Automotive

Gordon Murray Doesn’t Care About Your Hybrid Hypercar And Hopes You Drive Your T.50


Illustration for article titled Gordon Murray Doesnt Care About Your Hybrid Hypercar And Hopes You Drive Your T.50

Photo: GMA

Ian Gordon Murray CBE has had the kind of engineering career that pretty much anyone could be jealous of. His 22 years of experience designing cars in Formula One would have been enough to earn him a place in the pantheon of legendary designers. Following his F1 career the guy went and designed the car that has defined the supercar conversation for the last three decades. Okay! Calm down, Gordon.

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But after fifty years in car design, Murray wanted a single project to put an exclamation mark on his career. The T.50 is the culmination of decades of advancement in design and technology. Murray hopes that the T.50 will do for the 2020 supercar landscape what the F1 did all those years ago. It is aiming to be another moonshot, a jump so far into the future that it will take at least fifteen years for anyone to catch up.


Illustration for article titled Gordon Murray Doesnt Care About Your Hybrid Hypercar And Hopes You Drive Your T.50

Photo: GMA

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That anyone can work in the car design sphere for fifty years and continue to deliver surprises and advancements is testament to the drive that Murray has for lightweight perfection. Who else can claim to have done half of what he has? There are F1 designers with more championships, and there are road-going supercar designers who have set the industry on its ear, and there are sports car makers bringing supercar dynamics to the middle-class masses, and there are compact car designers delivering low-cost cars to developing markets, but has anyone else done all four? I recently got on the phone with perhaps the most influential car designer in a generation to get a few answers.

Credit to Mr. Murray for giving me about an hour of his time, despite his very busy schedule. He provided incredibly comprehensive—and occasionally verbose—responses to my simplistic questions. I was perfectly happy to sit back and soak up the wealth of information. I did my best to ask him questions that he had not been asked before, so if you’ve heard other interviews with him, you might still learn something by reading on. I enjoyed the conversation, and I hope you do, too.


Illustration for article titled Gordon Murray Doesnt Care About Your Hybrid Hypercar And Hopes You Drive Your T.50

Photo: GMA

Bradley Brownell: Considering the time and engineering that goes into cars like the F1 and T.50, do you concern yourself with the fact that they are driven so infrequently? Does it bother you when one of your cars is sealed away in a collection with delivery mileage?

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Gordon Murray: Uh, yes that does. But, happily, when the F1 was first launched back in 1992, I would say, well I don’t have figures, but I would guess nine out of ten owners used their cars. I met every one of them, which is the great thing about doing a limited edition of 100 rather than 500 or something. In those days I met everybody, absolutely everybody, and I know people used their cars. In fact I know we had two that put over 60,000 miles on, for a supercar that’s phenomenal.

However, as they got more and more valuable—including mine! That’s the reason I sold mine actually—and of course spare parts become scarcer. You know, you think twice about driving it properly lets call it, with spirit. And that’s a shame. Because then they do go into collections.

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But certainly when the F1 was born it was used extensively by people. We had one customer that when it came in for service it had, like, you know, tennis shoes and Coke cans rattling around and it hadn’t been cleaned for a couple of weeks.

And I love that because the F1 was designed absolutely as the optimum driver’s car. If you go back to the pre-launch press, never once did I say it’s going to do this 0-60 or this top speed. It just had to be the best driving experience on the planet, basically. We all knew it was going to be a fast car with the weight and the power it had.

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This is actually the same thing again. And because we’re only making 100, once again I’ve either met or chatted to all of the owners so far. And I would say once again about nine out of ten—it could be ten out of ten, but some people I don’t know that well—are going to use this. And because it’s not a 25 million dollar car, I mean it’s still expensive, but because it’s got warranty for three years, we make sure we look after customers with service, the spare parts will always be available, so it’s far less of a worry to use it.

That’s the first point. The second point, like the F1 it’s like a super GT. Although it’s small, the F1 had luggage space, it had air conditioning, it had a good sound system, it had great visibility, it was set up fairly softly in the natural frequency of the springs, it was far less of a track car and more of a hyper GT if you like. And T.50 is in exactly the same mold. So I’m really hoping that very few of them end up just sitting in a collection.

