McLaren: Striking One-off X1 Debut

August 20, 2012

If you squint really hard, you’ll see it – the MP4-12C underneath it all.

Just last week McLaren unveiled their Can-Am Edition MP4-12C which paid a debt to their racing heritage and focused on their ideas/visions for the future of the company’s racing commitments. Yet then, this weekend at Pebble Beach they go and unveil this – the one-off McLaren X1. The words ‘shock’ and ‘awe’ only hint at what we’re left with…

What you’re looking at here is the result of the McLaren Special Operations unit (MSO) fulfilling the bespoke design influences (and assorted visions) of an unnamed/anonymous McLaren customer/aficianado that displayed an open-chequebook philosophy towards his/her idea of what constitutes ‘vehicular exclusivity’ in this world nowadays. Indeed, the array of chrome flourishes, classic lines, faired-in rear wheels and added-on adenda aren’t exactly in-line with the typical McLaren un-fussy design philosophies… but it’s that marriage of McLaren engineering know-how and one person’s open-wallet exclusivity that makes this entire project so intriguing.

The X1 project was undertaken by McLaren stylist Hong Yeo with design chief Frank Stephenson and MSO Programme Director Paul MacKenzie close by to oversee the progress. The X1 vehicular influences are listed as:  Buick Electra, Mercedes-Benz 540K, Facel Vega, Chrysler D’Elegance Ghia and the Citroën SM. Meanwhile, the architectural influences are listed as: the Guggenheim museums in New York and Bilbao, grand pianos, Airstream caravans, a Thomas Mann Mont Blanc pen and Audrey Hepburn (?).

Granted, those are some heady points of navigation and yet when all encompassed, seem to work, given their grandeur and societal poise. After all, one of the main objectives was to create a car that would look elegant enought to roll up to an opera in… As expected, there’s a lot to focus on with this daring Mclaren X1 one-off, so let’s allow the assorted photos and the official press release (below) to fill-in the necessary details.

-Blake J.
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McLaren X1 (Full) Press Release:

McLaren Special Operations (MSO), the division of McLaren Automotive responsible for the delivery of bespoke projects, will present a breathtaking one-off supercar at The Quail, an exclusive event on August 17, 2012 that is a highlight of the Pebble Beach weekend in Monterey, USA.

Called the McLaren X-1 and based structurally on the company’s groundbreaking carbon MonoCell but with a totally unique body, it has been created for an anonymous car enthusiast.

X-1: the brief It’s not every day that a team gets to create something unique in a project that would take the supercar, even by McLaren standards, to a different level. The challenge began with a special brief.

‘One of our clients who already owned a McLaren F1, a Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren and now a 12C, wanted a unique car,’ says MSO Programme Director, Paul MacKenzie. ‘The conversation began with our Executive Chairman Ron Dennis almost three years ago – before the 12C was even 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”. Which was some challenge.’

That meeting with Mackenzie and Stephenson lasted for almost three hours. From the pages of notes that were gathered, the design team brought together hundreds of images from the world of automotive, architecture, fashion, design and even film. These were then presented to the customer, and were then narrowed down to a mood book, full of inspiring images from which the design spirit of this unique car would be derived.

Inspirational cars included a 1961 Facel Vega, a 1953 Chrysler D’Elegance Ghia, a 1959 Buick Electra, a 1939 Mercedes-Benz 540K and a 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, 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.

One of the biggest design challenges faced by Yeo was that most cars that embody classic elegance and timeless values have front engines and rear-wheel drive proportions. This is the exact opposite of a mid-engined supercar. So a new visual language for the car had to be found which led to months of sketching and modelling to find that perfect visual balance.

Stephenson recalls: ‘From this design, we then produced a 30 per cent 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.’

In the words of Hong Yeo: ‘X-1 embodies the McLaren value that every part has to have a purpose. No details are simply visual cues, every one has a purpose. Although I like to think the wide body combined with pontoon style rear fenders will ensure the car glides when it’s moving just like a superhero’s cape…’

The styling took 18 months to sign off but the result is a design that in a few decades time will be hard to pinpoint exactly when it was created … timeless, therefore, exactly as the client requested.

