McLaren Designer Reveals Secrets Of The 12C Spider --- ROAD TESTAMENT

Uploaded by drive on 23.08.2012

MIKE SPINELLI: Frank Stephenson.
How are ya?
MIKE SPINELLI: Good to see you, man.
FRANK STEPHENSON: Good to see you again.
MIKE SPINELLI: Chief Designer of McLaren.
MIKE SPINELLI: So we are obviously in front of the
latest thing that you've brought here to Pebble Beach.
And you guys have a long history at Pebble Beach.
I mean, longish.
You launched the MP4-12C here, right?
A couple of years ago.
FRANK STEPHENSON: Yeah, we did that.
That was actually our first time at Pebble Beach, but what
a fantastic event.
Of course, Pebble is the place to be.
It's like Mecca.
You've got to get there once in your life.
Problem is, once you're here, you can't not come back.
So we're going to be here for quite a while.
MIKE SPINELLI: And it's interesting because yellow is
not a color you would associate with Pebble Beach.
MIKE SPINELLI: Except for people's pants.
FRANK STEPHENSON: Yeah, but yellow and green look
wonderful together.
And if you look at that paint, it's--
MIKE SPINELLI: Interesting you should mention it.
Talk about motorsports heritage with McLaren, this
has a very significant--
Yeah, it's a bit with Ayrton Senna's helmet colors that he
used to race with.
And there's always a bit of green inside of the yellow,
that sort of a microsphere metallic green balls in there
that look really good.
MIKE SPINELLI: How do you get that?
FRANK STEPHENSON: Yeah, it's not actually a flake.
That's the interesting thing about it.
With the metallics, you get lots of light back from when
you strike a metallic flake.
We use these really, really fine microspheres.
They're actually like green chrome balls.
So what you get is this very fine--
metallic will throw back a lot of light.
A sphere will throw back just a pinpoint of light.
So it's a really fine, fine look to it.
So you get this sort of green shade or green tone around it,
which is really beautiful.
MIKE SPINELLI: And it looks like the Brazilian flag a
little bit.
MIKE SPINELLI: If you look at it in the right light.
FRANK STEPHENSON: That's the reason for it, yeah.
MIKE SPINELLI: So tell me a little bit about designing a
convertible and a coupe.
Did you do them at the same time?
Is that something that you guys had--
FRANK STEPHENSON: Yeah, well, there's always a certain stage
where you go through the coupe, and then you have to
get it sort of towards feasibility.
Then you can start concentrating on a bit of the
other variants.
And of course, the Spider is an obvious variant for this
car, mostly, obviously, because of the
carbon fiber tub.
The whole thing about Cabrio is when you build them, you
get this thing called scuttle shake, where it gets a little
bit of flecks and all that.
The internal trick is to find out how to reduce that.
And obviously, one of the ways is to add stiffness to the tub
or to the actual chassis and platform.
So what they end up doing is adding weight to the car,
which, OK, you're riding a Cabrio so you're probably not
worried about all out performance.
But our mantra is basically weight is the enemy.
So we do everything we can to make sure that the weight is
really reduced to the minimum.
With the carbon fiber tub, you have absolutely no reason to
add weight to it.
The inherent qualities of stiffness are there.
So all we really had to do was add the minimal weight of the
roof mechanism, which is about 40 kilos.
Everybody has to use that unless you don't
have a roof, basically.
So that 40 kilos is in the equation.
So that's really the only added weight that we have to
put into the car.
MIKE SPINELLI: So in this case, even with the top up,
the top doesn't actually add any extra torsional stiffness.
FRANK STEPHENSON: It's not needed.
No, no, not needed at all.
Where the car actually starts to actually bend is down in
the rocker panel area.
And, like I said, with that carbon tub, there's absolutely
100% stiffness still in there.
MIKE SPINELLI: So any other major differences between this
and the coupe?
You guys cut the roof off, and it's completely another car?
No, I mean, obviously, you want to, first of all, have to
settle that decision whether it's going to be a ragtop, for
the purists, or a hardtop.
And if you do do a hardtop, where do you split it?
And what are the advantages of doing it here and there?
So we got through the issue, first of all, with the hardtop
and ragtop, soft top, simply--
I mean, there are a lot of advantages these days.
Anybody can cut into a Cabrio and get into there.
It's not necessarily the most important
factor to get in there.
