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Barrett-Jackson Hidden Gems: 2012 McLaren MP4-12C High Sport Chassis 9

Ron Dennis' personal 12C High Sport is coming up for sale

Ron Dennis' personal 12C High Sport is coming up for sale

The McLaren MP4-12C is a fascinating supercar. First of all, the fact that it exists is perhaps the craziest part of the story. Sure, McLaren’s flirted with passenger vehicles in the past. Back in the late ’60s, Bruce McLaren himself drove around the U.K. in a prototype M6GT, one of two built back when McLaren was considering competing in Group 4—50 cars would have needed to have been built to meet homologation rules and that number was a bridge too far. Then of course there was the Gordon Murray-designed F1, the legendary car against which all other supercars are forever measured. Then McLaren teamed up with Mercedes to build the Mercedes-McLaren SLR, a machine that was much more muscular German thug (i.e. AMG) than McLaren liked. Then, finally, this thing, the MP4-12C. With it came the decision that, yeah, McLaren was going whole hog and becoming a “regular” car manufacturer.

Was it perfect? No. The MP4-12C had flaws, and we famously ranked it one spot behind a Subaru BRZ at Best Driver’s Car. Hey, that Subaru is pretty great. But the MP4-12C is something else: it is an uncompromised expression of one person’s indomitable will. In this case, that person is former McLaren CEO Ron Dennis. I honestly don’t even know that much about Mr. Dennis, but what I do know could fill a book. A quick anecdote to set the stage: a guy I know once got a ride on Ron’s private jet. Ron had a rule about no shoes allowed inside the plane. Even though it was pouring rain, my friend was forced to remove his shoes, walk up the soaked steps in his socks, and fly to Paris with wet feet. The MP4-12C, therefor, represented what Ron Dennis thought a supercar should be. All the way down to and including the weird name. Flaws aside, McLaren built approximately 1,800 MP4-12Cs (and later 12Cs), as well as around 2000 MP4-12C Spiders. Not a bad start, all things considered.

This particular MP4-12C is a very special edition done by the fledgling MSO, aka McLaren Special Operations, limited to 10 examples, and called High Sport. Initially, only five High Sports were planned, but since the upgrades were all very functional, demand was great and McLaren built five more. First and foremost, power went way up. From 592 horsepower to a devilish 666 hp. The exact same output as the way-off-in-the-future 675LT, as a matter of fact. Visually, you can tell High Sports by the significantly revised front end that previewed the 650S’ schnoz.  You can also tell by the massive air vents on the side of the front fenders just ahead of the wheels. Those come from McLaren’s GT3 effort at the time. The same is true for the high pressure-relieving louvers on top of those same fenders, the rear fascia, and the wing.

This particular High Sport is arguably the most coveted of all. It’s chassis number 9, and was built for a very particular client: Ron Dennis. If it’s not this High Sport then it’s the one that was rumored to have been built for the crown prince of Bahrain, though no one’s seen that one. Anyhow, chassis 9 is the only one of the 10 High Sports finished in the Vodafone Racing Team’s F1 livery. There’s also the additional MSO Red Rocket airbrushed details. Under the “bonnet” you’ll find signatures from the team that drove and crewed an MP4-12C GT3 to a win at the 24 Hours of Nurburgring. Perhaps best of all, the car comes with a signed letter from Ron Dennis, explaining his commissioning of this car. You know, if I’m going to write that book, I should probably get my hands on that letter. Thing is, this High Sport did not sell at another auction a few years back, with a high bid of $900,000 USD. So… no letter for me!

Post Script: The McLaren 570S took the Best Driver’s Car trophy back to Woking, England, in 2016. All is forgiven. On both sides.

Barrett-Jackson ushers in a new year of high-octane auction action during its 48th Annual Scottsdale Auction, featuring some of the world’s most coveted collector vehicles and authentic automobilia collectibles, January 12-20, 2019, at WestWorld of Scottsdale. As in decades past, The World’s Greatest Collector Car Auctions will be the epicenter of Collector Car Auction Week and entertain thousands of automotive enthusiasts with interactive exhibits, entertainment, and activities. Check your local TV listings to see it live on MotorTrend Network and download the app for exclusive, live coverage.