The Weird and the Wonderful - One-off Supercars

Moments of creative brilliance and famous heritage have give us some very special cars . Plus one or two complete duds.

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The world of supercar production has always attracted the eccentric and the visionary. Here is the opportunity to experiment with design, technology and engineering leading to some remarkable creations, some amazing, some terrible. Supercars also attract famous owners, which transform an ‘ordinary’ supercar into a unique piece of automotive history.

Here are a few moments in time which capture some of this creative flare, some of the missed steps and some of those cars touched by excellence making them truly unique.

There Can Only Be One

Supercar history is littered with manufacturers, designers and investors wanting to break into the supercar market with something different. It is a playground for research and development teams to probe and test the boundaries of what is possible. It can also offer the supercar fan that has everything and capital to invest a chance to develop their own supercar as they strive for the elusive greatest ever car. Here are some of the greats:

McLaren X-1

Produced in 2012, the X-1 was a one-off creation by a relaunched McLaren road production team which were growing in confidence after the successful launch of the 12C and P1. The X-1 showed the world just what McLaren were capable of and helped solidify their position in the supercar market. When the car was shown at the Pebble Beach Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance, it stopped people in their tracks. The designers took inspiration from an eclectic list of cars such as the Citroen SM and the Facel Vega, modernist architecture such as the Guggenheim and even a sprinkle of classic elegance using Audrey Hepburn as a muse. What adds to the now legendary narrative of this great car is the X-1 was developed and produced for a client whose identity still remains a mystery.

Lamborghini Aventador J

Also produced in 2012, was the Aventador J, a one-off roadster version of the then new Aventador. The simple barchetta inspired design wowed the Geneva Motor Show to remind critics of just what Lamborghini was capable of and would later sell for nearly 3 million dollars. What makes the Aventador J even more remarkable is the designer Filippo Perini devised and produced the car in only 6 weeks.

McLaren X-1

The McLaren X-1 - a great example of a one-off supercar

Lamborghini Aventador J

The Lamborghini Aventador J barcetta inspired design

Ferrari P4/5

What can you do when you want a new Ferrari, but want your Ferrari to be like no other example out there? Ferrari enthusiast James Glickenhaus was an American film producer and financier (and helpfully, the son of stock exchange fortune maker Seth Glickenhaus) wanted something special to add to his already extensive supercar collection, and commissioned Ferrari and legendary design house Pininfarina to deliver just that. The result was the Ferrari P4/5, a one-off creation based on the already fabled Enzo. Pininfarina completely restyled the car, both inside and out and modified the Enzo’s engine at a cost of $4 million. Ferrari were loved the finished car so much they agreed to give it an official badge and Ferrari authentication.

Ferrari SP1

Ferrari are no strangers to producing on-off models for customers willing to pay. Another example worthy of note is the Ferrari SP1, a re-engineered commission for Japanese businessman Junichiro Hiramatsu based on the F430. This production eventually became the template for the Ferrari Monza SP1, a high tech speedster, a modern take on the iconic Ferrari designs from the 1950s, such as the 750 Monza, the 250 Testarossa and the 166 MM. The SP1 is a stripped down pure racer straight from a manga comic book. It omits even basic features such as a windscreen in favour of sleek, bullet-like lines and with a 800 bhp engine in a mainly carbon fibre shell, it must be the most amazing experience to drive.

Ferrari P4/5

The Ferrari P4/5 - the perfect example of designer and client harmony

Ferrari SP1

The Ferrari SP1 - something very special and unique

Missed Opportunities

Supercar manufacturers will often develop a prototype, only for it to fail to go into full production. There are some great cars which didn’t make it to market, but were still flashes of genius. Such as:

Aston Martin Bulldog

Only one Bulldog was actually produced in 1979 before the production of 25 cars was eventually canned due to costs. Its design and performance, with a top speed of over 200 mph were incredible at the time for a manufacturer such as Aston Martin and the Bulldog has been referenced more than once as inspiration for more modern supercars. The Bulldog project was launched to promote Aston Martin’s new manufacturing centre and catapult a then struggling manufacturer back into the spotlight. Although we never saw the Bulldog enter production, the lasting legacy of the car has certainly added to Aston’s status as supercar legends.

