No Windshield? No Problem, Says McLaren

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.

Looks good coming or going. Image via Car and Driver

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

79 thoughts on “No Windshield? No Problem, Says McLaren

          1. Been using my bidet with out TP for months…
            The trick is to get a model with a hot air drier… they exist, I’ve been using one for months.

            I calculated payback time when I bought it at about 5 years, with the price of TP on the rise (I’ve seen it double what it normally is) that time has been slashed, and I don’t need to worry about getting into knife fights over TP at the store.

      1. Dunno if the link works… It’s basically a sheet of plastic wrapped around in a circle and placed in front of the rider’s face. The wind builds up air pressure inside the ring, which keep the rain and the other stuff out.

  1. Men of a certain age can experience a problem due to lack of roof, never mind lack of windscreen: head sunburn through increasingly thinning hair. Sadly I need a roof these days.

  2. … til it rains, or you get blow-by from a semi, or you end up drafting another car, or you’re sitting still in traffic huffing the fumes, or… oh wait, those are the concerns of poor people that cannot afford more than a dozen cars or so.

  3. I think it’s probably a non-issue, given most of these will spend their lives in a garage or driving less than 30mph through town.

    Though if I were to make it a DD, I wouldn’t get my shiny new toy full of rock chips by following too closely. Just hanging back where a stone has already bounced once or twice before I get to it helps a lot, in my experience.
    I’d also wear some safety glasses for super cheap insurance. If I did happen to catch a small stone somewhere else in my face…well I didn’t start off that pretty anyway. :)

    1. Hanging back helps, but at least twice I got large repair-required rock chips on my windshield from vehicles in the next lane. Sorry, but a windshield is a requirement for me.

    1. I’ve known guys who worked the garbage trucks, they would definitely by trying to work the compactor to fire “garbage juice” into one of those if it came in range.

  4. I’ve driven Little British Cars with Brooklands-style windscreens or no windscreens, that did pretty well at not leaving me with bugs in the teeth. Triumph T6’s seem to be really good at this. But no matter how well they do at preventing bugs and stuff when you’re hammering down the road, they all suck if you’re in a heavy rainstorm and traffic slows down, or you get to a stoplight, or you have to stop for an errand. I take my Spitfire out in any weather because it takes all of three seconds to reach back and pull the top up and over my head. This car is beautiful but it’d be a crummy end to an evening if you leave the restaurant and the valet pulls up with a car that has 10cm of water in the footwells. This is why so many British cars have new seatpans welded in, because of too many times caught with the top down and no owner nearby to close it up. Sure, these won’t rust out because they’re not made of cheap poorly coated steel, but I’ve never had a car whose drain vents didn’t get blocked up by car interior debris eventually and then you have two little wading pools where your feet should be.

    1. my wee bro had a spitfire, (I was into minis at the time) they all have new seat and floorpans even with a hard top permanently installed. British cars of that era just liked to have more water inside than out. and mayb they did a better job for export cause you could hear them rusting if you stood close enough in the uk.

    2. I had a 1966 Corvette. When I pulled up the rugs, I was surprised to find capplugs in the foot wells. In principle they could be pulled out to drain water, if you knew they were there.

  5. Aaah! those were the days when I drove my 1966 TR-250 with just a tonneau cover and later my 1969 MGB GT. That one replaced the 2
    TR.. got tired of showing up for work and my friends telling me my hair not being tidy! so said one, “get rid of that thing you drive!” I responded… man rain or shine, that is the only way to drive! I wish I had kept both!

    1. They probably signal their concern for the environment in other ways like a bumper sticker saying “My other car is a custom stretched H1 limo with a built in hot-tub.

      1. Bhagwan Shri Rajneesh had a fleet of custom Rolls Royces, including at least one with a built-in external “pool”, bigger than most bathtubs but a little smaller than most hot tubs.

    2. Efficiency isn’t an issue, however speed is. I wonder if the cost to aerodynamics is outweighed by the increased weight savings? If anyone has a spare few million, I would like to see a race between the windshield equipped Elva and the windshield-less Elva.

      1. I meant efficient in terms of energy in speed or acceleration out, but not environmentally efficient in terms of energy in distance out – because that is a totally different machine with lower acceleration and a much lower average speed.

  6. Have to wonder about ballistic protection that might be lacking. Of course, no car windshield offers that much protection (it does have to be weak enough that your skull will survive impact), but most windshields can take a bug or pebble. Wonder about this one.

    1. It’s basically like riding a motorbike. If anyone drove this without a full helmet and ear plugs I imagine they would have a pretty lousy experience. In my opinion, anyway. Can’t stand riding without a helmet, even aside from safety. You slowly go deaf, but not from the engine noise like people think—that’s low and rumbly enough to not really be a danger. It’s the wind noise that does it. And the wind blows around sunglasses and gets in your eyes. I’m not a steampunk weirdo so I’m not gonna wear old RAF goggles, either.

      1. Hah, I can one up you guys – I pulled onto the highway and thwacked the throttle open on my sport bike, before I closed the visor on my full face helmet. A dove took off from the scrub beside the road and hit me right in the bridge of my nose; thought it broke my nose! Closed my visor once my vision cleared, but things didn’t smell right. When I arrived at work, I realized the impact had emptied the dove’s bowels all over the inside of my helmet, and my face. Yuck.

  7. There’s a story that used to go around the motorcycling folk that I used to hang around with (nothing suspicious about “used to”, we all just went in different directions with our lives). The story involved a practice of certain badge clubs to carry used spark plugs in their jacket pockets.

    Any motorist who caused a problem would find a motorcycle in front, and a used spark plug being released to bounce off the road and into the grille or windscreen. A spark plug weighs an ounce or two, maybe 60 grams, now there wouldn’t much of a relative velocity between the plug and the car, so not a lot of difference in kinetic energy, but it would still be a bit scary watching one bounce off your windscreen. I can’t imagine what a similar mass would do here. What if a truck ahead of you throws a tyre tread? I’ve seen that happen, lumps of tyre rubber flying all over the place.

    I’ll admit to riding the motorcycle with my helmet visor up, but I’m usually tucked behind the fairing at anything above 50 or 60km/h.

    1. I’ve heard the same story except with a bag of golf balls for some reason. Somebody cut you off? …Hand them a golf ball. Spare spark plugs makes way more sense. Also, FYI—if you chip of a piece of the ceramic insulator, that thing will instantly destroy tempered glass with the slightest impact. Something about a combination of its Mohs hardness combined with the way it breaks into a super-sharp cleavage plane.

      But the real truth is that it’s just a good idea to have a spare plug :)

  8. You can do something similar with motorcycle windscreens. With the windscreen adjusted at the right angle and moving at a fast speed, the wind would blow up and over the helmet. It made it much easier to see on rainy days. The rain would blow up and over my head. No water would get on my visor so I’d have a perfectly clear view through the rain.

  9. I hope they include a high speed video Selfie camera so the driver can capture the moment a June Beetle or Bumble Bee strikes them in the face like getting hit with a .22 round.

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