All the best sports cars look like they’re moving when they’re just sitting there, and the lines on McLaren’s newest limited-edition plaything redefine that look of speed standing still. Maybe it’s the sneering headlights or the streamlined, reverse-1966 Batmobile styling. Whatever it is, the 804-horsepower two-seater project Elva looks like it’s leaping off the line into the future.
But this future is free from the last thing we’d expect to see removed from any vehicle, especially a $1.7 million supercar — the windshield. Now that the headphone jack has been deemed expendable, it seems that nothing is sacred. The Elva is already a permanent convertible with no windows.
Though McLaren didn’t start this weird and windowless fire, the Elva is meant to fan the flames of futurism. She joins the ranks of a few windshield-free models from Ferrari, Mercedes-Benz, and Aston Martin. In the other guy’s cars, you’ll need a helmet above 30MPH unless you love the thunderous sounds of air buffeting and blown-out hair. It’s a young idea with a few bugs to work out.
What the Elva brings to the road and track is a solution to this problem that didn’t need an answer. McLaren calls it the Active Air Management System (AAMS). Basically, the car guides air up and over the cab to create a “bubble of calm”. You can see it come to life in the wind tunnel demo embedded below. Stick around for a Top Gear tour of a model version.
Here’s how it works: when the car exceeds 30MPH, the deflector panel on the nose flips up. Air coming in the low-slung grille is angled upward inside the deflector, and as it exits, this bent air mixes with air forced up and over the deflector to create a force field around the cab. The result? A seamless sea of smeared scenery inside an air pocket that’s quiet enough for conversation, and still enough for lighting $100 cigars with ease. Smooth sailing indeed — at least until the car in front of you kicks up a pebble.
A Few Bugs to Work Out
You’re right, it is a ridiculous idea. When questioned about the consequences of bugs entering the Elva’s rarefied air, the project’s chief engineer said that ‘it depends on the mass of the bug’.
When pressed for answers about how the AAMS would deal with rocks, there was only unintelligible murmuring among the reps.
Nature isn’t the only issue here. The AAMS causes drag and balance issues, so the Elva needs an active, algorithmically-controlled rear wing to compensate. You’d never guess from the lines, though — the back end looks great in spite of (or perhaps because of) this corrective measure.
To the average, single-car owning consumer, this whole concept can seem like a maddeningly stupid waste of time and money. But let’s say you’re in league with billionaires and happen to be in the market for a new sports car. Not a daily driver, mind — you’re a billionaire, you have Jeeves to take you to stockholder meetings. This is a new toy we’re talking about. Don’t you want one that stands out from all the other rolling fortunes at the country club?
You’d better hurry, because McLaren is only making 399 of these things. And if you’re in the US, try to take delivery elsewhere, because all the Elvas headed there will have windshields.
Main image via Car and Driver
Thumbnail image via McLaren