X-1: the creation The X-1 is the most ambitious example yet of MSO’s expertise. It has a whole new body made of advanced materials. Everything is bespoke, even down to the lights and wheels, necessitating new testing and homologation meaning the car took two and a half years to build, a process that began before the styling was signed off.

The X-1 had its own development programme because crucially, this wasn’t to be a fragile concept car that would never see tarmac. It was to be a usable car, road legal and capable of travelling at supercar speeds. It also had to comfortably seat two adults so although the 12C was already as shrink-wrapped as it could be from a packaging perspective, the ingenious flexibility of the MonoCell allowed the creation of a completely different form while maintaining the engineering purity of a McLaren.

A full CFD (Computational Fluid Dynamics) aerodynamic testing schedule ensured high-speed stability, and the car also completed approximately 625 miles of testing including two intensive testing stints at the Idiada circuit in Spain with chief McLaren test driver, Chris Goodwin. After testing, the whole car was meticulously rebuilt, by hand to concours standard.

X-1: the detail MSO Programme Director Paul Mackenzie explains: ‘The X-1 showcases the skills of McLaren Special Operations. More and more luxury customers want bespoke or individual features. The X-1 demonstrates that we can provide the ultimate personalisation service. It also shows that MSO is not just a technology led company. X-1 demonstrates a commitment to perfection and to the highest levels of quality.’

All body panels of the X-1 are made from carbon, and are finished in a rich piano black, as specified by the owner. Body sides are lacquered visual carbon fibre. ‘The black paint has no metallic or colour tints and is one of the most challenging colours to paint, but the finish is absolutely exquisite and befits the car perfectly’adds Stephenson.

Components were tooled exclusively for the car. They even include unique head- and taillights, inspired by the McLaren Speed Marque logo. The brightwork is machined from solid aluminium, and a nickel finish is then applied. The McLaren logo in the nose is specially machined from solid aluminium then nickel plated. Wheels are also unique to the X-1, and are diamond turned with a tinted lacquer to complement the exterior nickel-plated brightwork.

The brightwork itself is all machined from solid aluminium, and then nickel finished to give the same hue throughout. Even the McLaren Speed Marque badge in the nose is machined from solid aluminium, then nickel plated.

The same brightwork is used for the over-the-shoulder rails (as specified by the owner), at the base of the windscreen and the back of the glasshouse, and for the ‘eyebrows’ over the bespoke headlights. The McLaren Airbrake rear wing is also machined from solid aluminium and nickel plated, to complement the rest of the brightwork.

Perhaps the most unusual styling feature is the enclosed rear wheels, an upshot of the owner’s desire to have a car reflecting ‘timeless elegance’. The wheels are accessed by carbon panels using, as Stephenson explains, ‘some of the most gorgeous hinges you’ve ever seen’. The styling, too, is in no way compromised by the opening rear wings.

He adds: ‘The attention to detail is astonishing. Neat styling touches feature throughout the design, such as the rear number plate illuminators finished in carbon, a gorgeous machined aluminium cap is used for the header tank, and carbon finishers line the engine bay.’

The doors have also been developed specifically for the X-1, although they retain the dihedral action and twin hinges, and the roof is also new. Externally, only the glasshouse is carried over from the 12C.

The unique body of the X-1 means most dimensions have changed. The X-1 is 4658mm long – 109mm longer than a 12C. Width is 2097mm (with mirrors) – an increase of 188 mm. Despite the revised roofline, the height remains the same, at 1199mm. Kerb weight is almost identical (about 1400kg), as the lighter carbon body panels compensate for the greater length and width. Light weight, as with all McLaren projects, was a priority.

While the basic architecture of the interior did not change, personalisation includes bespoke Harissa Red McLaren Nappa leather used for the seats, door and roof trim, and switchgear with machined nickel-coated, aluminium bezels. The carbon interior trim has a titanium weave, to give a magical 3D-like effect. Special Andesite tufted carpet covers the floor.