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Illustration for article titled Gordon Murray Doesnt Care About Your Hybrid Hypercar And Hopes You Drive Your T.50

Screenshot: TVE Spanish Television Service

BB: Which is more challenging to engineer? A car which is all about speed and going fast, like the T.50, or a car which is all about maximizing fuel economy, like the T.25? And which do you prefer to engineer?

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GM: You know, I just like a challenge. Our sister company has done the engineering on this, Gordon Murray Design. Just before the Covid lockdown we engaged with I think five iStream products. [iStream is GMD’s revolutionary lightweight engineering process] Four out of five were electric. In fact we launched one just before lockdown, which was an autonomous electric pod.

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The MOTIV, that was a challenge. You know those cars bring their own challenges. You know we did the flat-pack off-road wooden truck. That was a huge challenge. Every bit as equal to doing T.50. I just love a challenge, I don’t really mind what it is. What I got tired of, when Formula One started getting repetitive towards the end of the 1980s, as the regulations started getting tighter and tighter and there was less room to innovate, I find that a bit boring. I’d hate to be in Formula One now.

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A supercar is just as much of a challenge as something like the Ox truck. To do something that light and that strong and that cheap, with the off-road capability it’s got with only two-wheel drive. Oh, and then flat-pack as well. So that was fun, and this is fun. The difference is, this car is packed with much more technology. The other cars that Gordon Murray Design is doing, have certain areas. Like for example the MOTIV, the challenge was to get the weight out, always that’s common. But also the autonomous driving bit was a challenge. But the rest of the car not so much.

You know, the truck was probably the nearest thing to a supercar from an engineering challenge. But you know, this car [T.50] is packed with the latest materials and technolgy, so the challenge has been multi-faceted. It’s not just the overall design and concept, it’s every part of the car uses the absolute latest technology. There’s lots of mini challenges, which I love, you know? And I’ve got such a fantastic team of people working on this, the best I’ve ever had. And I’ve been going to them and going ‘oh, if only we could make those pushrods out of this stuff’ and they go ‘yeah, you can!’

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Because the materials are available and the analysis tools. The huge difference in the last thirty years since I did the F1, is the analysis tools we have available now allow us to push the boundaries. You know, this isn’t a ten percent better F1, it’s a completely new start again from a technology point of view.

BB: There is an obvious connection between the Brabham BT46 and the T.50. Is the fan element something that stuck with you from all those years ago, or was it a natural element that worked its way into the T.50 design organically?

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GM: No! I know it looks like that. In fact, when we first did the concept packaging for the T.50 we were trying to package the fan inside the engine cover but it just literally doesn’t fit. So the only real connection is ‘Well, you know, I’ve stuck a fan on the back of car before, let’s do it again.’ You know, visually.

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But the way it works has got nothing, it owes nothing to the 46B. Because, you know, the 46B was just a crude instrument. It was literally just peripheral skirts and a fan designed for suction. It was an awfully crude device. (chuckles) It works.


Illustration for article titled Gordon Murray Doesnt Care About Your Hybrid Hypercar And Hopes You Drive Your T.50

Photo: GMA

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This is much more sophisticated. This system is called ‘boundary layer control’ and it owes more to aircraft. And actually, it comes from the McLaren F1. I used two small fans on the F1, about six inches in diameter. And they removed the boundary layer from two small sections of the diffuser. The normal diffuser under the F1 was a gentle curve upwards like any other ground effect car. But I had two sections with very steep reflex curves that the air wouldn’t follow. And I just had this idea, I thought ‘Well, what if we remove all the boundary layer that’s breaking up into vortices, and force the air to follow that shape?’ and sure enough we got about ten percent more downforce. I ran out of time in the wind tunnel.

