Looking vaguely like a 1950s concept car that might peer into the future, McLaren Special Operations is presenting its own supercar concept at The Quail, in Pebble Beach this week.

The McLaren X-1 is based on the company’s carbon MonoCell with a totally unique body that was created for an anonymous client.

“One of our clients who already owned a McLaren F1, a Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren and 12C, wanted a unique car,” said MSO Program Director, Paul MacKenzie. “The conversation began with our Executive Chairman Ron Dennis almost three years ago − before the 12C was launched. The client wanted a machine that had all the capability of the 12C but wrapped in a unique body that reflected his needs and personality.”

In a subsequent meeting, Paul Mackenzie and Design Director Frank Stephenson went to see him to start to explore the sort of car he wanted. Says Frank Stephenson: “The key qualities the client desired were timeless and classical elegance.”

Inspirational cars included a 1961 Facel Vega, 1953 Chrysler D’Elegance Ghia, 1959 Buick Electra, 1939 Mercedes-Benz 540K and 1971 Citroën SM. There were various examples of architecture – including the Guggenheim museums in New York and Bilbao – plus a Jaeger LeCoultre art deco clock, an Airstream trailer, Thomas Mann Montblanc pen, a grand piano – and an eggplant. “The client liked the shiny texture of the finish,” noted Stephenson. There was also a black-and-white photo of Audrey Hepburn.

In the end, a design by McLaren’s Korean-born Hong Yeo was chosen, and completed under the direction of Stephenson.

One of the biggest challenges faced by Yeo was that most cars classic cars have front engines and rear-wheel drive proportions rather than a mid-engined supercar. So a new visual language for the car had to be found.

Stephenson recalled: “From this design, we produced a 30% scale model, then a full-size hard foam model. Initially, we planned to do it all digitally but the client insisted on seeing real models.

“The client was very clear in his own mind what he wanted. But the only styling feature prescribed were metal brightwork rails running from the nose, over the shoulderline and hips, to the rear of the greenhouse.”

The styling took 18 months to sign off but the result is a design that in a few decades will be hard to pinpoint exactly when it was created.

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