McLaren X-1 one-off
Past meets future and skips the present in this extraordinary un-McLaren-like supercar
By Shahzad Sheikh
Revealed at The Quail at Pebble Beach in Monterey, USA, this is the unique one-off McLaren X-1 based on the MP4-12C supercar. The McLaren Special Operations (MSO) unit built this car for a McLaren F1, SLR McLaren and now 12C owner asked the company to build him a unique car about three years ago.
McLaren Design Director, Frank Stephenson said: ‘The key qualities the client desired where “timeless and classical elegance”. Which was some challenge.’ In fact the brainstorm over the design lasted three hours.
Cars that were highlighted for inspiration included 1961 Facel Vega, a 1953 Chrysler D’Elegance Ghia, a 1959 Buick Electra, a 1939 Mercedes-Benz 540K and a 1971 Citroën SM; and architectural influences Guggenheim museums in New York and Bilbao – plus a Jaeger LeCoultre art deco clock, an Airstream trailer, a Thomas Mann Montblanc pen, a grand piano – and an eggplant. ‘The client liked the shiny texture of the finish,’ notes Stephenson. There was also a black-and-white photo of Audrey Hepburn.
‘The client wanted a competition between external designers – some outside the automotive world – and McLaren’s own designers,’ notes Stephenson. In the end, a design by McLaren’s Korean-born RCA graduate Hong Yeo was chosen, and completed under the direction of Stephenson, and it took 18 months to sign off.
Everything on the car is bespoke including the lights and wheels, which all had to be tested and homologated, hence it took over two years to build. Body panels are all carbon finished in rich piano black and the sides are lacquered carbon fiber. The lights are fashioned after the McLaren logo. The brightwork is machined from solid aluminum then nickel plated.
The car is 109mm longer than a 12C and it’s 188mm wider though the height is the same. The lighter body panels keep the overall weight the same at 1400kg. The interior is the same as a 12C, the carbon interior trim has a titanium weave, to give a magical 3D-like effect. Special Andesite tufted carpet covers the floor. Mechanically the car is identical too.
Personally the unusual styling took me aback at first and its over-elaborate design and detailing seemed very unlike McLaren. But viewed aside from the badge, it’s an astonishing fusion of classic vehicle design and modernity, mixing Art-Deco elegance with cartoony magnificence and a naïve and innocent Jetsons-like interpretation of the future. Its best angle is from the rear three-quarters at eye level where its multiple contours and deluge of detailing really will keep your eyes engaged.
So whilst this simply isn’t a ‘McLaren’ it’s a beautiful piece of automotive art!