Developed by McLaren
Special Operations (MSO) –
the division of the Woking,
England-based sports car
manufacturer responsible
for the design and
production of bespoke
projects – the X-1 concept
has been three years in
the making from initial
conversations to the
finished product.
MSO program director Paul
MacKenzie said an
anonymous client
approached McLaren
chairman Ron Dennis in
2009 asking for “a machine
that had all the capability of
the [MP4-12C] but wrapped
in a unique body that
reflected his needs and
personality”, and one that
would stand out in his
garage that includes a
McLaren F1, a Mercedes-
Benz SLR McLaren and an
In a three-hour meeting
with MacKenzie and McLaren
design director Frank
Stephenson, the client was
presented with hundreds of
images from the world of
automotive design,
architecture, fashion and
film before narrowing down
a mood book filled with
ideas from which the
vehicle’s design spirit
would be derived.
Included in the client’s mood
book were images of the
1939 Mercedes-Benz 540K,
1953 Chrysler D’Elegance
Ghia, 1959 Buick Electra,
1961 Facel Vega and a
1971 Citroen SM, as well as
images of the Guggenheim
museums in New York and
Bilbao, a Jaeger LeCoultre
art deco clock, an Airstream
trailer, a Thomas Mann
Montblanc pen, a grand
piano, a black and white
photo of Audrey Hepburn
and – perhaps most
intriguingly – an eggplant.
“The client liked the shiny
texture of the finish,”
Stephenson explained.
The client demanded a
competition between
designers from around the
world from both within and
outside of the automotive
industry, and ultimately
selected a design by
McLaren’s own Korean-
born designer Hong Yeo.
Yeo explained one of the
greatest challenges was
developing a design that
embodied the elegance of
the client’s preference for
classic cars with front-
engined, rear-wheel-drive
layouts around the
MP4-12C’s mid-engined
The styling took 18 months
to sign off, with the client
finally satisfied the MSO
team had achieved
“X-1 embodies the McLaren
value that every part has
to have a purpose,” Yeo
said. “No details are simply
visual cues, every one has
a purpose.
“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.”
With the X-1 concept’s
entire body, including its
lights and wheels, almost
entirely bespoke, MSO
began testing and
homologation work two and
a half years ago, long
before the design was
finalised, as the client
required the car to be
usable, road-legal and
capable of travelling at
supercar speeds.
The McLaren X-1 concept’s
body panels are
constructed from
carbonfibre and finished in
piano black lacquer. The
body’s brightwork is
machined from aluminium
and finished with nickel, as
are the diamond-turned
wheels, the rear airbrake
and the McLaren Speed
Marque badging.
The carbon panels
enclosing the rear wheels
are perhaps the most
striking element of the
design, which Stephenson
says feature “some of the
most gorgeous hinges
you’ve ever seen”. The
doors and roof were also
specially developed for the
The unique body makes the
X-1 concept 109mm longer
and 188mm wider than the
MP4-12C, but is the same in
height and weighs an
almost identical 1400kg.
The basic architecture of
the interior did not change,
although personalisation
options include Harissa Red
nappa leather, nickel-
coated aluminium bezels,
titanium-weave carbon trim
and andesite tufted floor
The mechanical package is
lifted straight from the
MP4-12C production car,
with its twin-turbocharged
3.8-litre V8 continuing to
produce 460kW of power
and 601Nm of torque.
Stephenson said the
McLaren X-1 concept was
the ultimate expression of
the company’s ability to
tailor a unique product and
enable the client to become
an integral member of the
design team.
“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.”
Following its Pebble Beach
debut alongside the
McLaren MP4-12C Can-Am
, the unpriced X-1 concept
will return to MSO’s
headquarters in Woking to
be carefully checked over
before being placed in the
client’s collection.



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