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2020 has been a tough year for automakers. There were strong indications of a major sales slowdown before coronavirus flipped everything on its lid. Some companies have weathered the storm better than others, but 2020 could be the worst possible time to launch an ultra-rare, $1.7-million hyper roadster.

Of course, McLaren had absolutely no idea any of this would happen. To the automaker's credit, a way forward seems to be secure thanks to a sizeable cash infusion from Bahrain Bank. That means the roofless, windowless Elva is still go for launch, but production has been cut yet again. What started as a planned run of 399 was reduced to 249 in April, and now it's down to just 149 total. That makes it one of the rarest McLarens of them all, with only the Speedtail being more exclusive.

McLaren says the production cut is a result of limited availability of parts and production slots on the recently reopened line. Actually, McLaren's specific words were "no more than 149 Elvas will now be built," suggesting the number might be even less. There's no mention of other circumstances behind the production cut, but there's also no mention of order cancellations so it's unclear if McLaren had buyers with cash-in-hand for 249 Elvas, never mind the 399 originally planned.

The buyers that do step up, however, have one helluva cool configurator to play with. The company calls it the McLaren Advanced Visualizer (MAV), which sounds like something you'd use on a moon mission but it actually incorporates gaming software to create a detailed 3D version of a customer's car. Buyers work one-on-one with McLaren to create the visual Elva of their dreams, and this system shows the various color combos inside-and-out in a crisp, virtual environment.

Gallery: McLaren Elva Configurator Color Combinations

To further stimulate the creative process. McLaren offered up a range of new color combos lumped into two categories called Explore and Timeless. As you might imagine, Explore combinations evoke a more adventurous palette whereas Timeless encapsulates themes in line with McLaren and its history. These are the designs featured in the photo gallery above, but the takeaway is that McLaren is pretty much open to whatever combos the customer wants. For a $1.7-million open-air two-seater that lacks even a windshield, we suspect such customization is welcome.

McLaren doesn't mention a specific delivery date for the Elva. The last we heard, cars were slated to reach owners by the end of the year, though that's likely pushed back to 2021 given COVID-19 production delays.

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The customer specification sessions for ultra-exclusive Ultimate Series roadster now taking place digitally
New virtual reality visualiser introduced to give customers greater creative freedom and deliver immediate results
New inspirational visual themes developed as ‘Explore’ and ‘Timeless’ concepts by McLaren Automotive design team
Having secured one of the most exclusive McLaren cars to date, the customers buying an Elva are now engaging with McLaren Special Operations (MSO) to choose the specification of their new Ultimate Series roadster. MSO Bespoke Liaison Managers are working on a 1:1 basis with customers remotely, using a new, state-of-the-art virtual reality visualiser to explore every aspect of the car, refining thoughts and inspirations into a truly bespoke statement of personal choice.

The latest car in the Ultimate Series, the McLaren Elva follows the McLaren P1TM, McLaren Senna and McLaren Speedtail in delivering a unique experience – in this case the purest expression yet of open-air driving pleasure.

Developing and finalising the exact specification of each Elva is an integral part of the purchase process, with customers assigned an MSO Bespoke Liaison Manager and Visualisation Specialist to assist them. The new McLaren Advanced Visualiser (MAV) is a key technology in bringing to life ideas and concepts as ultra-high-quality virtual images that show a customer what proposed design themes would look like in a finished car. 

Created by McLaren from software originally designed for gaming purposes, the MAV uses ultra-HD resolution rendering to display individual Elva elements and then combine them to create a full specification, with near-immediate visualisation of the result. The system also allows rapid and accurate demonstration of how different colour combinations radically change the Elva’s appearance.

The MAV’s level of functionality and detail enables customers to open and close doors in virtual reality to get inside the car and experiment with different interior features, from seat colours and materials to finishes and stitching. Aerodynamic elements can also be closely examined, and the visualiser even allows users to look under the bodywork to discover more about the Elva’s suspension and brakes.

The range of exotic materials carefully curated for Elva customers by McLaren’s design team and MSO can also be showcased with ease. Notable amongst these is Ultrafabrics®, a durable, lightweight and weather-resistant material that draws inspiration from high-end performance materials used in private jets and luxury yachts. Soft coverings can be embellished with reflective micro-piping to create unique flourishes of light in the dark, while on harder surfaces, carbon fibres and precious metals can be used individually or combined to spectacular effect, as pioneered on the McLaren Speedtail.

To further inspire customers by shaping existing visions and seeding new ideas, McLaren’s design team has released two new Elva design concepts, Timeless and Explore. Each includes a range of visual themes, incorporated into the MAV programme, to generate ideas and prompt discussion.

The themes in Explore evoke the spirit of adventure expressed by Elva ownership; Magma, for example, suggests the power of a molten lava in a Satin Azores and Satin Memphis Red Velocity blend of exterior colours, a look that continues inside with Caviar Black Ultrafabrics® to create an unapologetically dramatic appearance.

Timeless, meanwhile, focuses on the sense of history encapsulated in the Elva’s design, balanced by a fascination with the future. The laid-back Urbane combination of Liquid Alloy Gloss exterior paint and Cortado Tan Enhanced Full Aniline leather interior is one of the themes, visually suggesting elegance coupled with relentless performance.

“The Explore and Timeless concepts offer a contemporary aesthetic contrasting the heritage M1A Elva themes previously devised for our latest Ultimate Series car. Both of these new concepts are tailored to showcase the Elva’s incredible form, be it Timeless’ classic elegance or Explore’s technical finishes. Both capture our core design principle of ‘everything for a reason’.”

Robert Melville, Design Director McLaren Automotive

Those customers looking to re-create an iconic McLaren racing livery may also be inspired by the MSO M1A and M6A themes – an homage to Bruce McLaren’s legendary race cars. The M1A Elva theme features a Magnesium Silver racing stripe that sweeps along the sills, runs around the front splitter and up over the hood, accompanied by an Accent Red pinstripe and completed by Bruce McLaren’s iconic number 4 racing graphic. A fitting tribute to the fastest car at the 1964 Canadian Sports Car Grand Prix.

Alternatively, the MSO M6A replicates the McLaren Can-Am icon of 1967 in its external paint scheme. Anniversary Orange recalls the moment this legendary racing color was adopted, and is adorned with a Dove Grey stripe, McLaren Cars decal and Bruce McLaren’s signature in blue, as well as his race number 4. Full Satin carbon fiber bodywork and 10-spoke Diamond cut wheels seal an edgy 21st century effect.

McLaren has also confirmed that with the production shutdown experienced during the global Covid-19 pandemic that no more than 149 Elva’s will now be built, given the limited production slots available on the recently re-opened line and compromised availability of parts. This will make it one of the most exclusive McLaren’s ever produced – second only to the Speedtail – and help to protect the investment of customers in this unique car.

More information on the Timeless & Explore inspiration Guide is available on the website:

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