I always looked forward to the morning trip into work. I would head from my subleased 2-bd apartment that I shared with my then Fiance (now wife) and run to the Waterloo station to catch a 7:15am or so train. It was a 30 minute or-so train ride down to Woking, and normally I'd catch up on reading of F1 results, car industry news, or just write emails to my mom and dad in the off-time.
Once there, that's when the automotive crescendo began – a full on assault to any enthusiasts morning. A Mercedes sprinter would pull up to pick us up at an unassuming woking bus-stop, just across from a barber shop and local pub. Being England – it was normally slightly misty, overcast, but with the eternal hope the sun might show up (it never did).
I wouldn't take just any sprinter to work however – this one had bright orange graphics on the side which were emblazed "McLaren" with the signature McLaren Nike Swoosh (actually an evolution of the Marlboro roof despite Ron's denial). And transposed on the van was an MP4-12C race car. Proud to hop in, I secretly envisioned everyone watching as I "joined" the team on my office trek.
We'd go through a big roundabout past an all glass "McLaren" sign to make our way to MTC – all white from the exterior with low gates so you could just see the McLaren F1 trucks over the horizon, or get a peak at a few 12C's (and then prototype P1) parked against the wall.
Hopping off the GT3 van – you'd go to Jetsons 'style' elevators that took you below ground to your "finger". Each door had a purpose – almost in priority of business. Race cars, then road cars, then electronics, then other stuff (There were multiple "fingers" there, I only spent time at road cars or race cars when someone would sneak me in).
The Jetson's trip sent you to the subterranean (where I had no idea how deep I had really gone). When the light beamed again it was an all white empty hallway lined with gloss tiles - either completely antiseptic, or like living in an iPod casing depending on your view and affection for the brand that morning.
I didn't care. It was awesome just to be there. With no sound deadening each step made enormous noise until you reached an exit stairwell.
Now it was time for the overload– to the right sat Ayrton Senna's MP4/4 prototype car (with a huge round analog tachometer rather than digital unit to distinguish it from an actual race-spec car). And next to that an MP4/5 (Prost's car), and MP4/6.
Mika Hakkinens '98 and '99 cars were spotted further down the line, and on the left older chassis lurked. Prost, Lauda, Hunt all emblazed on the cockpit on the row to the left.
You can't imagine how "bright" the day-glo orange and white cars look in real life. Compared to the 1980's footage it looks like a full on revision – like the 1997 release of star-wars compared to the originals.
Right – up the stairs to the "road cars" finger and walk through double glass doors. Even the details and memorabilia were exquisite. All glass desks designed by Mr. Ron Dennis himself (and which you were not allowed to keep anything on night with his "clear desk" policy).
There were small pieces throughout the office to let you know you were somewhere really special. A Mercedes SLR headlight hidden in a file-cabinet drawer, a 12C dash A/C vent laying on a desk, or a framed photo of the original F1 "quarry" photo shoot.
And while the work itself may have been filled with the normal drudgery, office politics, and personalities that are common to any work environment – I've never started any work day quite so inspired as at McLaren. It was like getting a free lifetime pass to your favorite museum – you would've paid for it anyways, but it was just part of the job.
But no one stays in a museum for long, and despite the entertainment and overwhelming enthusiasm for each working day – I decided to start my own car buying service called Carlypso. Sadly, there are no F1 cars in my office…. Yet.