But you do have a lot more of a clean look when you do get
the polished color on there and make it look really slick.
Another factor is if you can actually jackknife that roof
together, really compress it really tight, then you can get
it into the back boot area in a fashion that actually
amplifies the storage for what we call zet,
from bottom to top.
So that becomes a very usable space for luggage.
And we took advantage of that and made some Bespoke luggage
that would actually fit into that space when you have the
roof closed.
So you're adding what is actually 52 liters more of
space in the car.
One of the important factors, obviously, is that you want to
be able to show the engine in the supercar.
It's one of the emotional factors in there.
Granted, you're not showing a huge amount of the engine, but
you're actually showing a bit of the heart,
which is kind of cool.
It's like we're into Zeus, you know?
And the other advantage, obviously, with this is that
you sometimes get caught out on the freeway.
You don't want to pull over, but you start to notice it's
raining, and you don't want a ticket, because obviously, if
you go faster, less rain's going to come in.
So you just slow down to 30K or 19 miles an hour or 20
miles an hour, and you can still operate the roof.
So that's a really, really good advantage too.
MIKE SPINELLI: Your background, you've designed
some pretty iconic kind cars, and people know you pretty
well, because as we were walking up here,
you have a lot fans.
MIKE SPINELLI: And so to just name a few, it's the Ferrari
F430, the new Mini Cooper--
FRANK STEPHENSON: VF500, FXX Ferrari, the Super Enzo, the
Maserati MC12, Maserati GranSport, BMW
X5, a few other cars.
MIKE SPINELLI: That's great.
A couple others.
FRANK STEPHENSON: I've got to write them down.
MIKE SPINELLI: So that's the past.
MIKE SPINELLI: But in the future, is it getting harder
or easier to design cars?
Are you just sort of--
FRANK STEPHENSON: You know, I really, really hate it when
people say pedestrian regulations forced us to put
this bonnet-- hood--
up in the air, and we're really sorry it looks like
this, but we had no choice.
What a load of crock, or whatever you want to say.
FRANK STEPHENSON: Because, I mean, it costs absolutely the
same amount of money to make a car look ugly as it does make
it beautiful.
And, of course, legislation is a factor.
But that's what car design and car designers are all about.
It's a challenge.
You've got to get around that.
Obviously, if you ask me for my list of most favorite cars
in the world, probably 75% of them would be around 1950s,
1960s when artists and designers were
commonly known as--
those were the car designers.
People actually got to produce a piece of art as a car.
And to heck with the guy who actually wanted to stand in
front of it and tempt it.
So they didn't have as much legislation, so you were able
to get really gorgeous designs out of that.
But the design language changes all the time.
We're up there.
They pay us to come up with new ideas anyway, so we're not
ever going to be stuck in the past, especially a company
like McLaren.
So what we're actually doing is pushing the
envelopes of design.
I guarantee you, in the future, even with all this
legislation, the new languages from McLaren, design language
that we're starting to instill because we don't have a past
with a real huge design emphasis, you will get to see
very, very innovative-looking cars that
actually look to die for.
A lot of the influence, obviously, is not coming from
just aesthetics.
Because it's very easy to design a sexy car, a
dramatic-looking car.
That's not what design for me is all about.
It's more about doing efficient design that has a
reason for being.
And I've spoken a lot about bio-mimicry, and nobody's ever
designed a cheetah, or a beautiful
horse, or fish, or whatever.
It's all evolved to look absolutely efficient.
And within that reason there is why they look so great.
So that's kind of the design language we're going to be
putting it into the future, just very, very
efficient-looking cars.
MIKE SPINELLI: That's was an interesting--
I remember I saw you speak once about that.
You were talking about how nature is the best designer.
MIKE SPINELLI: And how do you incorporate those organic
natural designs into a piece of manufactured metal?
FRANK STEPHENSON: It's curiosity, I would say,
because we're not really discovering any
thing new out there.
Everything that's out there is out there.
It's not like something new is going to come into the
universe and give us the whole solution to car design.
So it basically is just curiosity and a bit of
interest in what efficient design is all about.
And realistically, if you did go into the animal kingdom, or
things like that, you do find incredible examples of
efficient design.
The most incredible examples out there,
they've outlived us.
They've been here forever, and why have they?
I did mention once about getting really inspired by a
sailfish, and the reason for that was because why does a
sailfish go faster in water than a cheetah on land?
