Mark Roberts, Design Operations Manager, remembers his first job at McLaren –  illustrating the F1 Owner’s Handbook

Mark Roberts is now Design Operations Manager at McLaren, but back in 1992 he was a fresh-faced newcomer, employed on the back of a speculative letter to Gordon Murray, creative force behind the F1 supercar project.  This was a truly extraordinary time, with Mark finding himself part of the small nucleus of McLaren employees working directly alongside Gordon Murray. His first task? ‘To make the best handbook ever.’
Mark rose to the unexpected challenge, applying McLaren’s exacting approach and his own creative flair to elevate the humble Handbook from prosaic instruction manual to art-house opus.  ‘It was always our intention that the Owner’s Handbook should reflect the unique quality and attention to detail that defined the car itself,’ explains Mark. 
The resulting Handbook is modest in size, but from the moment you pick it up and leaf through the silken pages, its quality is palpable.  It has the look and feel of a ‘coffee table book’, yet the clarity and simplicity of its design means it effortlessly imparts a high level of detailed information. 
With such a small production run (just 72 McLaren F1 road cars were built) the Owner’s Handbook of each example contained details specific to that car – chassis and engine numbers etc – which were hand-written into a table at the front of the book.  As Mark explains, even this stage of the process was carefully considered. ‘Gordon had the best handwriting in the office, so we got him to do all the writing! Seems funny now, to think of him sitting down in the office doing that.’
Like the car, this painstaking piece of printed history is unique in the automotive world.  Surrounded by mystique and folklore, it’s the first Owner’s Handbook you actually want to read. 

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