roofless, no windshield, no windows, one meter high, 815 hp, and just over a ton in weight, the Elva is the most radical road McLaren of all time. And at MARCA Coches we have had the privilege of putting ourselves at your controls on an unforgettable day in Monaco. Only 149 units of this gem will be produced, which pays tribute to Elva (the company that made customer versions of McLaren racing cars in the 60s). And Elvis Presley, who shone in the cinema at the wheel of one of these models in the 1966 film ‘Spinout’.
A bit of that celebrity air of the King of Rock & Roll is what you will feel when driving these 1.7 million euros made by car through the glamorous Principality of Monaco. Old-fashioned sportyWho does not feel nostalgic when seeing the images, in black and white, of the times when racing drivers chased their dreams in vehicles of a rudimentary construction, devoid of the most basic safety elements, where the value was directly proportional to the glory they would get. It is not that risking your life more or less in vain is something worthy of praise, but the romanticism is in the heroic instinct of each of them when risking much more than common sense would advise.
After Bruce McLaren began to dominate the races with his M1A in the early 1960s, the first orders for road versions appeared, especially with the publicity that the model had in the movie ‘Spinout’ in which Elvis Presley, among two rock ballads, shone on the asphalt and female hearts with the same accelerated cadence. As the McLaren racing team had only half a dozen elements and did not have an industrial infrastructure, the solution was to entrust the execution of these versions for private clients to the small English manufacturer Elva Cars which, traditionally, dedicated itself to assemble 24 units that quickly found an owner. We jump 56 years and, in 2021, McLaren Automotive begins to deliver to 149 customers around the world the reincarnation of this model, appropriately named Elva which, like the original, lacks a windshield, side windows, or roof and retains the general principles of your ancestor.
Starting with the featherweight thanks, above all, to construction made entirely of carbon fiber (part of which is exposed) and which allows it to be the lightest road McLaren ever.
McLaren Elva data sheet but also because of the central configuration of the engine and superlative performance levels, because it is overflowing with power -815 hp / 800 Nm, even more than in the mounted version of this V8 mounted on the Senna- which, in conspiracy with its meager 1,148 kilos (empty) allows records from another world, as well attested by a 0 to 100 km / h in 2.8 s (or 0-200 km / h in 6.8) or its 327 km / h top speed.
These are numbers typical of an elite McLaren, which is part of the Ultimate Series lineage of the English brand, of which it is the fifth element, after F1 (1994, 106 units in total), P1 (2013, 375 units), Senna (2018, 500) and Speedtail (2020, 106). McLaren initially planned to build 399 units of the Elva, but the pandemic wiped out the plans and finances of the English brand (which had a more than 60% drop in sales in 2020, leading to massive layoffs, sale of a stake in the racing division and a kind of mortgage on the company headquarters in Woking) and that figure has been adjusted to 149.
“We will not build any Ultimate Series models until the second half of the decade, although the first 100% electric McLaren should only be a reality in 2028-29.
MIKE FLEWITT, MCLAREN CEO
Also because large investments are being made in motor electrification, which will absorb a large part of the R&D funds in the coming years, as Mike Flewitt, its CEO admits: “We will not manufacture any model of the Ultimate series until at least the second half of the decade, after this period where we launched three in no time and I believe that by 2026 all of our cars will be hybrids, although the first 100% electric McLaren should only be a reality in 2028-29. “Behind the wheel in Monaco, McLaren territory for this dynamic experience with the Elva there is no more appropriate place than Monaco, starting point and destination for a trip through the mountains of the French Riviera.
After the whirlwind of emotions generated by his majestic habit (made with only three huge panels -almost sculptures-, the sides three meters long), the first surprise comes just when entering the car (after the doors of scissors -also called dihedral-as is a tradition in the house and entering standing up so that one can sit with the help of the steering wheel rim, the seat is so low): the seat position adjustment does not follow the traditional vector pattern (up, down, forward, backward), allowing you to reach the desired position with a single movement (if the seat is lowered, the backrest reclines a little).