All these changes ensured the X-1 needed special homologation for road use. The car has been thoroughly engineered to be usable and road legal. The X-1 shares the same the major mechanical components as the 12C, including the twin-turbo 625PS engine, giving astonishing acceleration and top speed.

Stephenson explains: ‘The X-1 epitomises how we can not only create a truly unique product tailored to the client, but also enable the client to become a key member of the design team throughout the process. It has been a truly rewarding and unforgettable experience. And I think that we as a team have created a completely unforgettable car that is true to one man’s vision.’

Hong Yeo concludes: ‘We designers are often blinded by the sun and assume that whatever we see and understand is the only way forward: to see the stars, sometimes you need the absence of that blinding light … looking at a car from a different perspective is what X-1 stands for.’

After its debut, on the Monterey Peninsular, the X-1 will return to MSO headquarters in Woking and be carefully checked over before it takes a place in the owner’s collection.

‘But it’s certainly not just colour and trim,’ notes Paul Mackenzie. ‘A number of cars have had different front and rear bumpers, which has increased downforce and boosted performance. These cars had to go through full aerodynamic CFD testing before engineering sign-off.’

Adds Mackenzie: ‘We’re here to help the client personalise the car to their precise taste. They typically come to Woking to see us, or talk to their dealer, or we go to see them. We’ll sit down with them, listen to their requests, then come up with a new colour or mechanical components, or – as with X-1 – a new “tailor made” car. Of course we make recommendations but we’re certainly not here to be style police. Every client is different. Our main job is to listen and then to interpret the owner’s requests into a superb car.’

As Mackenzie concludes: ‘This is the first fully client commissioned MSO car, but it certainly won’t be the last. The carbon fibre MonoCell chassis used in the 12C, is not only stiff and light, it allows for great flexibility in body styling and provides an affordable structure from which MSO can develop unique cars, as is demonstrated with X-1.’



Audi Concept Unveiled: Chunky Q3 Receives the RS Badge *eyes roll*

April 18, 2012

Audi has released photos of its latest concept in the form of its baby Q3 SUV adorned with the firm’s ‘ultra high performance’ RS (RennSport = Racing Sport) badge from their coveted Quattro GmbH wing. The official unveiling will occur at next week’s Beijing Motor Show and well, one could see why – this sort of thing will light-up eyes and sell in droves in China.

Propelling this (undoubtedly heavy) ‘RS’ SUV will be the company’s characterful 2.5L 5-cylinder turbo-charged unit dispelling the same 360 bhp power-figure as the one fitted inside the latest TT RS ‘Plus’. 4-wheel drive is a given and shuffling that power to all 4 wheels comes courtesy of a 7-speed R-tronic twin-clutch unit. All of this wizardy manages to propel the attractive anomaly to 60 mph in 5 seconds and hit 165 mph when going for gold.

Rather confusingly, the RS Q3 concept receives a hefty 25mm drop alongside the usual ‘sporty’ RS-morphing visual cues; redesigned chunkiness here and there and astronomically huge 335/30 tires riding on 20″ wheels. I say confusingly, because I’m starting to see a blurring cross-over of product offerings here. What is the point of a lowered, high-performance, fat-tire’d Q3 SUV…? An Rs3 is too low…? So then, enter-in the jacked-up Q3 and lower it/power it to make it ‘sporty’ enough for the cogs that will purchase such SUV taft as this…?

I suppose this is just Audi following their recent mandate of filling in the gaps of every possible niche market out there… Still though, I remain baffled by their marketing department-lead decisions for their model extensions.

Also worth noting is that Audi created a hypo ‘Custom Concept’ version of their Q5 SUV about a year or so ago but noted that the company would never make an RS version of their SUVs unless it was “technically possible”… riiiight.

