I have my issues with the McLaren P1's design. Alright, I have one issue: there is a FAKE WINDOW on a top-tier hypercar. Regardless! The car’s designer Frank Stephenson explained how he penned the thing, and gave a good tip on how to make a car look good in the process.
Here’s the video of Stephenson re-designing the P1 for a new audience, coming up on eight years after it made its debut:
Now, the P1, fake window aside, is a really charming car design in that it is extraordinarily curvaceous. It’s a swoopy machine, particularly for something that’s not actually any longer than a Toyota Corolla.
In describing the design work, Stephenson spends a lot of time talking about influence from looking at animals, and claims that he got the idea of adding little vortex generators (not greatly unlike what you’d see on a Mitsubishi Evo) from, staring at sailfish. He even produces some pictures of a sailfish painted in 2000s McLaren colors. I need to know where this fish is, but I’m getting away from the point. Stephenson claims that animals have a kind of “shrinkwrapped” look that makes them inherently eyecatching, and that sporty car design should follow this trend.
Again, I really don’t agree with this idea. There are plenty of cool-looking animals that don’t have all their muscles popping out, like seals, or bugs that look like leaves. If there was a car that was designed to look like a round seal, I’m sure people would buy it.
Still, Stephenson’s discussion of draping as little car as you can over the necessary components is a straightforward one. As you can see, he starts off drawing the wheels:
And then quickly moves on to laying out where the driver will sit and how much space the engine and transmission will take up:
Everything else covers that with as little excess space as possible, and you end up with a low, charming design. It’s not a question of elaborate proportions, but it is a simple way to make a car look good. It’s honest! Unlike that side window that leads to a vent and nothing else.