Vellum Venom: 2012 McLaren MP4-12C

Sajeev Mehta
by Sajeev Mehta
vellum venom 2012 mclaren mp4 12c

The MP4-12C has a wonderful backstory for those who love and admire the McLaren brand. The McLaren F1’s instant Zeus-like status is a large part of the mystique, but not necessarily all of it. That said, for everyone outside of this world (and price point) you are forgiven if you wouldn’t even consider this over the similarly priced Ferrari 458 Italia….as I probably fit into that category.

A large portion of what makes a super car (in the purest, Lamborghini Miura type of way) so amazing is the character in its sheet metal (or carbon fiber), and the imagery in those creases. Symbolism is also important: Prancing Horses, Horny Bulls and even the stuff inside the Corvette’s crossed flags give someone a concept to latch on to, a reason to be proud of the huge capital expenditure they are about to swallow. Too bad McLaren’s red wave emblem looks like something any junior graphic design student can make while picking his nose. But I digress…

I do quite like the lower valence: charcoal grilles that float in nothingness is a unique take on the supercar schnoz. And while I think it’s a bit busy compared to the purposeful design of the original McLaren F1, at least it stands out in a crowd.

This is a good time to note how a proper Super Car has a nice amount of overhang. I will take the leap of faith and assume the MP4-12C is designed to meet Europe’s pedestrian safety standards, and make a blanket statement: we need sleeker, more aerodynamic noses for everyone’s benefit.

The doors also do something pretty cool. I wonder if their design is too complicated and fussy compared to the rest of the package. But if the F1 had it, the MP4-12C needs them. Side note: the Gallardo needs a proper set of Lambo doors, too!

From the front three-quarters view, you can see how the bumper/grille design emulates the wispy side coves for engine cooling. It’s pretty trick, even if I think black wheels detract from the package. Considering the whole vehicle looks like it could be made by one of the many super car makers in this cottage industry, a set of wheels with the authority of the Lamborghini Countach’s “revolver chamber” design are needed.

Do you feel this car hails from the automaker that gave us the F1? I’m not feelin’ it, son…especially since that greenhouse doesn’t hold three people with the driver in the center. Tragic.

The integrated vents (that probably do something epic) most certainly look awesome. I love seeing subtle, well-crafted details like this.

Speaking of details, thank goodness for Super Car hips and tumblehome! Granted, we can never have this in an affordable vehicle, but work of the late Bill Mitchell was close enough. Oh, to feel that good about Detroit Iron again!

While the speed bullets are a little fussy to me, these side view mirrors are quite appealing. But considering the MP4-12C’s extensive use of Carbon Fiber in the McLaren tradition, maybe they are just fine, going with the carbon fiber mirror housing themselves. I’d probably spend the extra coin to get McLaren’s matching carbon fiber arms…which I believe do exist, but cannot verify due to McLaren’s unbelievably slow and obtuse website. Web 2.0 junkies do not approve.

The rear three-quarters perspective shows off the necessary “speed holes” you always see on Super Cars to make them fast and sexy. (Hat Tip to Homer Simpson for that wonderful phrase.) My problem here? The speed holes aren’t as integrated (or painted body color) like many a Super Car before this one. From the materials, the shape of each hole, the cross section of each hole and the patches of flat black trim, this is a busy design. It’s begging for the integration seen on the quarter windows in the photo above.

Problem solved. The rear end is simply awesome from a dog’s eye view. Which is what most people will see as this monster disappears into the sunset. And while I could go on about the sleek integration of this design, I will say one thing instead: the high mount exhaust tips are very trick. They no longer exist by themselves, like a perfect couple that’s perfectly in love, the rear of the MP4-12C is a single entity.

Wait…one more thing: the integrated, smoked taillights in the rear louvers are so awesome that it needs to be a retrofit for Ferrari Testarossas around the world. It feels so good to see new lighting technology implemented without drawing attention to itself, until actually necessary. Death to Altezzas?

Yes, no doubt. This car proves why oversized lighting pods are officially out of style. Death to Altezzas!

Even the rear marker/reflector lights mimic a character line in the MP4’s rump. Somewhere, Mr. Walter Gropius is smiling from a sky high vantage point.

Oh yeah, the engine is quite pretty too, but that’s not really the point behind the Vellum Venom series. Kids don’t normally sketch dashboards and engine covers in the margins of their school notebooks, they stick to the body. And can you believe a phone took a picture this nice?

Join the conversation
2 of 9 comments
  • -Cole- -Cole- on Mar 12, 2012

    That's a good point. Where are the taillights? Also you don't need to put parenthetical content in italics all the time, makes it harder to read.

  • CJinSD CJinSD on Mar 12, 2012

    Some aspects of the styling are almost Porsche-boring, but it doesn't bother me. All they need to do is offer a naturally aspirated engine and a manual transmission. The rest is good enough.

  • LYNN DELANEY Mine is a 2001 Pure White Miata. I bought it at Concord Mazda. I love it but Imay be about to get rid of it I guess. It's been in my garage for quite awhile. Why? 1. I don't have a lot of money (I'm a retired teacher) And I've had issues with it that require financing. For example when you insert the key and turn it nothing happens. Why? I got it at Concord Mazda and somehow. it came to my condo shared garage to die and has remained such to this day. If you want to experience it you put the key in the keyhole and turn it but silence ensues and you wonder why but you know it's because the key was "programmed and it worked when you brought it home but not since.I'm told it requires a new battery but I've not had the financial energy to deal with it. I love my Miata but will I keep it? I'm unsure. Next step? Install a new battery...When it came home from Concord Mazda it was perfect for a quick minute. I tested it. I drove it around my block in Oakland, California just one time. That was the end of it. Since them I'm told it needs a new battery. It's a 2001. Shall I go ahead and splurge?
  • Dusterdude @El scotto , I'm aware of the history, I have been in the "working world" for close to 40 years with many of them being in automotive. We have to look at situation in the "big picture". Did UAW make concessions in past ? - yes. Do they deserve an increase now ? -yes . Is their pay increase reasonable given their current compensation package ? Not at all ! By the way - are the automotive CEO's overpaid - definitely! (That is the case in many industries, and a separate topic). As the auto industry slowly but surely moves to EV's , the "big 3" will need to be producing top quality competitive vehicles or they will not survive.
  • Art_Vandelay “We skipped it because we didn’t think anyone would want to steal these things”-Hyundai
  • El scotto Huge lumbering SUV? Check. Unknown name soon to be made popular by Tiktok ilk? Check. Scads of these showing up in school drop-off lines? Check. The only real over/under is if these will have as much cachet as Land Rovers themselves? A bespoken item had to be new at one time. Bonus "accepted by the right kind of people" points if EBFlex or Tassos disapproves.
  • El scotto No, "brothers and sisters" are the core strength of the union. So you'll take less money and less benefits because "my company really needs helped out"? The UAW already did that with two-tier employees and concessions on their last contract.The Big 3 have never, ever locked out the UAW. The Big 3 have agreed to every collective bargaining agreement since WWII. Neither side will change.