The banquets with carbon fiber structure and integrated headrests (inside which there are speakers for each occupant) are covered with a four-layer material to eliminate moisture and not heat up, something important in a fully open car (alternatively there is a skin aniline with a protective coating). The seats are shorter than normal to allow occupants to support their feet when entering and exiting, and behind the back are guards that pop up vertically to protect occupants’ heads from an impending rollover situation. In front of the driver is the digital instrumentation, which moves with the steering column when its height needs to be adjusted, its information is completed by the central 8 “touch screen (fixed on a carbon fiber mount, of course)
which contains all complementary data, as well as a multitude of applications, with circuit telemetry data, reversing camera, navigator map, etc. (here we can also define one of the 15 levels of tolerance to skidding ). One of the helmets can be stored/fixed to the passenger’s feet, the other under the body cover behind the passenger compartment, but in that case the scarce 50 liters of the closest to a trunk that is in this car disappear. Cover that ends in the engine and then in the huge rear diffuser (next to the extensive mesh panel where the heat from the engine escapes) and the four exhaust outlets (two upwards and two towards the rear) and the air deflector active rear.
This aerodynamic element is mobile, as in other McLaren, and varies its height and angle to act as an airbrake in very strong speed reductions. In these situations, it has the additional function of compensating for the changes generated in the nose of the Elva by the elevation of the AAMS (Active Air Management System) deflector, which serves to divert the air from the passenger compartment, as we will see below, to guarantee the aerodynamic balance of the car. car. At the touch of the ignition button, the V8 reacts with a welcoming snore and draws attention in the first kilometers in the heart of the Principality, not so much for the sound it produces (there is no lack of many-cylinder engines around here) but rather for the disconcerting silhouette of the Elva.
In the city, it is easier to enjoy contact with the elements and an unobstructed view, and we will not be the subject of comment since Monegasques are usually reserved and distant (they prefer to look out of the corner of their eye or after the car passes), but in other parts of the world the exuberance of the Elva can cause envy … and the comments are too audible due to the total absence of filters. That same thing causes all the movements of the suspension and of ‘inspiration/expiration’ of the respiratory system of the car to be heard in all its splendor.
Within the framework of the digital instrumentation are the butterfly controls (for ‘Behavior’ on the left and for ‘Motorization’ on the right) to define the ‘soul state’ of the Elva – in previous McLaren they have always been in the console between the two seats – in three different programs, Comfort, Sport, and Track. In the city, where without the protection against the wind you can only drive up to 50 km / h before the eyes begin to cry without remedy, the most moderate of the three is indicated to guarantee a cushioning level that saves our bones of the strongest impacts, keeping the ‘soundtrack’ in a civilized record. The suspension, by the way, is the same as that of the Senna
(which here too is bolted to the carbon monocoque), which can be defined as an electro-hydraulic multi-mode system that achieves a sufficiently wide spectrum of damping types. A few minutes later we are already driving towards the sensationally zigzagging Corniches that ‘fly over’ Monaco and take us to some of the mythical asphalt roads of the Monte Carlo Rally, at the connections with Menton and Col du Turini. No windshield and speeds that defy logic as much as the highway code?Yes, please. To keep the gentle breeze from turning into a Saffir-Simpson level 5 cyclone, or cutting off this astonished Elva driver’s head, McLaren designed a retractable guard to deflect the whirlwind of air from the cabin. The air enters through the radiator located in front of the car and is channeled and accelerated to leave behind this barrier to create, together with the air diverted by this deflector, an air bubble over the passenger compartment.
English engineers guarantee that you can carry on a conversation without shouting – just raising your voice – up to 120 km / h, but after experimenting it became clear that this is an overly optimistic perspective, although it is undeniable that it deflects much of the air from the heads of the occupants. In standard mode, it remains off, but if the driver turns it on (between 0 and 70 km / h) the deflector automatically rises to 45 km / h (and falls below that speed), remaining active up to 200 km / h ( maximum speed allowed with AAMS enabled). If we ride without a helmet, above 100 km / h we begin to have an unpleasant feeling of recklessness, even with the glasses with photochromic lenses with an anodized aluminum frame on (they cost 500 euros and are part of the standard equipment of the car). After reaching 200 km / h, the deflector lowers and re-enters the front hood (under which there is no trunk) and the air reaches the engine with less obstruction to cool it. Only with the helmet developed in collaboration with Bell – with an integrated visor but open at the front to avoid pushing the head violently to one side when the wind is really strong – allows going beyond that speed, although with more agitation than in many motorcycles at lower speeds, no matter how hard we try to sink onto the sidewalk.
