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 custom-made, 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 program because crucially, this wasn't to be a fragile concept car that would never see the open road. It was to be a usable car, road legal and capable of traveling 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 Program 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 personalization 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 fiber. “The black paint has no metallic or color tints and is one of the most challenging colors 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 aluminum, and a nickel finish is then applied. The McLaren logo in the nose is specially machined from solid aluminum 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 aluminum, and then nickel finished to give the same hue throughout. Even the McLaren Speed Marque badge in the nose is machined from solid aluminum, then nickel plated.
The same brightwork is used for the over-the-shoulder rails (as specified by the owner), at the base of the windshield and the back of the glasshouse, and for the "eyebrows" over the custom headlights. The McLaren Airbrake rear wing is also machined from solid aluminum 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 aluminum 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. Curb 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, personalization includes bespoke Harissa Red McLaren Nappa leather used for the seats, door and roof trim, and switchgear with machined nickel-coated, aluminum 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 epitomizes 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 Peninsula, the X-1 will return to MSO headquarters in Woking, England and be carefully checked over before it takes a place in the owner's collection.