You may not know him by name, but Frank Stephenson is the man responsible for the designs of the Mini Cooper, the Fiat 500 and the Alfa Romeo Mi.To - three of the most lauded hatchbacks of the last decade.
He is also responsible for the design of the Ferrari F430 and 612 Scaglietti in addition to his duties at the Fiat Group, which has many speculating whether Stephenson might be the man to pick up where Gordon Murray left off on the McLaren P11. Stephenson resigned from his post at Alfa Romeo in April.
Born in Morocco and raised in Spain, Stephenson attended the Art Center College of Design, which has turned out many famous designers, including Chip Foose and Chris Bangle. The McLaren P11 is a car rumored to have been Murray's last project with McLaren before leaving to found his own company in 2004. Murray was the designer of the legendary McLaren F1.
The P11 project was expected to be its spiritual successor, an all-new supercar, but it has lain dormant since his departure. With the acquisition of Stephenson's immense talent, however, and the firm's cessation of its partnership with Mercedes for the SLR supercar, there is renewed hope of the P11's revival.
The new supercar is expected to feature a mid-engine V10, rather than the v12 of the F1. It will also be smaller and lighter than its predecessor. The McLaren F1 was at its height the fastest production car in the world, but the new car will be aimed more squarely at the likes of the Ferrari 430 Scuderia and the Porsche 911 GT2, rather than the Bugatti Veyron or other top-speed-seeking supercars.