25th July 2012
During 2011, McLaren Automotive held a design competition that asked students on the Royal College of Art’s vehicle design course to create a new lightweight, minimalist supercar. The ‘Autopure’ competition was overseen by McLaren design boss Frank Stephenson, who has said previously that serious work on a completely re-imagined minimalist supercar could be undertaken before the end of the decade.
The brief asked students to take the McLaren ethos of “everything for a reason” and “considering social and environmental trends for future vehicles…imagine a small vehicle that encapsulates the brand”.
Student Teeravit Hanharutaivan won the competition with his ‘MP4-S’, a single-seater for urban and track racing, built around a carbon fiber-reinforced plastic tub. Weight was a big factor for the designer who has stripped out almost all non-essential items, even going so far as taking out the dashboard and replacing it with a heads up display.
Another of the finalists was Marianna Merenmies’ McLaren JetSet (pictured). Merenmies said her design centred on aerodynamic efficiency. “The challenge was to create a sustainable vehicle that would appeal to the high-end customers typical to McLaren cars,” she said.
The JetSet is “an ultra-light single-seater with extensive use of carbonfibre in the chassis, body and wheels” and is powered by an electric motor. Intended to sell for £50,000, it is 3.7m long and 1.03m high, with a proposed drag coefficient of 0.20.
The move to a smaller car with a smaller engine makes sense, Stephenson said. “It’s about making more of less. It’s our job to push automotive technology — to make the car safer, lighter, more powerful, more efficient, eco-friendly and more fun to drive.”
Whether we’ll see this vehicle in McLaren showrooms any time soon is debatable but what’s interesting is the push for lighter, greener products even in the very high end luxury market. Composite materials combined with intelligent design are again seen as the answer for auto makers looking to shed the pounds from their vehicles.