McLaren sports car debuts with carbon composite chassis

The MP4-12C features the Carbon MonoCell, a carbon fiber "tub" that borrows from Formula 1 race car designs to provide weight savings and crash safety.

 

British car company McLaren Automotive (Woking, U.K.) has announced the launch of the MP4-12C, a new high-performance sports car that features a one-piece carbon fiber chassis called the Carbon MonoCell.

Reportedly the first one-piece carbon fiber chassis structure ever used in a street-legal automobile, the MonoCell, or “tub,” has been designed to allow a much narrower structure overall, which, in turn, contributes to a more compact car that is easier to position on the road and, says the company, more rewarding to drive. The MonoCell also acts as a safety survival cell, similar to those used in Formula 1 racing cars, thus offering greater occupant safety. “The whole 12C project is based on the concept of the MonoCell,” says Claudio Santoni, McLaren Automotive Body Structures Function manager. “This means that McLaren can launch into the market with greater performance than our rivals and a safer structure.”

According to the Autoblog Web site (www.autoblog.com), the chassis is produced using new manufacturing techniques that “allow the carbon fiber structure to be built in just four hours. Normally carbon fiber requires a 12-hour process to make. The car’s one-piece carbon fiber chassis features aluminum supports attached to the front and rear that are designed to take the damage of a crash and keep the cabin unscathed.”

McLaren says that it plans to produce only 1,000 cars in the first model year, to keep supply scarce and interest high. The car reportedly will cost between £125,000 and £175,000 ($192,000 to $269,000 USD). Says Ron Dennis, McLaren Automotive chairman, “Worldwide demand for high-performance cars is strong — what we are offering is a new approach to the market.”