Back in 1965, Bruce McLaren struck a deal to re-establish fabled race car manufacturer Elva Cars. He succeeded, and began designing a new breed of fearsome racers. The M1A soon soared off the production line, with a simplistic design and blistering engine. It had lowered wishbones, a transaxle gearbox and a thirst for victory; easily quenched in championships from the Master Series to the American Road Race of Champions.
Today, just as Bruce resurrected the Elva name half a century ago — it means ‘she goes!’ in French — McLaren has once again honoured the heritage carmaker with its latest model. The 2020 McLaren Elva celebrates the vintage speedsters, and takes the title of lightest ever road car created by McLaren Automotive. And just look at it.
The looks may be distracting, but the weight is the most impressive stat on the spec sheet. While no official kerb weight has been announced, McLaren’s lightest road car so far speeds in below the Senna’s 1,198kg. Reinforced with magnesium alloy sheeting, the car has slimmed down across the board; also featuring unique carbon fibre seats and carbon ceramic brakes to keep the weight down.
Each door is constructed of carbon fibre, the floor within the McLaren Elva is exposed carbon fibre, and an astonishing one-piece panel wraps around the entire nose of the vehicle to provide a clean, uninterrupted vision without any panel joins. These are dynamic aerodynamics; sleek streamlined lines to create a supercar of the future.
But what’s that? No windscreen? That’s right. In another of the Elva’s pioneering moves, McLaren has done away with a windscreen altogether. Instead, the Active Air Management System (AAMS), channels air through the nose of the Elva, before being directed up over the cockpit to create a ‘bubble’ of calm for driver and passenger. It sounds too good to be true, but McLaren guarantees it works — using a network of transverse and longitudinally mounted carbon fibre vanes across the bonnet to keep your hair unruffled.
The design quirks don’t end there. The trailing edge of the bodywork features a full-width active rear spoiler, the height and angle of which can be adjusted simultaneously to optimise aero balance. And the frowning rear lights, with thin red eyes piercing out from behind carbon fibre honeycomb, is one of the meanest, most magnificent pieces of design we’ve seen from McLaren in some time.
Inside the cockpit-cum-cocoon, a spar of carbon fibre runs between both driver, passenger and the two bespoke seats, themselves complete with six-point race harnesses. A centrally-mounted 8-inch high-resolution display errs on the right side of big, and features including satellite navigation, McLaren Track Telemetry, rear-view camera and climate control can be controlled through this touchscreen.
It’s all very impressive. And McLaren is offering an unrivalled level of personalisation with this latest motor. You can choose from many interior colour choices for the breathable, synthetic Ultrafabric and leathers; virtually limitless exterior paint colours and final touches that range from a delicate pin-stripe on the wheels to a blended full-body ‘contour’ that mixes multiple colours across the length of the vehicle. If you’re feeling extra extra, you could even stump up for 18ct white gold or platinum badges.
But we’re mainly interested in what’s under the bonnet. The 4.0-litre, twin-turbocharged McLaren V8 that powers the Elva comes from the same family of engines that powers the McLaren Senna and Senna GTR — and channels its power to the rear wheels through a seven-speed seamless-shift gearbox. And what power it is: you’ll storm from 0-60mph in less that three seconds, and tear to a top speed higher than the Senna.
Of course, it doesn’t come cheap. This Ultimate Series McLaren is priced from £1,425,000. And, with infinite personalisation possibilities, that price could easily rise. But this is the point of the Elva — it is intended to be unique. And it certainly is that.