In addition to the unusual exposure to the elements, the level of performance that we discussed earlier, in the middle of ballistic territory (for example, it takes only one second less to reach 200 km / h than a supersonic McLaren Senna ), already gave an idea of the effervescence of emotions that can be experienced onboard the Elva. And in this scenario dominated by twists for all tastes, the straights become brief interruptions of curves, giving for little more than straightening the steering (with the surgical precision and speed of reactions usual in McLaren ) and preparing the entry into the next. . Fortunately, the effectiveness of the chassis is beyond suspicion and is the type that assures us that it really serves to help and not to cause additional difficulties to the challenges created by speed and physics. And everything happens naturally and intuitively.
Aim for the curve, maintain the steering angle, and exit by reinforcing the pressure on the accelerator pedal, but gradually so as not to cause instability of the body movements, which in some of these straits stretches could generate some cold sweats. Even though they would quickly dry out in so many drafts …Before hitting the motorway, on the way back to Monaco, we dedicated ourselves to playing with the different levels of stability control to understand that the Elva also likes to have fun, dropping behind when we select the most ‘tolerant’ program, but allowing easy and intuitive corrections, which solidify the confidence of the driver with the accumulation of kilometers.
As impressive as the precision of the steering and the restraint of the transversal movements of the body (especially in Sport mode and also thanks to the very low height of the Elva) is the braking capacity thanks to the most advanced system ever mounted on a McLaren. ‘civil’. The same sedimented carbo-ceramic discs are used, which are characterized by better heat dissipation and can therefore have a smaller diameter, but here they use lighter titanium pistons in the brake calipers. This translates into stopping distances almost as short as those of the Senna (a race car authorized to reach the circuits on public roads by its ‘own foot’) which, although it weighs about 50 kilos more, ends up having an aerodynamic arsenal incomparably greater the.
Elva can be stopped in just 30.5 meters from 100 km / h (compared to 29 meters from the Senna) and in 112.5 meters from 200 km / h (vs 100 meters). If prudence already advised wearing the sophisticated helmet on the road, on the highway, ione needs to survive the hurricane that is generated in front of the car (we have been guaranteed that even at 300 km / h the wearer’s neck will not break, promise which we have to trust because this test did not include track driving, but we also have the additional help of glasses similar to those used by the special forces of the United States Army they are ultralight, they resist impacts from chips, gravel, etc., and the colors of the lenses change according to the incidence of sunlight to better define the contrasts, explains Andrew Kay, Elva’s chief engineer.
With a helmet and at a (slightly) illegal speed, the deep snores of the 4-liter V8 (the same engine of the Senna) ‘shrinks’ under the force of nature and the aerodynamic noises are superimposed on everything, even if the helmet them. gag. The 7-speed automatic transmission (dual-clutch) loses the urgency it showed in the changes in Sport mode, replacing it with smoothness again in Comfort mode, but always with the right speed for a hypercar of this caliber, although its normal scenario does not be the speed circuits where his ancestor won glory in the 60s with Bruce McLaren.In the end, Elva confirms her credentials as a full member of McLaren’s exclusive Ultimate Series club, and the track-consuming nature of the Senna and the eco-friendly fighter character of the Speedtail add driving pleasure as the destination of every journey.
The 149 units of Elva (with an entry price of 1.7 million euros ) will be much more collection pieces diligently kept in garages billionaires and hygienic rides very occasional game scenarios, such as Pebble Beach and other coastal thoroughfares of California, where it is expected that many of the units whose production dropper will be completed in 2021 will be registered.