Of all the cars, none are more venerated than the McLaren F1. Sure people love Porsches in general. BMWs. Ferraris. Subarus! But I can’t think of one, one and one alone, that gets the attention of the McLaren F1. Even we have a whole article about its dedicated laptop. There is nothing more to say about it, nothing more to see. And then I found this!
A brief bout of covid consumerism drew me to ordering a rather large stack of Car Styling magazines directly from Japan, increasing my collection from “perilously large” to “potentially deadly should it fall on me.” I’ve bought issues of this out-of-print periodical before, just never directly from Japan. Hell, when I was in Japan at the last Tokyo Motor Show, I bought myself an old copy of MotorFan and called it a day.
I’ve loved Car Styling for years. I remember finding a handful of copies in the reference library of the Cal Auto Museum when I interned there the summer of ... ‘07? ‘08? Something around then. Every page seemed to reveal new and exciting treasures. How happy I was to see the design of some 1970s Alfa Romeo painstakingly analyzed, detail by detail. Then I would turn the page and see the design proposals that didn’t quite make it to production. Past futures that were never quite realized.
It is with this same eagerness that I opened up Car Styling 90, the September 1992 issue, with the early iteration of the McLaren F1 on the cover. The high-mounted door mirrors showed great promise.
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And there, as I opened the page, was what I could only expect from Car Styling: a design sketch I’d never seen of the F1. The car is longer, swoopier, more contemporary. If you’d told me this was an Isuzu or Mitsubishi concept car from the same era, I’d have believed you. A full-width rear wing sits across the back of the car, something the production F1 so boldly did without.
There are deeper vents, and a chunkier look to the whole car. The production F1 is a little computer mouse looking thing, short and low and abrupt. It’s a classic sports car of the 1960s, done with the tech and style of the 1990s. This concept is a bit more elongated and dreamy.
We get a few more glimpses at different ideas of what the F1 could look like. A vent springs up behind the door in one. It touches the bottom of the car in another. One has what almost looks like a clear bumper panel, blocky and sharp. Another is almost melted. All of them, at least, do have the same incredibly low nose, sniffing at the pavement. There is no big grille to the car, no angry face. It has a plain, almost honest appearance. That is its trademark, and that’s what I am most happy stuck with the F1 through to production.