McLaren X-1-Art Deco makes a comeback , Our concept of sports car design, with its smooth surfaces and curvaceous proportions, has been largely influenced by the styling of sports cars from Europe.
It can be argued that the development in car design was due to Europe’s rich artistic culture, stemming from the region where the Renaissance first emerged from and subsequently change the world, but that would be another debate in itself.
This can be seen when a car manufacturer announces a new sports car.
Even without any fore knowledge we can be pretty sure that it would look sleek and beautiful like the Jaguar E-Type or awe-inspiring and shocking in the same mould as the Lamborghini Countach.
On the other side of the Atlantic, American car design was influenced by a movement known as Art Deco styling.
The Art Deco movement originated from Paris in the 1920s and from there flourished onto works of architecture, artworks, film, and various products from the 1930s till the start of World War II.
Its applications to automotive design resulted in some of the most timeless cars from America, such as the 1936 Cord 812, 1936 Auburn 852 Speedster, or the 1935 Delahaye 135.
Though gorgeously flamboyant, the Art Deco style didn’t take off with European sports cars.
The world may have adopted their culture and movies, but sadly not their sports car design.
But the style wasn’t forgotten for a very wealthy McLaren enthusiast, who wanted his new MP4-12C to look special.
Turning to McLaren’s newly form Special Operations (MSO) division, the unnamed enthusiast wanted his 12C to be styled after classical American automobiles such as the 1961 Facel Vega, 1953 Chrysler D’Elegance Ghia, and 1959 Buick Electra.
What MSO came up with was the eye-catching X-1, which was presented at this year’s Pebble Beach Concours event.
Though Art Deco styling was mostly seen on front-engined cars, the X-1, which was the work of Korean-born, graduate from London’s prestigious Royal College of Art, Hong Yeo, manages to adapt it to its sleek mid-engined supercar shape.
The uniquely styled 12C is said to be clothed in a body that is entirely bespoke, with the exception of its engine glasshouse, right down to the wheels and lights.
Its slats and slab-sided shapes, along with its unusual rear wheel covers, the X-1 does extrude authoritative elegance and mass, though McLaren says that its weight is almost identical to that of the 12C despite it additional length and width of 109mm and 188mm respectively.
Despite its timeless looks, which harks back to a bygone era of motoring style, the X-1’s body panels are made from carbon fibre, the upward opening dihedral doors remain along with its highly efficient 617hp 3.8-litre twin-turbo V8, whereas the interior goes relatively unchanged if not for the personalised Harissa Red McLaren Nappa leather trim.
Some might think that the Art Deco styling of straight and imposing lines is in stark contrast of supercar design language that we are so accustomed to.
But it wasn’t as if the 12C’s original design was a hallmark of timeless design, the work of Frank Stephenson, designer of the Ferrari F430, BMW’s MINI, Fiat 500, and Alfa Romeo Mito, it was criticised by some for being too bland and the product of aerodynamic efficiency rather than art.
Call the American influenced 12C what you want, but 'bland' is certainly one you can’t levy against the dramatic looking X-1.