McLaren X-1 revealed, another Ferrari P4/5?

McLaren Special Organisations (MSO), a division of McLaren Automotive that creates personalized projects, revealed a highly customized version of the 12C (dubbed the McLaren X-1) at Pebble Beach 2012. Reaction has definitely been mixed.

The X-1, especially with its enclosed rear-wheel arches, bears little resemeblance to the 12C.

According to McLaren, discussions with the client began before the 12C was launched and that “the client wanted a machine that had all the capability of the 12C but wrapped in a unique body that reflected his needs and personality.”

Throughout the McLaren press release there is a focus on meeting the desires of the customer, including incorporation of design themes from a 1961 Facel Vega, a 1953 Chrysler D’Elegance Ghia, a 1959 Buick Electra, a 1939 Mercedes-Benz 540K and a 1971 Citroën SM. Not an easy assignment given how incredibly different these cars are from a McLaren supercar.

Jim Glickenhaus’ Ferrari P4/5 by Pininfarina, publically unveiled at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elégance in 2006, provides an interesting contrast to the McLaren X-1. Glickenhaus’ design brief was focused on a specific car, the Ferrari 330 P4, which had a pretty clear lineage to the Ferrari Enzo donor. McLaren’s X-1 is missing this lineage and, in this author’s opinion, ends up looking like the designed-by-a-committee result that can only be expected by the hodgepodge of chosen design themes.

Some further clues from McLaren regarding the final product include that “the styling took 18 months to sign off but the result is a design that in a few decades time will be hard to pinpoint exactly when it was created … timeless, therefore, exactly as the client requested.” Many references in the press release seem distance the final product from McLaren’s typical design philosophy, and rather highlight their ability to provide a product to the client’s specifications.

The Ferrari P4/5 is quoted as having more downforce and improved aerodynamics than the Enzo. McLaren makes no such statements about the X-1 versus its sibling.

Black cars can be tough to photograph often look different in person. Perhaps this is one such situation, but until we see it in person we remain seriously skeptical of the final product. The Ferrari P4/5 also does not cater to all tastes, but we are certain that in a few decades time the P4/5 will be the more highly respected design.

Does that mean Pininfarina did a better job than McLaren Special Organisations, or that Glickenhaus is a better visionary than MSO’s mystery client? Perhaps it depends on if you subscribe to “The Customer is King” philosophy…

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