Rob Melville In­ter­view

Automobile - - Design -

IT’ S AL­WAYS GOOD

to talk with Rob Melville, McLaren Au­to­mo­tive’s de­sign di­rec­tor. He’s en­thu­si­as­tic about what he does—specif­i­cally in cre­at­ing new McLarens but also with re­spect to de­sign phi­los­o­phy in gen­eral. He’s a straight talker, no ob­fus­ca­tion, no su­per­flu­ous ad­jec­tives, and no ex­ag­ger­a­tion. Although he’s rel­a­tively young (40) for a top de­signer, he’s quite ex­pe­ri­enced, hav­ing been with McLaren for the past decade. He and his team are work­ing fast to pro­duce the mul­ti­ple mod­els in the com­pany’s prod­uct pipe­line.

“We were con­cerned to sim­plify, to re­duce the num­ber of cut­lines on the body, not only for ap­pear­ance, but for aero­dy­nam­ics,” Melville says about the phi­los­o­phy be­hind the Speed­tail. He goes on to em­pha­size the sin­gle-piece rear body skin, which in­cor­po­rates what I’d call trail­ing-edge flaps but McLaren refers to as “ailerons,” dis­cernible only by the cuts at their sides; their outer skin is con­tigu­ous with the greater body sur­face, which is it­self flex­i­ble. “They’re ac­tu­ated au­to­mat­i­cally and also serve un­der brak­ing to keep the rear wheels down,” he says of the ailerons. A great deal of at­ten­tion was also paid, Melville says, to the in­te­rior, al­ways stress­ing lightweight­ing, even in the way the leather is treated, re­sult­ing in both lower weight per square foot and bet­ter wear char­ac­ter­is­tics.

When I sug­gest the cabin looks a lit­tle cold and clin­i­cal in these pho­tos, Melville coun­ters that there’s a rich­ness of color and above all of feel—an in­cred­i­bly soft and wel­com­ing touch to all of the cabin. It’s “pretty much com­pletely leather lined, even the floor­mats,” but that needs to be seen to be ap­pre­ci­ated. Many of the cabin de­tails are laser-cut in lam­i­nated car­bon-fiber films, each only 30 mi­crons thick and said to re­sem­ble flow­ing wa­ter when the car­bon is milled to ex­pose mul­ti­ple edges.

I’m pleased by Melville’s can­did hope that the ex­cep­tional Speed­tail will be on the lawn at some far-off Peb­ble Beach Con­cours d’El­e­gance. “We were think­ing about fu­ture Con­cours as we de­signed this one,” he says. You can well imag­ine the Speed­tail will not only be ad­mit­ted to the party but will also be a strong con­tender for Best of Show in 2045. Melville’s hopes are pretty much cer­tain to be ful­filled. AM

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