McLaren collaborates with Lockheed Martin Skunk Works on design tech


McLaren’s got quite a bit of admin and finance matters to deal with at the moment, but the show must go on. Preparing for the products that will fill the coming years — like a crossover, maybe? — the British super sports car maker has announced a technology collaboration with Lockheed Martin Skunk Works “to explore futuristic design methods.”

Skunk Works is the nickname for the aerospace company’s Advanced Development Programs, the nickname taken from the “Skonk Oil” factory in the “Li’l Abner” comic that was popular when Lockheed got the commission to create America’s first fighter jet in the 1940s. Since then, Skunk Works has designed a bevy of America’s most iconic planes, including the U2 spy plane, the F-117 Nighthawk, F-22 Raptor, F-35 Lightning, and the SR-71 Blackbird.

McLaren says its interest is in the Lockheed division’s design software, proprietary code that “sets parameters for high-speed systems more accurately and swiftly than traditional design methods.” Hey, if it works at Mach 3 at 81,000 feet, maybe it will work at 300 kilometers per hour on the ground. McLaren engineers and Skunk Works developers are going to collaborate to find out. 

If nothing else, McLaren might pick up incidental aerodynamic tips by association, any of which could help the new Artura hybrid and an eventual McLaren EV.

The group picture inaugurating the partnership puts a McLaren Artura next to Lockheed Martin’s Darkstar hypersonic plane mockup from the movie “Top Gun: Maverick.” The prop plane was powered by a potentially viable technology called “combined cycle propulsion” that Lockheed Martin designed for what was to be the SR-71’s successor, the SR-72 — which looks a lot like the Darkstar. The two engine principles mated a reworked fighter jet turbine engine good for Mach 3 to a dual-mode ramjet known as a scramjet that could take the plane to a cruising speed of Mach 6. Let’s hope McLaren can figure out how to get a piece of that into its next hypercar.   

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