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McLaren X-1 – The ‘X’ factor


McLaren Special Operations (MSO), the division of McLaren Automotive responsible for the delivery of special projects, has created a one-of-a-kind supercar for a private collector. It was first revealed at an exclusive automotive event called The Quail at Pebble Beach in mid-2012. It is called the McLaren X-1 and has a body that resembles nothing previously built by the company but is loosely based on the company’s ground breaking carbon MonoCell.

Manufacturer McLaren
Model X-1
Type Coupe
Transmission 7 Speed Automated Manual
Engine 3.8L V8
Year 2013
Contact Manufacturer


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It’s not every day that a team gets to create something unique in a project that would take the supercar, even by McLaren standards, to a different level. The challenge began with a special brief.

‘One of our clients who already owned a McLaren F1, a Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren and now a 12C, wanted a unique car,’ says MSO Programme Director, Paul MacKenzie. ‘The conversation began with our Executive Chairman Ron Dennis almost three years ago − before the 12C was even launched. 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.’

In a subsequent meeting, Paul Mackenzie and Design Director Frank Stephenson went to see him to start to explore the sort of car he wanted.
Says Frank Stephenson: ‘The key qualities the client desired were “timeless and classical elegance”.
‘The client wanted a competition between external designers – some outside the automotive world – and McLaren’s own designers,’ notes Stephenson. In the end, a design by McLaren’s Korean-born RCA graduate Hong Yeo was chosen, and completed under the direction of Stephenson.

One of the biggest design challenges faced by Yeo was that most cars that embody classic elegance and timeless values have front engines and rear-wheel drive proportions. This is the exact opposite of a mid-engined supercar. So a new visual language for the car had to be found which led to months of sketching and modelling to find that perfect visual balance.

The X-1 is the most ambitious example yet of MSO’s expertise. It has a whole new body made of advanced materials. Everything is bespoke, even down to the lights and wheels, necessitating new testing and homologation meaning the car took two and a half years to build, a process that began before the styling was signed off.
The X-1 had its own development programme because crucially, this wasn’t to be a fragile concept car that would never see tarmac. It was to be a usable car, road legal and capable of travelling at supercar speeds. It also had to comfortably seat two adults so although the 12C was already as shrink-wrapped as it could be from a packaging perspective, the ingenious flexibility of the MonoCell allowed the creation of a completely different form while maintaining the engineering purity of a McLaren.

As Mackenzie concludes: ‘this is the first fully client commissioned MSO car, but it certainly won’t be the last. The carbon fibre MonoCell chassis used in the 12C, is not only stiff and light, it allows for great flexibility in body styling and provides an affordable structure from which MSO can develop unique cars, as is demonstrated with McLaren X-1.’


Top Speed of 330 km/h
0-100 km/h in 3.3 seconds
616 Bhp


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