How we created Ayrton Senna’s iconic McLaren F1® Car

How we created Ayrton Senna’s iconic McLaren F1® Car

For millions of F1® fans, there’s one iconic partnership that stands out. A duo that still stands the test of time. That’s three-time world champion, Ayrton Senna, and his all-conquering McLaren MP4/4 F1 car.

Now, our LEGO® designers have constructed a kit that lets you recreate the excitement and pure racing thrill epitomized by this iconic pair with our brand-new LEGO Icons McLaren MP4/4 & Ayrton Senna race car building set.


“We wanted to create the most recognizable car from F1. One of the most famous cars of all time that fans would love,” says Senior Model Designer Ann Healy.

It was quite a challenge. But like those McLaren engineers responsible for the 1988 original, Ann was determined to capture every tiny detail of this revolutionary design. “It was so cool to have calls with the McLaren team in England as they went into their archives to pull out the details of a car from the past.”

So how did she go about turning a life-sized car into a perfect miniature replica? “I took pictures then sized them to the exact scale I needed and used top, side, front and rear views. I had to make sure I was referencing the 1988 car, because later versions looked similar but had lots of subtle differences, like the nose and wings.”


Working in close partnership with McLaren was vital to capturing the look and feel of this legendary racer. In 1988, it was an all-new sleek-looking car for that season and would go on to dominate. Winning every race bar one, it led the way as teammates Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost took their fierce rivalry to new heights.

For experienced designer Ann it was really important she got it right. “I’ve designed lots of LEGO vehicles in the past, but this is the first time I’ve done a vehicle that already existed. I knew people had a strong sense of what it looked like, and I wanted to honor that.”

She really took that belief to heart and when it came to replicating the car, there was no cutting corners for Ann: “The 1988 MP4/4 was known for being revolutionary because of how close the driver sat to the ground in a reclined position. The driver could adjust the hardness of the front suspension manually as he went into corners. So, it was important to represent this in the LEGO set.”

She continues, “We made quite a few new elements for this car. One being more authentic F1-style slick tires and a new wishbone suspension element to more accurately represent the look of F1 cars.”


The finished set is brimming with other authentic details, such as working steering, an adjustable rear wing, mirrors, a gearshift and a turbocharged 1.5-liter V6 engine. “It was a lot of fun working out how to recreate the steering on the car and the details like the fuel-line connection points to the six-cylinder engine.”


“It gave me an appreciation for how much the sport has changed since 1988 and how much the cars have evolved. They were much more manual compared to today’s Formula One® cars. Nowadays, the steering wheel looks like a video game controller, but back then, it was just similar to an ordinary one for a car.”


The faithfulness doesn’t end there. Since the McLaren MP4/4 is synonymous with one of the greatest F1 drivers, we’ve managed to include a minifigure of the man himself. “He’s obviously a huge part of this story, and champion driver that season, so we thought it would be great to honor him in this set.”


Ayrton’s McLaren was voted ‘Greatest Race Car of the 20th Century’ by Autosport readers and ‘Greatest Formula One Car of All Time’ by a panel of Formula One engineers and designers. And the McLaren MP4/4 remains one of the most formidable, recognizable and loved F1 cars in history. Now, it can be all yours.

“I can picture people tackling the LEGO set at the same time as watching an F1 race. I’m sure building the car you’d get a better knowledge of the sport.”

This set is not only a celebration of Ayrton’s life, but also a testament to the skill and dedication of the McLaren team. “I felt I owed the fans and I hope it does them proud and gives them a sense of joy reliving the races they may have enjoyed back in the ‘80s. I’m a little nervous, but also really excited.”

Ann’s persistence and skill has gotten the car from testing to pits to grid. The rest is down to you.

© ASE2024 – Licensed by Senna Brands

Manufactured under license from McLaren Racing Limited. ‘McLaren’ is a trademark of McLaren Services Limited.

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