Lamborghini Marzal

This was the brainchild of famed designer Marcello Gandini, the genius behind the Muria and the Countach and his answer to providing Lamborghini with a four-seater capable of going into full production. Sadly, Lamborghini didn’t develop the car any further than the main prototype. Its large glass doors, futuristic interior including hexagonal shapes and silver trim proved a step too far to commit to full production. The single Marzal is still going strong and can often been seen at car shows and classic events such as the Goodwood Festival of Speed.

Aston Martin Bulldog

The Aston Martin Bulldog was ahead of its time

Lamborghini Marzal

The Lamborghini Marzal - one of a kiund nver to be repeated?

The Plain Ugly

There is the good, but there is also the bad and the ugly. Some cars are unique and should remain so. Manufacturers entertain customers wanting a one off model and end up producing something which would otherwise never have seen the light of day. In these cases, the customer is not always right. There are also example of car manufacturers without a traditional heritage in supercar design wanting to develop a car to help their brand be seen as dynamic and exciting. Without a full understanding of the subtle balance of performance, design that goes into a supercar,, these projects will often fall flat, offering up a monstrosity.

Rolls Royce Sweptail

The development of the car lasted over 4 years, and the car appears to show the result of an over-complicated and client centric design process. It really is a case of money can’t just buy you style. The concept was supposedly to take inspiration from super yachts and coachbuilding of the 1920s but ended up looking bloated and crass. The interior was crammed full of opulent touches including a clock made from the thinnest Macassar veneer and titanium hands, two panniers to house bespoke attaché cases and even a centre console which contained a bespoke designed system that presented the owners chilled champagne and two flutes, even rotating it to maximise the perfect angle to pick up the bottle. It was certainly unique, but a case of substance over design.

Chrysler ME Four-Twelve

This was a concept launched at the Detroit Motor Show in 2004 with the intention of producing 2000 models in 2005 in an attempt to help boost their main consumer range with a halo effect. Unfortunately (or fortunately), the price of producing the ME Four-Twelve was far too high and plans for production were stopped after a lukewarm reception. The engineering behind the ME Four-Twelve started on a sound footing, with a AMG produced engine capable of 600 bhp, but in an attempt to compete with the Bugatti Veyron, Chrysler decided to add 4 turbochargers. This made the car practically undrivable at lower speeds. Combined with the look of a cheap Mazda, the car missed the mark by a long way and is seen a warning to other car marques wanting to dip their toe into supercar design, that it is not as easy as it looks.

Rolls Royce Sweptail

The Sweptail is an example of when a client needs to be told to step away

Chrysler ME Four-Twelve

The Chrysler ME Four-Twelve looks cheap but was anything but

More than just a Supercar - Becoming a Great

What will make a supercar become unique is a unique history. Some cars take on an almost mythical quality when you delve into their history and heritage. One sure fire way to legendary status is to have a famous previous owner.

Ayrton Senna’s Honda NSX

The Honda NSX was a serious attempt at going toe-to-toe with the Ferrari 348 and the Porsche 911 Turbo in the 1990s. Although a fabulous car, it is unlikely to make anyone's top 10 must have supercars. It is even within the price range of most collectors with models with a reasonable mileage going for about £60,000. However, maybe you would like something a bit more special and drive a Honda NSX owned by Ayrton Senna, one of 3 owned by the legendary Formula One champion? For this privilege, you will have to part with upwards of £500,000. For that money, you get the car, plus the knowledge that Senna actually used the car and there is plenty of footage of him enjoying the NSX while living in Portugal.

Ralph Lauren’s 1938 Bugatti T57 Atlantic

Legendary fashion designer Ralph Lauren is well known for his amazing supercar collection, which includes a fabulous example of a Bugatti T57 Atlantic. With an estimated value of $50 million, Lauren’s T57 Atlantic was extensively refurbished after he purchased it in 1988 and is seen as one of the finest examples of a pre-war supercar. Should its current custodian decide to offen the car at market, who knows what the final price would be given its heritage. Other examples of how a rare vintage car become synonymous with their famous car collecting owners are Nick Mason’s 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO (worth an estimated $70 million), Jay Leno’s 1937 Duesenberg Walker Coupe (worth $25 million) and the The Sultan of Brunei’s 1930 Rolls-Royce Phantom II Star of India ( worth about $20 million).

London Street

Ayrton Senna’s NSX - modest brillinace like its owner

Faraday bag for supercar keys

Ralph Lauren’s pre-war 1938 Bugatti T57 Atlantic

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