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by Jay Traugott
They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
Yes, this is a McLaren although it looks like something straight out of a classic black and white noir film. Making its premiere at Pebble Beach over the weekend, no one saw this thing coming, but we're intrigued by it nonetheless. So what inspired McLaren to create something as whacked-out as the X-1? An existing client who already owns a McLaren F1, a Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren and an MP4- 12C wanted something unique (to say the least).
Initial planning for it began three years ago - before the 12C on which it's based on was even launched. This client desired a supercar with all of the capabilities of the then upcoming 12C but "wrapped in a unique body that reflected his needs and personality." He wanted "timeless and classical elegance". It's up to you to decide if that's what he got. Taking 18 months to finalize the styling, McLaren's inspiration partially came from classics such as a 1961 Facel Vega, a 1953 Chrysler D'Elegance Ghia, a 1959 Buick Electra, a 1939 Mercedes 540K and a 1971 Citroen SM.
A competition was held amongst McLaren's in-house designers as well as designers from the outside world. But the winning design came from McLaren's Korean-born RCA graduate Hong Yeo and was completed under the direction of design director Frank Stephenson. Besides from those aforementioned cars, bits of museum architecture, an art deco clock, an Airstream trailer, a Montblanc pen, a grand piano, a black and white photo of Audrey Hepburn, and even an eggplant (no joke) were also used as design inspiration. Everything here is bespoke, even down to the lights and wheels which required new testing and homologation.
All told, the X-1 took two and half years to build. The brightwork is all machined from solid aluminum, and then nickel finished giving the same hue throughout. The doors have been especially developed and most of the carbon fiber bodywork has been painted piano black. Other details include the McLaren Airbrake rear wing (also made from solid aluminum) and those enclosed rear wheels covered by carbon panels. The interior is finished off in Harissa Red Nappa leather. Whether the X-1 Concept is your thing or not, it's certainly unique and this could be the beginning of a whole new bespoke design era for McLaren.