By on March 12, 2012


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?







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9 Comments on “Vellum Venom: 2012 McLaren MP4-12C...”

  • avatar

    The front grill is creepy, like a shark mouth.

    It says “Come a little closre buddy, I have something to tell you” and then bites your head off.

  • avatar

    there’s been a million words by a million monkeys about this car from martin brundle to jeremy clarkson

    to people outside of the US, the McLaren name is gold. I think everyone in the F1 world knows about New Zealander Bruce McLaren, the papaya orange cars and the multitude of drivers from Prost to Senna to the current English lads.

    The McLaren swish may seem as as meaningless as the Nike swoosh but its been forged by dozens and dozens of victories that truth be told, makes victories in other forms of motorsport seem trivial.

    Be that as it may, this car is probably too colourless to be anything but a committee design. Its just not emotional enough to be a superlative supercar. There’s a lot of nice details but it doesn’t gel into a proper car.

    I feel the same way about the Ferrari f458. The numbers say its good however it just lacks something that the 10 year old Gallardo has.

    The Gallardo is a worse car but its a better ‘supercar’.

    • 0 avatar

      When did McLaren start using that logo? It wasn’t on the F1 20 years ago.

      The best thing about the Gallardo I think is the sound, the very definition of spine-tingling.

  • avatar
    Franz K

    Well I for one , in light of all Ferraris’ of the last two decades having morphed into pretentious F1 wanna be track cars . finding more homes with Hollywood celebs than actual drivers and become more Automotive Jewelry and about the Image and Brand , not the car ( average new Ferrari ownership is now at 6 months with usually less that 3,000 miles on the odometer after five years off the lot )

    Heck if I were in the mood to have one last Mid Life crisis mobile it’d be the McLaren hands down !

    Say what you will about the styling ( complain all you want about your need for Brand Recognition ) the McLaren , unlike its Ferrari counterpart is designed to be Driven , not looked at , and has no pretentiousness to being a wanna be Track Day car ( you’re kidding yourself if you think for a minute that Any Road legal Ferrari is in any way a streetable Race Car . Seeing as I’ve owned a few I doubt any of you here are in a position to present a Valid argument to that statement )

    So take your pick gentlemen.

    Buy /lust after a car to satisfy your Ego ( Ferrari )

    Or buy/lust after a car because you actually want to drive it ( McLaren MP4-12C )

    I’ll guess having kept up lately with the posts here the last couple of weeks : the majority of you will go for Image over Function

  • avatar
    The Doctor

    The MP4’s design is not one that instantly pleases the eye, but I absolutely guarantee that in 10 years time it’ll be the only one of the current crop of supercars that looks half-bearable.

    The F1 was always seen as slightly dowdy in comparison to the XJ220 and EB110 but is the only one of those three that doesn’t scream “1990s” today.

    The 458 is the current pin-up because it takes an awful lot to make people think that anything with a black horse on it is ugly (which makes the 400 an achievement of sorts). However, in 5 years time, when something newer has come out, people will be able to look at it dispassionately and realise that, like the 360 and 430, it’s a bit of a minger. It has those disgusting slits by the headlamps and the rear end is busier than Joan Rivers’ plastic surgeon.

    • 0 avatar

      I disagree on the MP4 and feel that this design will age poorly. Inthe context of your comments on the F1, this one also feels a bit dowdy compared to it’s peers. The MP4 is definitely not the ugliest supercar by any stretch, but it’s just a tick or two off of being a real looker.

      However, I agree with you on the 458 completely. It’s brilliant from a technical standpoint but the aesthetic design of most of the modern Ferraris befuddles me.

  • avatar

    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.

  • avatar

    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.

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