For those that may be unaware, the Quattro GmbH wing of Audi is a private subsidiary that (used-to) only produces top-tier, limited-edition, high performance models drawn from the Audi stable. Past memorable efforts include the very first ‘RS’-badged Audi RS2 Avant of the mid-90′s followed by two seperate generations of both the RS4 and RS6. The later ’06-’08 RS4 being held of considerable excellence across the landscape of petrolheads and the motoring press worldwide.

Yet, over the past few years we’ve seen a drastic change-of-direction for the ‘RS’ badged Audis. It seems Audi have decided “If people will buy them, we’ll build them”. Consequently, we now also have a TT RS, a TT RS ‘Plus’, an RS5 and an RS3 – all of them receiving decidedly lacklustre reviews from the motoring world… A new RS4 was also recently unveiled. Seems Audi’s RS is following BMW’s lead with the milking of their ‘high performance’ M-badge…

All in the name $ cha-ching $ cha-ching $ and the fact that people nowadays (oddly) seem to love driving cars that look like toys…

-Blake J.
AutoInjected.com


Porsche 918 Spyder: Evo Magazine’s Detailed Prototype Preview Video

March 22, 2012

Excellent up-close and detailed (pre) view vid of the bare-shelled 918 Spyder prototype in all of its complex, tech-fest laden glory while undergoing tests at Nardo…

As always, a fantastically sincere and informative presentation from Evo Magazine founder, Harry Metcalfe – his genuine passion for cars is always admired and appreciated.

What do you folks make of this project though…? Does it excite you in the ways that Supercars usually (and should) do…?

Myself, I’m definitely curious about it… But it just presents itself as more of an intriguing engineering exercise rather than something to provoke any deeply felt, yearning passions for hopes of hearing it sing and dreams of one day driving it… Also, I’m completely turned off when engineers concentrate on ‘engineering emotion into’ a Supercar, rather than allowing the emotion to evolve naturally during the build and engineering process. The tech outweighs the fluidity of the passion…

The 918 Spyder Concept Car

On the complete flipside of this engineering coin, the recently departed Carrera GT Supercar – with it’s race-derived, normally aspirated V10, race-developed inboard suspension, manual gearbox and sheer dedication to lightweight components and bare bones agenda – seems almost NASCAR-like in comparison… If I had to choose between the 918 and Carrera GT over which one to drive on a Highland road in Scotland for a day, I know which one would get the instant nod…

The tech-fest 959 Supercar from the '80s

I can’t help thinking that the 918 is the true spiritual successor to the (again, overly complex) technological tour-de-force 959 Supercar from the ’80s… Thoughts…?

-Blake J.
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What Were They Thinking: 1978 Corvette ‘America’ Concept

March 21, 2012

There are moments within the extended life-run of an iconic, homebred sportscar where ambitious minds and questionable visions intersect to create something that begs to ask a question that was never even asked in the first place… In this case – ‘Why wouldn’t a Corvette owner/enthusiast desire a 4-door version to haul his family and friends around in…?’

I know. There are so many responses to counter that question, but it didn’t stop Chevrolet from embarking on a… erm…. ‘design study’ in 1978 to flesh out the possibilities of a 4-door family ‘Vette.

The Corvette ‘America’ (snappy name) was designed and built by California Custom Coach in Pasadena, California in very small numbers – one prototype and five ‘production’ models – achieved by basically taking two Corvettes, cutting them in half and then stitching/welding them up, hence the increaed 30-inch wheelbase and subsequent visual awkwardness…

At the time, a base-model Corvette would stretch you back about $13,000-$14,000. So when the $35,000 price-tag was announced for the 4-door America, orders didn’t exactly flock-in as they had anticipated…

In the end, only the 6 were made and the silver ‘vette pictured here is the only known remaining survivor – the others having succumbed to uncaring owners and/or crashes of various sorts… I couldn’t even imagine what an oversteering moment in one of these would feel like. Probably frightening.

I think one left is enough.

Though, in its defense, I can’t help picturing this above red version as the sort of vehicle that the characters from The Banana Splits would have driven, if they could have…  And that makes it instantly cool in my books.

