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20 August 2012

Meet the one-off McLaren X-1

McLaren shows off its extraordinary supercar built for an anonymous customer…

TopGear.com
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This, fair ladies and gentlemen of Top Gear's rusty corner of the Internet, is Audrey Hepburn. And an eggplant. And a grand piano. All rolled up into a McLaren Monocell. Meet the X-1.

The dramatic one-off supercar has just been unveiled in Pebble Beach, California, at a very exclusive event dubbed ‘The Quail'. Scratching your head? Settle down at the back, it's a long story...

It's the latest offering from McLaren's Special Operations (MSO), a division of the Woking company unveiled this time last year at Pebble Beach, and responsible for building completely bespoke creations for very special customers.

It was one of those very special customers - someone who already owns a McLaren F1, Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren and 12C - who began discussions with McLaren chief Ron Dennis three years ago to build something completely unique. Apparently the brief was to create something with the capability of the 12C, but wrapped up in something that reflected his "needs and personality".

The three hour discussion covered such noted automotive inspirational touch points as the Guggenheim museums in New York and Bilbao, a Jaeger LeCoultre art deco clock, an Airstream trailer, a Montblanc pen, a piano, an eggplant, and of course, the delightful Ms Hepburn. Mood books happened.

Said client wanted to draw potential designers of his Hepburn-mobile from inside and outside McLaren, with Korean-born RCA grad Hong Yeo's design being the final one you see before you. McLaren's Yeo referenced a 1961 Facel Vega, a '53 Chrysler D'Elegance Ghia, a 1959 Buick Electra, a 1939 Mercedes 540K and a 1971 Citroen SM.

As mentioned, underneath sits McLaren's Monocell - like in the 12C - surrounded by bespoke carbon panels and brightwork machined from solid aluminium, like the shoulder rails, the headlight ‘eyebrows' and even the McLaren Airbrake. Oh, and as you can see, those carbon panels cover the rear wheels too, accessed via - in McLaren's own words - "some of the most gorgeous hinges you've ever seen".

Despite being based on the 12C Monocell, the X-1 is wider and longer than the MP4 but weighs around the same (1,400kg), using the same interior architecture, albeit with some personalisation such as a titanium weave and tufted carpets.

Underneath, the same 3.8-litre twin-turbocharged V8 remains, powering the rear wheels, replete with 621bhp and many torques. It's also been thoroughly homologated for road use (it was tested for 625 miles) and because it's been nailed together by McLaren, expect it to offer Space Station levels of build quality.

"To see the stars," notes Yeo, "sometimes you need the absence of that blinding light. Looking at a car from a different perspective is what X-1 stands for."

What do you, humble Internet commentator, make of this very Jetsons-esque art-deco McLaren MP4-12C - a glimpse of the future?

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