The technical wizards at the McLaren Technology Centre in Woking, England have been busy. They’ve put together a new car, one I didn’t see coming. Meet the McLaren Elva, an Ultimate Series roadster.

That’s right, this is in the same product line as the F1, Speedtail and Senna. The Elva is an open-cockpit two-seater that has been designed to pay tribute to the original 1960s McLaren-Elva sportscars designed by Bruce McLaren himself. It is an extreme car, the lightest road-going McLaren yet and the resurrected brand’s first open-top road car.


The bespoke chassis and body are both made from carbon fibre and feature no roof, no windows and no windscreen. In this final form, the Elva looks absolutely gorgeous and poster-worthy. The kind of car that turns boys into petrolheads. Like everything McLaren, the design is not just for show and the Elva is kitted with a world-first Active Air Management System for a better driving experience. It channels air through the nose to come out of the front clamshell at high velocity in front of the passengers before being directed up over the cockpit using a discreet carbon fibre deflector. When the AAMS is active at high speeds, the deflector is deployed, rising 150mm into the freestream.

The front clamshell also features deep contours to channel air into discreet ducts in the leading edge of each carbon fibre door. This cooling air is then funnelled into two rear-mounted, powertrain cooling, high-temperature radiators (HTR) located just ahead of the rear wheels. There are secondary ducts inside the front wheelarches that also channel air through the bodyside into the side intakes. There are more intakes on the rear of each buttress to channel combustion air.


For rear-end downforce and improved aerodynamics, the Elva features a full-width active rear spoiler and its range of operation varies depending on whether the AAMS is active or not. Its rear diffuser works in conjunction with the active rear spoiler. The underfloor of the Elva is completely flat until the point by the rear axle at which the diffuser starts and increases in height to push air out from under the car. The McLaren’s diffuser features prominent vertical blades to guide the airflow without obstruction.

The trick aerodynamics are much needed in the Elva as it is powered by McLaren’s renowned 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8. It’s the same powertrain found in the Senna and Senna GTR with specialised lightweight performance components. In the Elva, it’s tuned to produce 815PS and 800Nm sent to the rear wheels, which is more than plenty for something as lightweight. McLaren claims 0-100kph in under 3 seconds and will reach 200kph in 6.7 seconds. It truly is an Ultimate Series McLaren. The Elva even gets a 3D printed titanium exhaust finisher for crisp and clean note.

It’s got all the McLaren chassis technology for better driving dynamics such as active suspension, adaptive damper controls and variable drift control. The Elva is also available with the option of track-focussed Pirelli P Zero Corsa tyres. McLaren takes the lightweight thing seriously as the Elva features numerous bespoke parts designed to save weight. It doesn’t even get the audio system as standard.


The Elva’s cabin is just as exquisite as the exterior with bespoke seats, sculpted into the carbon fibre shell design. There is a section of carbon fibre that runs between the two passengers, that also houses the engine start button and drive select controls. The controls for McLaren’s Active Dynamics are integrated into the driver’s instrument cluster and the steering wheel is as bare and sporty as one would dream of. It gets an 8-inch touchscreen with a side-mounted control dial, mounted on a lightweight carbon fibre arm and tilted towards the driver.


Customers can choose from a plethora of luxurious and lightweight materials to customize and personalise the Elva. The personalisation options multiply via the McLaren Special Operations (MSO) division. In all fairness, there isn’t a standard-spec version. McLaren will be making only 399 units with a starting price of GBP 1.42 million.

Also, a small note on the 1960s car that inspired the new Elva roadster, the McLaren M1A which was designed by Bruce McLaren. A racecar that weighed only 551kg with a mid-mounted 4.5-litre V8 churning out 340bhp. It was the basis for the McLaren-Elva M1A.

While every sportscar manufacturer used to make open-top racecars half-a-century ago, I can’t help but wonder if the success of the Ferrari Monza projects triggered a response from its rivals to capitalise on performance nostalgia. In fact, they even look a bit similar don’t you think? Share your thoughts in the comments below and subscribe to The Auto Loons for more cool updates from the car world.

2 thoughts on “McLaren Elva: Racing Pedigree Meets New-Age Witchcraft

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