That got lost in the F1 story because there were too many other firsts. You know first carbon fiber, sitting in the middle, lightweight, all that stuff. So it sort of got lost. So I just logged that in my memory, and I thought if I ever get another chance to do another supercar, I’d like to expand that idea and make it interact with the complete diffuser under the car, so you’re going to need a fairly serious fan to do that. And sure enough, it works better than I imagined. We’ve beaten all of our aero targets on the car.

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BB: With purity of purpose in mind, and a 650 horsepower engine, why did you find the need to add the mild hybrid system for an additional 40 HP in V Max Boost mode? Is this a BAS hybrid style system? How does it work?

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GM: No, there’s no mild hybrid at all. I’m sorry, it probably comes across wrong in the writing. What we’ve got, to save 20 kilos on the car of chassis and engine weight, we’ve got an integrated starter/generator which is driven by the front of the crankshaft. I wish I could show you the engine in true life, it’s the most beautiful thing, you can just imagine, because it’s got no belt-driven ancillaries on it at all.

It looks like a 1960s V12, it’s just block and cam covers and exhaust, inlet trumpets, full stop. And that’s because the ISG on the front does the work of the starter and the alternator. It generates 48 volts for the fan motor, which of course keeps that much smaller than a 12 volt one. And it also drives an electric compressor for the air conditioner.

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The air conditioner on the F1 was rubbish, it never really worked. That had a belt-driven compressor on the engine, which at idle didn’t do very much at all, really. So um, I’ve been trying to fix all the things that didn’t work on the F1. Altogether that saves us about 20 kilos on the car and the engine. And of course, from a reliability point of view, you’ve got no belt-driven ancillaries at all on the motor.

BB: So this is chain driven, or how does it work?

GM: So the valvetrain is all gear-driven. All of the pumps are gear-driven. And the ISG itself is a step-down gear on the front of the crankshaft. So there are literally no belts.

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So it’s not a mild hybrid. All we do for a bit of fun, just because we can… In the V-Max Boost mode, for a few minutes we drive the fan and instead of using the ISG, we drive the fan off of the power module and we just stop driving the generator so you’ve got that power. You know, it’s like a push-to-pass.

BB: So instead of having that parasitic power suck of the ISG unit, you’re turning it off so the engine can do its full shove?

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GM: Exactly. So, for example, if you’ve got a conventional motor like all the other motors, if you suddenly slip the belts off of the compressor, the alternator, and all the other stuff, you’d get a boost in power.


Illustration for article titled Gordon Murray Doesnt Care About Your Hybrid Hypercar And Hopes You Drive Your T.50

Photo: Gordon Murray Design

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BB: I really enjoy hearing stories of extremely lightweight engineering. What is the component in the T.50 that you’re most proud of pulling weight out of?

GM: Wow! I think the pedals, and you know why? Because when we did the F1 I took it upon myself to draw a lot of the car and do all of the stress calculations for those parts. In those days we didn’t have a stress analysis department, the engineers had to do all of their own sums and they were by hand, usually.

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So, I took the pedals on and I did all of the stress calculations, and I came up with this. For the clutch and brake a billet machined column if you like, the arm of the pedal, and then a little aluminium casting, very lightweight aluminium casting for the pads. And the throttle pedal was fabricated out of seven pieces of titanium sheet. And I stressed them, I did all the stress calculations, and they were very very light.

And then on this car I said to the young engineer who was working on the pedals, I said ‘Just have a look at a photo of the F1 pedals and do something pretty similar for me, because I’ll sit by you and help you, but you won’t get them any lighter’. And then that night I went home and I thought ‘Well that’s a bit defeatist.’ So I took the design on myself and I manged to get 300 grams out of the pedals with a redesign, and they look nicer too!

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Illustration for article titled Gordon Murray Doesnt Care About Your Hybrid Hypercar And Hopes You Drive Your T.50

Photo: GMA

I thought about how the brake and clutch pedal need grip. And usually it’s a protruding feature. So, on the F1 for example, the cast pedal pads are as small as they can possibly be, but they’ve got little what I would call small moon craters sticking up in the casting for grip. And then I thought ‘Well, hold on a minute, what if you didn’t have something sticking out, and if you milled holes in the pedal but left the sharp edge on the edge of the webs between the holes’ All shoes have a leather or some type of rubber sole. They will press with the pressure you’re putting on the pedal, that will press into the holes and grip to stop your foot from slipping off sideways. So, you know, as we all know there’s nothing lighter than a hole. I’ve said that for years.

