The McLaren 570GT is a $400,000 sports car made to be taken on country drives, weekends away, while maintaining the sports car ride, handling and performance. It’s a thing of beauty and EFTM caught up with the man behind the sketch for the 570 – Robert Melville.
Melville is the Chief Designer at McLaren Automotive. This is a company born out of a successful Formula One race team and stretching back to the impossibly brilliant McLaren F1 road car which featured that unique centre driving position in a three-seat sports car.
Now much more serious about its Automotive division, McLaren produces three “series” of cars, the Sports, the Super and the Ultimate. It’s most recent creation is from the Sports series – the 570GT.
Instead of the typical chopped back with a rear glass window and an exposed engine as you’d get in the 570S the GT has a glass roof and a glass rear tailgate.
That tailgate opens up from the side allowing you to place a large amount of luggage behind the driver and passenger – a total of 370 litres of luggage between the front “frunk” and the rear section.
But I was interested to understand how the relationship between the technical team who determine how a car must be built to create the performance and handling that is befitting a McLaren car, and the design team who want it to look a certain way.
Here for example is Robert’s own first sketches of the 570 Sports series:
There is important feedback and decisions to be made to ensure the car is on the road what it needs to be.
He told me “I’ve learned at McLaren you have to embrace the technical input, if you push back and compromise you end up with a car that comes up second or third in a group test. We don’t make too many compromises, as a team we all respect each other”
Robert Melville is a gifted artist. He declares he is passionate about sketching.
Here’s what Robert describes as a quick doodle – top left is 10-15 minutes, the bottom is about 4 hours
A photo posted by Robert Melville (@robert_melville) on
These designs got me thinking… What tools does a designer like Robert use? He talked about using a 2B pencil, knowing that the line weight will go from thick to thin, and utilising that in a design can make a car “look like it’s going 100 miles an hour even when it’s still”
Which then made me think of my own impressions of the iPad Pro and the Apple Pencil which I think is the best digital execution of the pencil in a digital world to date.
So, has he tried the iPad Pro? Yep. “I’ve bought myself one about three weeks ago” he told me. “I like it, feels good – it’s cool, I sat on the plane on the way over sketching and its really cool.”
Taking an idea from your minds-eye to a sketch, to a design team and into production is a pretty amazing thing. I thought about an interview I’d seen with Adele who was so excited to hear her new song “Hello” on the radio for the first time.
How does it feel as the man who penned the first sketch of a car to see it on the road for the first time.
“It’s incredible – you feel so proud, this has been a unique journey – to do the sketch, for everyone to point and say “we’ve got to do that one” for it to translate so well into production, keep complete with the spirit the emotion I wanted, it’s been the perfect journey”
There was clearly a hint of emotion as he thought about that, he talked about phoning his dad from the airport on the way here to Melbourne to and thinking about how his family has worked to get him to where he is today “the amount of effort they put in to help me achieve my dreams… I just hope I can do the same for my kids”
As a kid, Melville was drawing planes, cars, boats and even tractors, “I’d sit down by the stream in Leeds where there was a field behind the house, sketch the way the water was moving around, the trees, a rabbit would hop out I’d sketch the rabbit”
“Of course in the industrial town of Leeds I wouldn’t tell my friends at school I was drawing rabbits and streams”
“My Mum was quite a good artist and she grew up on a farm and she use to show me her horse drawing and rabbit sketches.”
It’s clear to me Robert Melville is passionate about cars, he’s passionate about design, and most of all he loves to sketch. Having sketched on paper with pencil as a kid and in 2016 enjoying the experience of sketching with an Apple Pencil and iPad Pro – there is hope for the future generations. And if your kids are drawing cars – remember there is a whole industry out there, and the future could be just like Robert’s.
Trevor Long travelled to Melbourne for the Formula One Grand Prix as a guest of Epson & Hisense Australia.