It's way over 80 miles an hour, while a cheetah can't
break much over 70.
So there are a lot of reasons from the sailfish.
You could easily apply the scale design on a sailfish to
the areas on an engine duct area, where you have to get
the most efficient flow of air into the engine and maximize
that efficiency.
We've got high-powered engines like athletes that need a lot
of air coming into them.
So if you use that concept of scales to improve the
efficiency of air coming in, it sounds daft and a bit
funny, but actually it does scientifically work.
Peregrine Falcon, for example, it's not the fastest bird, but
it definitely is the fastest bird when it goes into the
dive, over 200 miles an hour.
Why does it do that?
Well, it changes it's shape in a way that
you would not expect.
Its wings actually go forward and then backwards.
Membranes cover the eyeballs and all the nostril area so
you get no airflow going into the actual--
I mean, of course, it would blow up otherwise.
But if you can actually do that, you reduce the drag
ratio actually to help you improve the
performance of the car.
So a lot of those factors--
I mean, covering up intakes that we don't need at those
high speeds.
So all those principles start to work for light weight.
If you look at bones in the animal kingdom of very tight
animals, the bone structure is absolutely amazing.
It looks light, like it would break, except it's actually
even stronger than any other way that can be designed.
So they have sort of a chaotic-looking bone
structure, so a lot of that principle can be used into the
chassis development for increasing rigidity, but
actually, at the same time, losing weight.
MIKE SPINELLI: So we've seen a couple of different frontiers
being broken in automotive.
The horsepower wars have been the latest big, big thing that
everybody's been doing.
We're up to Ferrari at 700 horsepower, and
I don't know what--
whatever the next McLaren is going to be.
It will probably have a fairly high horsepower.
What about other frontiers?

For you what's the next frontier other than that in
the modern car?
FRANK STEPHENSON: Everybody wants to
personalize their car.
The last thing you want to do when you buy a supercar is to
have somebody park next to you or at the stoplight, and you
look over and you see the car, and you think, eh, well,
what's he specced his car out to be?
But wouldn't it be cool if you could actually
personalize your car?
And there are ways of doing it, believe it or not.
But you could be driving a car that's yellow on Monday, and
volcanic red on Tuesday, and another car like that.
It sounds far fetched, I know, but it is,
like I said, possible.
You can use the principles of a chameleon to change colors
of an object, sort of adapt the color to what you feel
like on that day so you don't get stuck with the life of the
car being a certain color.
There are a lot of different tricks you could do with paint
to have not only pearlescence, but candies and all that, but
even going further, to completely change the effect.
I think materials are going be a huge thing.
A lot of times in the interior of the car, it's like at
night, you don't recognize the interior of the
car, which is OK.
You can have some little glow lights around like that to
show off some nice areas.
But wouldn't it be cool to have an
interior that you recognize?
Maybe it's lit up a little bit, like the materials absorb
energy, sunlight during the day, and they actually put out
this little--
sort of like a star system or something where you see little
speckles of light everywhere on the interior.
And it does bring out the shapes of the interior so it's
appreciated as well at night.
I think electronics are going to be a huge thing in the
future, not only for helping the driver, driver aids, of
course, make it a bit more safe, but also I think with
electronics we're going to get a lot more into personal
passenger entertainment, communication connections,
connecting yourself to the outside world a lot better,
connecting yourself with the car next to you so you avoid
each other or whatever.
There's a lot of technology going on like that.
There's also a lot of technology going into the road
systems to make driving a lot more simpler, a lot safer, a
lot more comfortable, depending on
how you like to drive.
The engine propulsion systems.
I'm not sure hybrid is actually the future.
It's a temporary stop or a gap stop.
But I think we're going to be looking at something in the
future that is actually a lot more revolutionary than
lugging around some batteries to produce some electrical
energy that has needed a lot more things to
get the energy there.
But we will be looking at a lot of new propulsion systems
in the future.
I think braking is going be a huge thing.
We already use it, for example, to recharge and get
some extra power.
But there's a lot more other things you can do with that
kind of energy.
Active aerodynamics are going to be very interesting because
it means that potentially the shape of the car could change
at different speeds according to what you
want it to look like.
MIKE SPINELLI: Shape in terms of the action instead of--
you have active aero when you have a wing pop up, but you
mean the actual shapes of the car?