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So that’s how we got the weight out.

BB: Wouldn’t two seats, or even just one be lighter than three? Why three seats?

GM: When I first started the F1, I did actually think about doing a single-seater, because we were a Formula One team. We had no car company at McLaren. You know I walked into an empty building with the commercial director to start that company. And I thought, we’re a Formula One team, this is going to be the ultimate driver’s car. Who needs passengers?

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Illustration for article titled Gordon Murray Doesnt Care About Your Hybrid Hypercar And Hopes You Drive Your T.50

Photo: GMA

But actually that’s a little short-sighted, because you always want to take somebody and show them. And one of my exercise books from college in 1969 we discovered, there’s a sketch of a three-seater arrowhead formation where the passengers are rearward but inset to keep the car very narrow and small. And I looked at that and I thought about offset seats, and you could easily package two. And to save the weight of seats I just put people sitting in the monocoque, which is exactly what the F1 had, and the T.50 has. The passenger seats only weigh two kilos.

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BB: I’ve heard a number of people in my field say silly things like the McLaren 720S is too powerful for a manual transmission. That car is 1000 pounds heavier than your T.50, and has about the same power. What do you have to say to that?

GM: Well, you should ask Nelson Piquet who drove my Brabham BT52 to the 1983 championship. That car had 1300 horsepower and a manual gearbox.

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Illustration for article titled Gordon Murray Doesnt Care About Your Hybrid Hypercar And Hopes You Drive Your T.50

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BB: I think most people aren’t Nelson Piquet, but I get your point. So what is it about the H-pattern gearbox that made you want to go with that instead of, you know, something with paddles.

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GM: Okay, I have a terrible admission to make. It was never going to be a DCT. My everyday driver is an Alpine A110, and it’s a beautiful little car, but it has a DCT gearbox, there’s no manual available. I just leave it in automatic, because a gearshift is such a non-event. It doesn’t involve you in any way, shape, or form. You’re pulling on an electric switch, and you don’t even know you’ve changed gear half the time. So it was never going to be a DCT, they’re big and heavy as well.

But, I do admit it wasn’t going to be an H-pattern. I was going to do a sequential manual.

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I had a few people lobby me in 2018, because we announced this car at the end of 2017. We started conceptual work on it in September of 2018. And I had people come to me who knew I was doing the car and say more and more they had a big supercar collection and a classic car collection. More and more they were turning to their old 911 Porsches at the weekend to have a bit of fun, because the supercars were getting wider, bigger, difficult to see out of, and they all had these switch gearchanges and they just weren’t engaging enough.

And they asked me ‘Would I please consider an H-pattern?’ And boy, was that music to my ears! Because I was going to do a sequential manual, which at least gives you something you actually have to change gears, it gives you a lever. [Aside] We had one of those on the longtail McLaren GTR racing car. [Aside]

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Um, so, an H-pattern is more engaging, of course. And if you get the gearchange right, there’s nothing more satisfying. You know, completing a really good H-pattern manual shift. So we had a, not a last minute change, but I had a change of heart just as we were doing the conceptual work, and we switched to a manual transmission.

BB: I know that when the F1 was developed, there was no intention to race the car, it just kind of happened that way. So, do you have any intentions with the T.50 with regard to motorsport?

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GM: Yes, I’d love to race it. We’re doing 100 road cars, and we’re doing 25 track cars. And that’s why we’re doing the track cars, because I wanted to keep the road car design incredibly clean and pure from a styling point of view, lovely curves and balance and stuff without any obvious aero aids—apart from the great big fan on the back, of course. But the irony is, it’s the fan that allows us to keep the rest of the car clean.

