Written by Eric Becker
Contrary to popular belief, Bruce Wayne’s Batmobile wasn’t the sole ruler of Gotham’s streets. The Clown Prince of Crime had a “Jokermobile” all his own, and its supercar equivalent, selling with No Reserve, can be yours for the taking at Barrett-Jackson’s 2020 Fall Auction.
Okay, it may be missing some of the gadgetry found on the pages of its comic book ancestor – it doesn’t shoot exploding playing cards, for one – but this bright purple custom 2012 McLaren MP4-12C earned its “The Joker” nickname by asking the question, “Why so serious?” Though that wasn’t always the case.
The debut of the MP4-12C in 2011 signaled the arrival of McLaren Automotive’s first solo supercar since the F1. The famed Formula 1 constructor put all their cards on the table when developing the MP4-12C, and it was designed to revolutionize the supercar game. But the “uncompromising performance at any cost” nature of McLaren meant the mid-engined supercar inspired some criticism by the motoring press at launch for being too “clinical;” too focused. How anyone could argue that a flame-spitting, 200+ mph carbon-fiber supercar with dihedral doors is too “serious” seems a bit of a stretch. The joke ended up being on the critics, as McLaren took these observations to heart, returning a year later (2012) with the refreshed 12C. It did not disappoint.
There is a brilliant duality to the 12C. It exhibits civility as day-to-day runabout with superb comfort and visibility. Toggle a few switches and that serene nature disappears, becoming a track-winning performer, ready to cry havoc at the right foot’s beck and call. The unique duality of the 12C was captured by English automotive TV personality Jeremy Clarkson: “When you have finished tearing up the laws of physics and your neck hurts from the cornering G-forces and it’s time to go home, the 12C is as comfortable as a Rolls-Royce Phantom.” This car is no copycat or cookie cutter. Its race-bred ferocity and high levels of dynamic composure make it one of the most versatile supercars ever.
Key to that success is McLaren’s ProActive Chassis Control. An adaptive suspension that uses active dampers and hydraulics, the fluid-based suspension negates the need for traditional anti-roll bars, creating sublime comfort when driving on city streets and race-ready stiffness when at the track.
The 12C’s 3.8-liter engine was jointly developed by McLaren and Riccardo Engineering. The twin-turbo V8 develops 616hp at 7,000 rpm, with 443 ft/lbs of torque. Power is routed to the rear wheels via a Graziano seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox. Most astonishing is the 12C’s straight-line pace. When compared to its legendary McLaren F1 ancestor, the 12C outperforms it in all but top speed. The sprint to 60 takes 2.8 seconds, it screams down the quarter-mile in 10.8 seconds and maxes out at well over 210 mph. The flat-plane crank V8 in this example howls thanks to a custom Fabspeed exhaust with Soul down-pipes. Adding to the dual nature of the 12C is an Armytrix Titanium dual-valve system, with the valves controlled via remote or smartphone app, allowing the driver to choose between quiet and loud with the push of a button.
Shedding speed is a non-issue; carbon-ceramic brakes will bring you to a screeching halt – along with the deployment of the rear airbrake that carries the Joker’s trademark “HA HA HA” on the underside of the custom carbon-fiber spoiler. As a tribute to its namesake’s purple suit, this 12C is wrapped in 3M’s eye-catching Plum Explosion and sports brake calipers powder-coated in Joker Green. To top everything off, the exterior features beautiful exposed-weave carbon-fiber pieces, including the mirrors, splitter, rear-diffuser and turning vanes. Completing the look are McLaren’s own Stealth-finished 10-spoke lightweight forged wheels wrapped in Bridgestone Potenza tires.
The cabin is sumptuous, full of all the best gizmos and luxury trappings you’d expect to find in a high-end supercar. The narrow center console is tailored to the driver, and always presents a sense of occasion with its large, center-mounted tachometer. The interior is awash in soft-touch leather and Alcantara, in addition to McLaren’s carbon-fiber interior package and premium Meridian Surround Package.
The 12C properly established McLaren in the supercar arena and pioneered the trail for every McLaren thereafter. The 12C marked the first in a new chapter for McLaren’s road cars, and without doubt is a current and future classic. When this groundbreaking supercar rolls across the block with No Reserve at the Barrett-Jackson 2020 Fall Auction, we’ll be more than happy to introduce it as “The Joker,” and all will understand and appreciate the question “Why so serious?”