Frank Stephenson explains how a fish inspired part of the McLaren P1’s design

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In July 31, 2020
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Having designed everything from the first of the modern Minis to the first BMW SUV and a Maserati supercar, it’s safe to say Frank Stephenson is one of the most versatile, not to mention, talented designers on the planet.

Another of Stephenson’s famous designs is McLaren’s P1 hypercar launched in 2013, which he penned during his time as head of design at the British supercar marque. (Today he runs his own independent design studio.)

The P1 was a clean-sheet design for McLaren and set the design language that still influences the company’s cars today.

It turns out Stephenson had a little help from nature with the P1’s design. After testing resulted in excessive wind noise due to the extended position of the side mirrors, Stephenson and his design team found a solution from a sailfish, particularly the two small bumps located near the sailfish’s tail. McLaren installed five of these teardrop-shaped bumps on the P1’s side mirror stalks and this virtually eliminated the noise.

Stephenson often looks to nature for design solutions, a strategy known in the business as biomimicry. This strategy also played a part in the tight, almost shrink wrapped-like look of the P1’s overall design. As Stephenson explains in the video, almost all fast animals have this pared-down trait in their anatomy.

The sketch in the video, along with similar sketches from past videos in Stephenson’s design brief series, will be sold to help raise funds for charity. They will be put for sale in an online auction hosted by Harrison’s Fund running August 1-14.

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