But, we are doing 25 what we call track day versions. But between you and me, they’ll be more GTR than track day. And I’m engaged with a couple of people at the moment about a possible race series, a supercar race series, which would be fun! We’re designing it at the moment.

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BB: I know that you spoke earlier about the technology development in stress testing and things like that. What technological improvement from the 1990s to today has contributed the most to the T.50 being the car that it is?

GM: Woo. Well, um, you’d probably have to say engine technology. But also the composites. The McLaren F1 was quite crude, I literally just used what we were using currently in Formula One. The exact carbon fiber, we were using aluminium honeycomb to separate the two skins, um, the same epoxy resin, the same methodology for manufacturer. It was just whatever Formula One was then. I didn’t, rather I couldn’t go out and scour the world for the latest carbon fiber materials and practice because that was all we had in those days. It was still quite new. The first time I used carbon fiber in an F1 car was 1978, so it was still relatively new.

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Um, with this car, now we’ve got massively huge advances in materials, material technology, manufacturing methodology. We’ve been able to double the torsional stiffness, but take 50 kilograms out of the body and chassis as compared to the F1. So that just gives you a feel for how far things have come.


Illustration for article titled Gordon Murray Doesnt Care About Your Hybrid Hypercar And Hopes You Drive Your T.50

Photo: GMA

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But I would still say, you’ve asked me to single one out, I would say it had to be the engine. Because to go from 7,800 revs to 12,000 revs, and from 10,000 revs a second to 28,000 revs a second pick up speed, and to be able to produce, the most mind-boggling one for me, because I grew up in an era where your engine either had power or torque, you couldn’t have both. The magic thing about this engine, it makes 71 percent of its torque at 2,500 revs. Cosworth are just such a clever company. I don’t think there’s another engine company in the world that could have delivered this engine.

BB: Have you done a competitive analysis of current rival supercars/hypercars to find out what not to do for the T.50?

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GM: Yes, I’ve driven all of the, um, cars on the track, and quite a few of them on the road. And I have to say the standard these days, there are cars out there, virtually all of them are more capable than the McLaren F1. However, after driving them all, none of them give you the thrill and the driving experience that the F1 gives you.

When you jump back, you can drive all of these cars, and some of them are just so much quicker around the circuit. You get the feeling that, sort of, almost anybody could drive them. They do everything for you. None of them make a particularly nice noise. Absolutely none of them have the instantaneous snap throttle that you get in an F1, because A) they’re heavy, and B) they’re turbocharged most of them. None of them do that.

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Illustration for article titled Gordon Murray Doesnt Care About Your Hybrid Hypercar And Hopes You Drive Your T.50

Photo: Kristen Lee/Jalopnik

So I started thinking, you know in 2017/18 or so, I started thinking why hasn’t anybody else picked up that formula? And I think it’s probably because even if they did understand the formula—and the formula goes way beyond central seat, lightweight, V12—it’s the secondary and primary controls in the F1, the way it’s laid out, the ultra-low scuttle in front of you, the playstation feeling, it’s the sound of the engine, the speed of the pickup. It’s a combination of all those things that make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up.

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And when you’ve got back in an F1 after getting out of these modern things, it all comes back again. So I thought this is probably exactly the right time. I needed something to celebrate 50 years of car design, hence T.50. And um, this is probably the right time to do it because everybody else has had 28 years to figure it out and do it, and they still haven’t. Why not?

Trying to do a better F1 15 years ago would have been completely useless, because the technology wasn’t advanced enough. It would have been a ten percent better F1, which is completely pointless. And also, 15 years ago, if you look at what was around then, the opposition hadn’t really caught up then. Now they have, in the performance envelope. But they don’t deliver this sort of all around fantastic driving experience.

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I keep saying to the team, look around the world, there’s nobody doing what we’re doing. The absolute focus on engineering, quality, and the driving experience.

BB: Why do you think that is that nobody has followed your path? For years the F1 has been held as this pinnacle of supercar, and nobody has taken that design ethos to its ultimate point?