-Blake J.
AutoInjected.com


Lamborghini Aventador J: Photo Album (and video) Of The Mad Roadster Hypercar

March 7, 2012

Lamborghini graced the 2012 Geneva Motor Show by presenting a striking one-off Roadster interpretation of their Aventador Supercar. It was a secret best-kept in the finest of Motor Show traditions with its drop-jaw effectiveness basically outshining the debut of Ferrari’s most powerful road-car to date: The 740 bhp F12berlinetta.

So what exactly do we have here…? Essentially, this is Lamborghini displaying their rather unique utilization of carbon-fibre advancements within a bespoke Aventador chassis. Called the ‘J’, its name harkens back to the Miura Jota and (quite possibly) the FIA ‘appendix J’ guidelines for homologation classes and is a uniquely expensive way to achieve your driving thrills with the added bonus of various insects and road-debris ricocheting off your teeth and hair. It’s also comic-book insane… which is a very good thing.

To make up for the loss of bodywork, the Aventador’s carbon chassis has been extensively revised with loads of visible carbon bracing and carbon roll-over hoops. Understandably, the air-con has been ditched (why would you need it..?), as has the sat-nav to help reduce weight. F1-inspired aero nods embellish the front and rear sections while rather tasty carbon-fibre blades adorn the alluring wheel design. Oh, and I quite approve of the ‘upside-down’ rear wing as well…

The J retains the same 6.5L 700 bhp V12 of the standard Aventador yet we’re highly confident that the shocking performance will be greatly enhanced in the visceral sense. Interior-wise, Lamborghini has also displayed a patented new flexible ‘carbonskin’ material to adorn the fixed carbon seats – a material that Lamborghini claims will grace high-end clothing sometime in the near future – sounds geeky… I like that.

If you’d fancy getting your paws on the J, well… we’re sorry to report that it has already been sold. Price..? 2.1 million euros, plus taxes.

Rounding this off with an excellent on-the-podium, close-up view showing all of the mad details that imbue this one-off Aventador J. All I can say is, thank heavens for Lamborghini and their crazy automotive ways… We need more of that in this world.

-Blake J.
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Bentley: EXP 9 F Concept Marches Onto The Premium SUV Scene

March 6, 2012

There are moments within the motoring world when it’s absolutely justifiable to make that sound of air being sucked into your mouth through clenched teeth… this is one of those moments.

Dubbed, clonkingly, the EXP 9 F, this is Bentley’s long-rumoured entry into the Premium SUV realm with a dead-aim set on emerging markets such as China and the middle East (as if the poorly photoshopped ‘desert roaming’ press shots below didn’t convey this). The immediate reaction upon viewing this new 3-tonne-plus leviathan at the Geneva Motor Show this week is the rather obvious (lazy..?) inspiration used for its styling, or lack thereof, if we’re being honest.

With the chunky face of the Mulsanne and styling lifted straight from the Continental, it appears to resemble (unsurprisingly) a jacked-up version of the two afforementioned combined. ‘Traditional’ Bentley individual character and charm seem to have been forgone for outright bling-presence and awkward vulgarity – again, with the geographical aim of this vehicle.

But let’s be straight-up here; this is Bentley looking to cash-in. Pure and simple as that. All one needs to do is glance at the astounding sales of Premium-level Cayennes and Range Rovers in said emerging markets and this concept’s raison d’etre is clear as water. Bentley wants a piece of that action and its German owners aren’t about to shy away from the potential sales figures…

Wonky styling and reason-for-being aside, the guts of this massive mobile lounge feature the 600 bhp / 590 lb ft twin-turbo 6.0 W12 Vdub-lump that has been gracing Bentleys ever since the VW ownership takeover. As such, this effectively allows Bentley to claim (rather obviously) that this would be one of the fastest of its breed… and quite easily the highest petrol-consuming as well… yet, if you’re wealthy enough to own one, you won’t really care about that.

As you’d also expect, oppulence takes centre stage with vulgar 23″ wheels, a flashy interior constructed of the finest veneer woods and the softest of hand-stitched leathers. Creature comforts abound with various cubbies for wine glasses and a handly split tail-gate (a la Range Rover) that offers a place to plomp your wealthy buttocks while you make full use of the custom dining-set out back.

