I touched the seven-figure no-windshield McLaren Elva last night and it was like that scene in Ratatouille where the bad guy tastes food so good he gets transported back to his childhood. This car is like a Hot Wheels toy. One of the dumb ones that looks like a fish or something. Except, in real life, it’s so iconoclastic and absurd that it stands out even among other supercars.
I’ve been going to car shows since I could stand and playing with toys even longer. Now I’m lucky enough to even drive elite hardware once in a while. It’s not that often that a new super-fast supercar (hypercar? Megacar?) really blows my mind sitting still. But the Elva’s so far over the top that I have to admit I’m... well I don’t know if “impressed” is the right word but I definitely respect the company’s commitment to making something memorable.
In a brief presentation, McLaren’s people explained that the “Elva” name is a callback to a collaboration from McLaren’s O.G. racing days. As iterated in the press release:
“The Elva name celebrates the renowned Bruce McLaren-designed M1A and McLaren-Elva M1A [Mk I], M1B [Mk II] and M1C [Mk III] of the 1960s. Produced as ‘customer’ versions of the innovative and exciting Group 7 McLaren race cars, the McLaren-Elva sportscars embodied many of the pioneering design and engineering principles that are integral to the McLaren road cars produced today.”
“Elva” is more fun than “M1A,” at least.
We also learned that production’s now going to be limited to 249 cars, down from the original plan of 399 cars. Price stands at $US1.69 ($3) million; output claim is over 800 horsepower. No curb weight’s been disclosed yet but the Elva is still being described as McLaren’s “lightest” road car. You’d sure hope so on account of the absence of any roof or windshield.
Speaking of which, a little insight on the practical qualities of driving an Elva: the interior’s built to withstand rain, because I guess it has to be. I asked one of McLaren’s people about the limitations of the naked cockpit’s waterproofing and the answer was cheeky: “Well, I wouldn’t park it in a lake.”
The seats are made of something called “ultrafabric,” which feels a little like a cross between leather and the neoprene stuff wetsuits are made of.
Then there’s the issue of wind.
You might have already seen Top Gear’s video explaining the direction of airflow. But basically, the Elva is supposed to protect its occupants from getting their eyeballs instantly dehydrated by a front scoop that actually spits air up after it’s sucked up off the ground.
It seems as though you don’t have to drive it with a helmet, but even McLaren’s staff seemed sceptical about how comfortable you’d be without headgear. Not that it really matters of course, as most of these will undoubtedly be bought as pieces of art for private museums.
I’d just go for a pair of Mad Max goggles and send it.
One design aspect I really like is the positioning of the mode setting knobs. McLarens let you configure traction control and transmission response between “chill” and “hang the hell on,” usually with clickers in the centre console. Now those are mounted at the top of the gauge cluster, which I think looks pretty cool.
Practical considerations aside, I think the McLaren Elva is pretty sweet. Then again, maybe it’s the Youabian Puma overachieving little brother. It doesn’t matter, you’ll probably never see one. But if you do, you’re not going to forget it.