Climbing onto the McLaren stage, we bumped into Frank Stephenson. The famed automobile designer (credited with the Mini Hatch, BMW E53 X5 and the Ferrari F430, among others) is the Design Director at McLaren Automotive. Stephenson explained that the X-1 program began three years ago – before the very first McLaren MP4-12C had even hit the pavement – when an anonymous customer approached McLaren Special Operations (MSO) to build a very unique supercar. The custom-built vehicle would use the carbon-fiber composite chassis, running gear and cockpit from the upcoming production car, but its body panels would reflect "timeless and classical elegance."
It is true that pictures don't do the X-1 any justice, but it isn't much better in person. The design is interesting, but its rear clip appears heavy and out of proportion (most of the blame is focused on the trick hinged wheel covers). The lines don't flow, and many seemed forced. It is unquestionably odd, from any angle.
But this is one man's vision – one must look beyond that individual's tastes to find the real beauty. The X-1 is stunning in the details. Every square inch of the concept has been engineered to standards high enough for interplanetary travel. Whether machined from solid aluminum, sculpted in carbon fiber or hand-polished to a mirror-like finish, the craftsmanship on the X-1 is breathtaking. After more than thirty minutes of chin-rubbing scrutiny, we were sold.
McLaren says there is enough tooling to make five more copies, but in similar manner to revealing the name of the person who funded this extraordinary venture, the company is mum on pricing.