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Photo: McLaren

GM: You know, that’s a really good question. I think it’s because—I can’t think of any other reason—even the ones that really did understand the F1 formula and the driving experience, with all its little nuances and atmospheres and things. They probably were working in a company that had committees and layers of management, which actually meant they couldn’t deliver a car in which every single element was bespoke for that car.

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If you think about it, it makes absolute commercial sense. If you’re making a new McLaren, you’re going to use the same engine and gearbox, you’re going to try to use the same chassis. If you’re doing a new Ferrari, even something like the LaFerrari has things that carry over like switch gear and bits and pieces all over it. And you can’t blame people, it makes commercial sense.

The F1 was a clean sheet of paper, and it probably had two percent carryover. The T.50 is a clean sheet of paper and it has zero carryover. I’ve even made our own switches this time from scratch.

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BB: With so many of those competitors, like you said they’re bigger and heavier. They use easy outs like rear wheel steering to make the car feel lighter or more nimble. How do you compete with that with your lightweighting principles?

GM: Um, it’s really easy. The best riding and handling car I’ve driven in the last twenty years is the Alpine A110, so we benchmarked it. I gave the team my car, for all my sins, and they ripped it apart for two months. And we put it on a K&C (kinematics and compliance) rig and we measured the torsion and bending and we measured everything.

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Illustration for article titled Gordon Murray Doesnt Care About Your Hybrid Hypercar And Hopes You Drive Your T.50

Image: Alpine

And you know, that car, all it has is that it has the basics right. It weighs 1050 kilos, it’s got fantastic torsional rigidity and bending rigidity, it’s got very good local stiffness where the suspension attaches to the chassis, it has very compliant suspension, lots of comfort in the secondary ride, lots of rubber, but still good camber control. A perfectly good double-wishbone suspension front and rear, passive dampers, and conventional springing. And it’s fantastic. And it just goes to show, if you’ve got a lightweight car and you get the basics right, the car is gonna handle like nothing on earth.

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If you start getting up beyond 1500 or even 1500 kilos, you can’t change the laws of physics, so the transient handling is going to be awful. As we edge up towards two tons, it becomes impossible. And then you have to start introducing gimmicks and things to help you like roll compensation and hydraulics and interconnected suspension and all sorts of tricks. Rear wheel steering… all those other horrid things. That try to make the car feel more nimble. That try to make you think the point in steering feel better. But all you’re doing is trying to disguise the fact that the car weighs 1700 kilos!

This is a statement of fact: You cannot change the laws of physics. No matter what you do to a 1700 kilo sports car, it’ll never handle like a 1000 kilo sports car, it’s just not possible.

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BB: Will there be a book like Driving Ambition for the T.50?

GM: Yes, there will. We’ve started it already.

BB: What car would you wish was your design? If it was an alternate universe where you could claim ownership of someone else’s design, and nobody would know, which car do you wish was yours?

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GM: Road car or race car?

BB: Oh! Uh, give me one of each.

GM: Race car, Lotus 25. Road car, 1960s Lotus Elan.

BB: It may not be well known, but you’re a fan of the Lotus Elan.

GM: I drove mine today!


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Photo: Lotus Cars

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BB: If you were to engineer a modern version of the Elan, what would that look like? And what kind of hurdles would stand in your way of making that a reality?

GM: The biggest hurdle would be that it’s such a beautifully packaged car, it’s tiny. It’s absolutely tiny. For me, car design is packaging. Twenty years of F1 teaches you how to shrink-wrap stuff. Cars impress me when they’re light and cars impress me when they’re packaged well. And they upset me when they’re not packaged well.

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So, the Elan, one of the problems you would have would be crash. You would have no problem with rear crash, and you’d have no problem at all with front crash, because it’s front mid-engine, you’ve got lots of space for crash in the front. But the side-impact, because it has a backbone chassis, the coupling between the seats is relatively wide because there’s a tunnel that covers the backbone chassis. The side rockers would never pass the pole test or the side impact test.

But there’s a way around that. If you move the main torsional and bending members, and you don’t have a backbone chassis, and you move them to the outside of the car, you could still produce a car that was perhaps not quite that narrow, but still pretty narrow. You could still produce a car that length.

