The Italian Junkyard

Thoughts, ideas, criticism about cars. Interesting news and facts from the world of the automobile. Events in Italy and Modena. What you can find elsewhere, filtered through the eyes of a discerning enthusiast. Design, style, everything on the chopping block. Nobody is safe anymore.

Friday, October 2, 2009

8.2 Giving birth to the McLaren Project 11

IED is a renowned and established design school with various headquarters in various cities of Europe, and its rapidly expanding its network to South America as well. Among the fields covered by its division there is probably the most famous of them, Transportation Design.
For those at least a bit into cars it should be something completely new, as every now and then a project is developed independently or in collaboration with an affirmed car maker. Probably the most famous episode was the 2005 Ferrari Design Concept, when 20 project from various design schools around the world were chosen for the final selection of what should have been the shape of the future Ferrari. Eventually, 2 out of 4 winners were IED projects.
Then in 2008 an independent design study under the name of the Maserati Chicane was showcased at the Geneva Autoshow.
These projects usually involve last year student (the course takes three years), and they are a part of their final thesis. Kind of cool isn't it?

I've been at a workshop at IED this spring, just to check it out.
I'm not even remotely capable of drawing comprehensively what's going on in my head, so I didn't have some expectations broken at the end of the day. It has been a cool and interesting experience nonetheless, as I had the occasion to see a more direct and even personal student-teacher relationship, the whole school seemed to be made to allow students to express their own ideas and realize them in something “real”. There were some of those guys that pretend and act as they were the last artist on Earth and feel to be like the only interpret of the human feeling, but I guess that's kinda unavoidable in such environments.
Regardless of them, it was an intriguing place, very cozy and “easy”, exactly the contrary of my university basically. I'd like to say “LOL”, but I simply can't.

By the way, it shouldn't be a surprise now knowing McLaren went to IED of Turin (the main headquarter when it comes to automotive design) to find new ideas and inspiration for their brand new project.
14 groups were created out of the 39 students, and each of them had to enter three projects.
To have an idea of what they were about to face, all of them were invited to Woking, McLaren headquarter to check it out in the flesh, to see what McLaren is all about, its heritage, technology and brand philosophy.
If you thought it was a cool place to study in, now It's getting even better I guess.

After all the 42 projects were finished, McLaren picked one project per each group, so that the students had to focus on them alone and develop them, looking forward for the final selection.

Various characteristics were considered judging the entries, both technical and stylistic.
To be honest, there isn't much technical going on at IED.
Being a technical person and a Mechanical Engineering student (and hopefully an actual engineer pretty soon) I was pretty interested in this aspect when I visited them, so I asked it to the Drawing teacher.
Candidly, he answered there were just a couple of courses “technical”, admitting they were nothing comparable to what's going on at an engineering university, but they were meant just to provide a minimal base to the students. I was actually interested in the aerodynamic field, and he answered (well, if you don't design a wall, there shouldn't be much of a problem”...oh really?
Perhaps that works (hypothetically) from a drag point of view, but we all know aerodynamics is much more complex than that. Ask Volkswagen once again, and their flying Veyron mules...

So, regardless of this, the final winners were chosen, three out of 14, and “celebrated”.
Not much actually, probably because both McLaren hasn't been a “big” name recently or perhaps they just wanted to keep it quiet as indeed you can see quite a few hints of what lately became the MP4-12C, especially in the M-Eleven B project, which indeed won the first prize.
Probably the codename P11 used for the program was disclosed to the students, as some of their entries's names recall it.

Among them, the Manta is probably the one to receive more attention. Perhaps it was due its sleeker and lighter look, mainly thanks to the fully glassed cockpit, or because of its animal heritage.
To fully appreciate the relationship between the car and the manta we are used to, you have to observe the renderings in which the upper part of the concept is completely blackened.
Still, with the painting and lights applied to it, it appears too short and tall rather than wide as you'd expect considering the inspiration of the project.
Some attention was gathered by its aerodynamics study, still I can't help but think “what do they knew about that stuff?”. Looking at the drawings I'd really like to know why they chose to let the air enter the car in a certain point an exit from another instead of the opposite, what were the principles guiding them.
Reading that the car is meant to be the best on the market both for the performance on a track and its usability on the road makes me smile, as that's just a drawing, there is so much still missing for having an actual car it's just pointless to state that.

Don't get me wrong, I like design schools such as the IED is, I think they are really important and I really appreciate their creations.
I'd just prefer if they'd just stick with their own function, creating a good looking object and just that. Providing tips, new ideas and solutions, it's all a part of the deal, but stating the car has that engine, can reach that speed, or that it is capable of a certain performance, it's just blanting.
The difference between that and one of those ugly things I drew in the past is that mine are always ugly, and that no one saw them. But if you want to know, the last one I drove has the Bugatti Veyron's engine, just with 8 turbos and 3.000 bhp. It also has an electric motor and batteries integrated in the chassis, for a electric-only range of 300 km. Oh, and it weights only 1.000 kg. Really!

I like that McLaren created such a program for their new car, involving young designers and cultivating their passion and keeping the dream alive, and I also know McLaren never bothered to check if all those claimed figures and facts were even remotely feasible, they just checked the styles, which is what a school as the IED is all about.
End of the rant.

At the end of the day there isn't much left of the Manta in the MP4-12C, especially if you think about the aerodynamics background a winning F1 team and really competent, wealthy and expert company can have.
There is actually something left from the Vortex concept rear end, the one awarded for its aerodynamics aspects.

On the other hand, the M-Eleven B looks much more “real”, albeit futuristic. The lines are strong and the body is muscular without being vulgar.
No wonder that it won, even being probably the most simple of the three, especially looking at the renderings.

The MP11 probably suffered from a bit of anger management issues, the details are a bit too busy without a precise path, in my humble and ignorant opinion.
I always thought it was a half finished job, with the M-Eleven B being the perfect evolution.

Right now we only have the sketches and concepts, we still miss the actual car...

Keep scrolling for images of the remaining entries.

McLaren Can-Am, best interpretation of the brand:

McLaren M1-06 Blacktiger, awarded for the coherence with the input provided but McLaren's engineers:

McLaren Competizione:

McLaren Road Burner:

McLaren HJ:

McLaren X11 Nemesis:

McLaren Silverstone:

McLaren Ayrton:

Don't ask me why, but I see a few hints of the Ferrari 458 Italia in that rear end...

McLaren Astore:

McLaren Tomahawk.

Images sources: one, two and three

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