Car designers have been known to feed on inspiration from some unusual sources. Airplanes, stiletto heels, and, of course, James Bond have all allegedly inspired beautiful cars.

For some designers, the best inspiration lurks just below the water’s surface. Believe it or not, fish have inspired much more than the tailfins iconic to a 1950’s hot rod. Fish have influenced some very smart designs for faster, safer, and more stylish cars.

McLaren P1 Hybrid Supercar

One example is the McLaren P1 Hybrid Supercar which was inspired by a sailfish. This story begins in a Caribbean resort where Frank Stephenson, design director of McLaren Automotive, happened to see a sailfish hanging on the wall. After learning that the sailfish is one of the fastest fish in the sea, swimming much faster than a cheetah can run, Frank knew he had a worthwhile souvenir to bring back to the McLaren design lab.

A thorough scan of the sailfish’s body structure revealed its secret to speed. Its scales are designed to create a bubble of air around the fish as it slices through the water. This air pocket reduces friction, thereby allowing the sailfish to achieve high speeds.

McLaren’s designers recreated the texture of these scales within the air ducts that lead into the engine of their P1 supercar. With nearly 20% more air getting to the engine, the car’s efficiency was improved. This was a crucial enhancement for a very fast car. The P1’s hybrid engine can achieve a 903 horsepower, which requires a great deal of air to help combustion and engine cooling.

Mercedes Benz Bionic Car

Mercedes Benz designers have also been struck with aquatic inspiration. They created a unique bionic concept car inspired by a boxfish. The boxfish has a rigid, angular body made from hexagonal plates, and a very fitting name. The boxy vehicle inspired by this fish achieved a record-breaking low amount of drag thanks to the unusual cube-like shape. With less resistance to move through the air, the bionic car uses 20% less fuel and emits 80% less nitrogen oxide.

Nissan Eporo

By studying the behavior patterns of tiny fish that travel in schools, Nissan engineers were able to make significant breakthroughs on collision prevention. And Nissan’s collision-free robot Eporo was born. Nissan has developed artificial intelligence components with spatial awareness, and this technology has since been used to design some of the safety features seen in autonomous vehicles.

Imitating nature’s ingenious design to make products for our world is not a new idea. But we’re glad that this trend has been embraced in the world of automotive. And, we can’t wait to see what the next splash of inspiration might bring. What do you think is next? Let us know in the comments below!