This simple swoosh has some serious history.
Car logos can run from the mundane – think Ford – to the fascinating – BMW. Each one has a story behind on how it came to represent a worldwide automotive brand. Some are merely script of the company’s name while others are a devilish headshot of a cartoon demon like the Dodge Challenger SRT Demon. McLaren, the British automaker known for its legendary racing history and recent foray into road cars, has a clean, simple logo design – the brand’s name spelled out – with a little swoosh hanging off at the end of the “n.” How that swoosh come to represent McLaren? Well, there’s the official story, and the conspiratorial one.
The little swoosh started back when the company partnered with Marlboro. The red chevron was present in the cigarette company’s logo, and McLaren just adopted it. Over time, the logo evolved, taking a minimalist appearance with the single red mark sitting at the corner of the McLaren name. Then, when McLaren began producing road cars, the little chevron turned into the little swoosh we know today.
If you listen to McLaren, according to the Carfection video, the swoosh is supposed to represent the swirling vortices that come off the tail of a car when in its a wind tunnel that you can see when smoke rushes over the car. It sounds technical and very McLaren-like, but Carfection thinks there’s a different story to the swoosh’s meaning that goes all the way back to the company’s founder Bruce McLaren.
You see, Bruce hailed from New Zeland, and he used the kiwi bird as a logo on all his cars, including the ones racing F1. Eventually, that plain black kiwi silhouette transformed into what Carfection calls the speedy kiwi, which looks suspiciously swooshy. The video shows a few speedy kiwis interlaced with images of the current logo, and you can see how Carfection makes the connection that the current logo is just an evolution of Bruce’s classic kiwi design.
Good luck getting McLaren to verify that story, though. Apparently, the company is standing firm behind its vortices story. But the kiwi logo, and its evolution into the speedy kiwi shows the rich history that McLaren hasn’t even tapped into yet for its road-going cars. Maybe we’ll get the speedy kiwi again someday. Or McLaren will just call it the speeding vortices.