FRANK STEPHENSON: No, there's different
materials that have memory.
So you can actually charge the materials, positive/negative
very easily, and you can make the material expand, or
contract, or go back to its original position, which helps
not just to change the car aesthetically, obviously, but
to actually change it efficiently for different
reasons why you would want to change the car.

MIKE SPINELLI: Materials to me has always been just can we
make it lighter.
So one of your competitors was here with a car, Lamborghini's
here, and they've made a big deal over pairing up with
carbon fiber technologists and producers.

To you, is carbon fiber going to be a
mass production material?
FRANK STEPHENSON: Well, one of the advantages we have, of
course, it's been in our philosophy for a long time, so
we've been able to sort of by sheer volume and sheer
investigation and all that, with the price materials and
stuff, bring down the cost.
That's one of the factors of being able to introduce a
supercar, not a hypercar, but a supercar with a
carbon fiber tub.
It's unique in the market, but we've been able to reduce it
to a cost-effective level, which is absolutely fabulous.
I can imagine that cascading even further down to having
city cars, where you're sending off your child to the
university first year.
You want her to be safe or him safe.
You want to send your wife out to do the shopping.
If you wrap them up in carbon fiber, you know
they're pretty safe.
That's the reason why a lot people in race cars these
days, they get out after a 200 mile-an-hour impact and go,
wow, I've got a headache, you know?
FRANK STEPHENSON: But I think the other thing with weight,
not only is that, but we've got many more technologies
that are even further advanced than carbon fiber.
CarbonMide, which is actually a powdered carbon, which is
absolutely stiff, very high cost now, but it's basically a
powder that's been kind of compressed in SLA, Stereo
And you can make things that are absolutely stiff, which we
use in aerodynamics on Formula One so that we get absolutely
no flex on the panels, the aero panels.
Simple, crazy things, like what's the oldest thing that's
been on a car since cars have been invented?
Windscreen wipers.
Why the heck do we need windscreen wipers?
It's not Rain-X or whatever you put on the screen.
Because that's not what they do with military aircraft.
If you do look at military aircraft, none of them are
running around with windscreen wipers.
And those are what? $35 billion, $35 million, and
they're not going to wreck a plane just because you can't
see out of the windscreen.
Imagine the worst possible situation of a military
aircraft coming in for landing on an aircraft carrier--
pitch black, bad weather, the ships
rocking, the plane's rocking.
100 meters or 100 yards before he's supposed to land, he runs
into a flock of seagulls, and you get a bit of the blood and
guts thing going on.
He's not going to be risking that airplane for just a
simple occasion like that.
So what they have is a system involved where it absolutely
lets nothing--
nothing-- stick to the glass.
That technology exists.
We could introduce it.
But the problem is we'd probably put out of work the
guys who do the windshield wiper fluids
and the wiper blades.
That would put some people out of work.
But there is way to get around that.
MIKE SPINELLI: So the arms race in automotive is--
FRANK STEPHENSON: The windscreen arms?
MIKE SPINELLI: Is there a windscreen arms race?
So the technology arms race isn't just lightness, is what
I was saying.
Because it seems that lightness is
really the next frontier.
But You're saying there's a lot of other frontiers.
FRANK STEPHENSON: Well, OK, lightness.
Why are we looking for light cars?
Basically because it's the power-to-weight ratio that's
absolutely the ultimate deciding factor.
And nobody wants to--
you can even see a bit, like I said, when we discussed the
horsepower race.
Those cars that are putting out 1,000 horsepower, it's all
about getting it to be effective.
You can build a dragster engine in the back of it, but
you need to get that car to turn.
You need it to handle well.
There's a lot of things come into play there.
So if you don't need that amount of horsepower, how are
you going to get the cars to do want you want them to do as
a supercar?
So, basically, you reduce the weight, and then the cars need
less horsepower to drive the car efficiently.
So it's not just decreasing horsepower, decreasing weight.
It's all about what effects do they all have in common.
And obviously, if you can get a very super lightweight car
with a very small engine, you're using less resources.
You get the car to be a lot less costly.
It's not a hidden fact that Formula One cars are too
costly at the moment, or any of these high, expensive
racing series.
So it's all about reducing costs and everything.
So it's just the way the world works.
If you could make it cheaper and sell it well, then
everybody stays happy.