet also the feeling that you are in a GT, complete with corduroy upholstery on the bucket seats! 

At the end of the day, the SLR HDK is really just a bit of fun. A bit of fun that is capable of over 200mph – a speed which this particular car has done on numerous occasions, because it has covered over 90,000miles as a pre production prototype (PP14). In previous lives it has been crashed and shaken on rigs and fitted with numerous bodywork and suspension upgrades, but now it has been adorned with hand-turned gold leaf (look closely at the numbers) and given to Hagerty to drive across snowy moorland roads.

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