As this is Bentley’s first foray into the Premium SUV segment, no holds were barred in the over-lavishing exercise of their concept to get their, um, point across. Yet Bentley reminds us that this is merely a concept to gauge reaction and insight from their potential customers that they so do wish to please…

With that in mind, it will be interesting to watch how a Bentley born purely from the munching gravity of marketing leads will end up in the end. Strange automotive times ahead, indeed…

-Blake J.
AutoInjected.com


Infiniti Emerg-e Concept: Images Of New Hybrid Sportscar

February 27, 2012

Infiniti’s Emerg-e hybrid sportscar concept is set to be unveiled at Geneva next week. In the meantime, here are the official ‘internet-leaked’ images of their latest design study to pore over… No details have, Emerg-ed (sorry, had to) just yet but as is the usual case with flashy concepts, all of the whizz-bang wizardy shall be revealed come showtime..!

-Blake J. 
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Range Rover Evoque Convertible: Posh Pram Motoring Fun..!?

February 24, 2012

This isn’t a photoshop joke. This is real. This is the Range Rover Evoque Soft-top Concept set for its official debut at the upcoming Geneva Show…

Keen listeners during the Top Gear ‘news’ section from a very recent episode may have remembered there being mention of this creation as well. Shortly after hearing of such a thing I couldn’t help thinking how wonderfully goofy and welcomely silly I’d feel (and look) sitting in the backseat of one of these as it zoomed on by – most-likely harboured by memories of TG’s hilarious ‘convertible people-carrier’ piece from many years back as well…

It’s rather difficult to escape the image of little pegs plomped inside a great big-wheeled posh pram – I’d just constantly be laughing and waving my arms in the air like a carefree youngling on a sugar high.

Full colour rendering from the Auto Express folks...

Anyways, blatant silliness aside, Range Rover’s intent to “explore the potential for the world’s first premium convertible SUV” should easily gather some opinions on the matter… and I’m sure you have yours. Let’s hear it…!

-Blake J.
AutoInjected.com


Concept: KIA Track’ster Aims To Toughen-Up The Brand

February 8, 2012

Kia has officially released their latest apostrophe-based vehicular concept at the Chicago Motor Show and aside from the questionable name given, one begs to understand the marketing ‘attempt’ with this new Soul-based Track’ster that looks as if its been to the gym and ingested a few too many power pellets…

Obviously, this is another one of Kia’s grand marketing gestures to connect with the more youthful and ‘street-savvy’ end of the market – y’know, bein’ hip with the aim “to make the Track’ster tough looking, like a bulldog”, according to Kia’s American design boss, Tom Kearns. Generous amounts of Apple iPod/Touch, new-age linking and general ‘nowness’ being applied to this hunkered down, brutish looking creation as well… Dare I say it looks kinda cool though…?

Where the slight confusion lies is within the concept’s boasts of being a Trackday car, further implemented by Kia’s claim that the Inferno Orange highlights of the paint are ‘perfectly suited for racing’… riiiiight they are - thank you, grabbing-at-straws American marketing department. Yet, to add to the confusion, the Track’ster (enough with the apostrophe’s..!!) comes with storage bins for helmets and a quick-release strut-brace to access the spare-wheel. It definitely leads one to wonder what sort of racetracks Kia believes actually exist out in the real world…

On the mechanical front, power comes from a 2.0L turbocharged engine churning out 250 bhp – quite a step-up from their usual game, but then that’s the whole point of this car. It’s an eye-candy spectacle aimed at stirring-up the youthful  imagination and awareness of the Kia brand in the United States, hence the ‘pumped-up and tough’ look and lines…

Like the Toyota-bred Scion brand in the US, Kia hopes to attract the modifying/tuning crowd with its concept creations and subsequent road cars. If the Track’ster concept is anything to go on, methinks they’re onto something that just might click with their targeted audience.

-Blake J.
AutoInjected.com


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