McLaren X-1 – rebodied MP4-12C supercar (2012)

Published: 17 August 2012

Sometimes, the best just isn’t good enough.

That’s why a wealthy anonymous car collector – garage already full of McLaren F1, McLaren Mercedes SLR and MP4-12C, and goodness knows how many fabulous non-McLarens – thought he’d like to produce his very own one-off supercar.

The new McLaren X-1, which makes its debut at The Quail, part of the Pebble Beach weekend, is the result.

McLaren X-1: a whole new body, including lights and wheels

The brainchild of the wealthy collector – who had a major hand in its design – and of McLaren Special Operations, the booming bespoke division of McLaren, the unique X-1 is not merely a repainted and retrimmed 12C. It has a totally bespoke body. Even the lights and wheels are different.

The car had its own unique development programme. This was no fragile concept. It had to be usable and road legal. It took two-and-a-half years to build. Development included 625 miles of testing, including two intensive stints at the Idiada circuit in Spain, driven by McLaren chief test driver Chris Goodwin. After testing, it was meticulously rebuilt to concours standard.

The result is a striking and controversially styled piano-black car, with lacquered carbonfibre body sides. Its most unusual feature is the enclosed rear wheels. The brief, to McLaren design director Frank Stephenson, was to design something ‘modern art deco’ and of ‘timeless elegance’.

Unlike the 12C, the car is peppered with art deco brightwork ‘jewellery’, including rails running from the nose, over the shoulderline and hips, to the rear of the glasshouse. These were specifically requested by the owner. The brightwork is all machined from solid aluminium and then nickel finished. It includes eyebrows over the bespoke headlights.

All carbon body for the McLaren X-1

The body is made from carbonfibre. Even the rear number plate illuminators are made from carbon. Other gorgeous details include a machined aluminium header tank cap and carbon finishers in the engine bay. The airbrake rear wing is also machined from solid aluminium and nickel plated. So is the McLaren logo on the nose.

Internally, the changes are less profound, although the special carbon trim has a unique titanium thread running through it, to give an almost 3D effect.

Wheels are diamond turned and finished in a tinted lacquer that matches the nickel-plated brightwork.

The new body is longer and wider than the normal 12C although, despite the revised roofline, the height is the same. The 12C carbon monocoque body is unchanged, and so are all mechanical components. The doors have also been specially developed, although they retain the dihedral action and the twin hinges.

One appearance – and then never seen again

The X-1 is like a rare piece of cherished art that makes one appearance then, in all likelihood, disappears forever.  The owner, apparently, has no plans to show it in public again.

MSO’s operations are booming. According to programme director Paul Mackenzie, at the beginning of this year 10 percent of McLaren 12C customers chose some level of personalization. By the end of the year it will be 20 percent, says Mackenzie. Mostly, it’s trim and paint finishers.

The X-1 is MSO’s most ambitious project to date. But, moving forward, even grander commissions are likely.

By Gavin Green

Contributor-in-chief, former editor, anti-weight campaigner, voice of experience