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I know this is all true because we just designed an iStream superlight sports car, which is probably four inches wider than an Elan and the same length as an Elan and that passes all of the crash tests. It weighs 850 kilos, the Elan weighed 700, but it does have things like air conditioning and airbags and stuff like that. So probably stripped out it would be 750 kilos. Now, that’s mid-rear engined, it’s not mid-front like an Elan, but it would be a modern Elan. So it’s possible, but the only thing you wouldn’t be able to do is to do something quite that narrow.

BB: Are you disappointed that your recent project with Yamaha didn’t come to fruition?

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GM: Oh god yes! I mean that was, wow, that… Their first product would have been a sports car, which is very similar to the one I just mentioned. It’s iStream using steel and carbon rather than aluminium and carbon. But it was still a 1-liter 3-cylinder engine with 150 horsepower, and it was 830 kilos. Fantastic torsional rigidity, massive luggage compartment. And it would have sold for between 30 and 35 thousand pounds.

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BB: I would have been in line to get one, I guarantee it.

GM: Ah, me too!

So it was such a shame. You know, they had a management change and I think the new management decided they weren’t going four-wheels and that was the end of that. That car would have been in production for 18 months now.

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BB: Do you think anything like that is possible in the future?

GM: Yes, well, we’ve got one. That was T.40. Subsequently we developed a version of that using our iStream superlight, a more grown up version if you like, slightly bigger. That’s 850 kilos, it’s got 200 horsepower with a 1500cc engine in it. And that is what we’re trying to, well we’re trying to get someone to produce that at the moment. We’re not a car manufacturer.

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I still think there’s a market for that. I think you could do an electric version of that as well. Small electric sports cars make a little bit of sense. We did an electric car eight years ago for materials company Toray in Japan. Just a one-off demonstrator, and that was carbon and it was 870 kilos with a 250 kilo battery. That was fun!

It’s just when you get up to supercar level with the current battery technology, to me it makes no sense at all, because the size of the battery you need, you’re going to end up with a car somewhere between 1700 kilos and two tons. And then you’ve got the Bugatti Chiron problem.

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Screenshot: Top Gear

BB: Is there anything you picked up from the people you’ve looked up to in your career that you apply to running your own company?

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GM: I think it was my boyhood hero, Colin Chapman. Well, him and Bob Dylan, but he doesn’t design cars. Chapman’s approach, although Chapman himself wasn’t a designer funny enough, he couldn’t draw. But his ideas, and his fanatical approach to lightweight. That put me on the path, if you like.

BB: You’re most well known for your work in motorsport and the McLaren F1 obviously, but you’ve worked on some pretty odd projects in the past, like the Ox, the LCC Rocket, and more recently the MOTIV city car. Which of your perhaps lesser known projects are you most proud of, and why?

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GM: Oh, the Ox. I think up until this point the Ox is the best thing I’ve done. For a few reasons. As I said earlier, it was a massive challenge. You know, to try and make a two-wheel drive three-and-a-half-ton truck one ton lighter than the opposition, carry five times more than the opposition, and outperform the opposition with only two-wheel drive and flat-pack is the sort of challenge I love, and it does all of those things.


Illustration for article titled Gordon Murray Doesnt Care About Your Hybrid Hypercar And Hopes You Drive Your T.50

Photo: Ox Trucks

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We’re still trying to get somebody to produce it in volume. That’s one product, I swore I’d never be a manufacturer but I believe in that so much. We’ve got two or three people interested in producing it. That’s one thing that I’d consider investing in.

The other thing I’m proud of is, you know these cars are all very well, the F1 and T.50. A few people get to drive them, but hopefully they’ll inspire a whole lot more people than that. But the Ox is different. The Ox is designed to give people with no mobility some mobility. So the Ox would affect many more thousands of people.

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BB: Excellent. Well I genuinely appreciate you taking the time, and thank you for giving us so much of it. And honestly, it’s been an absolute pleasure. So thank you!

GM: Thanks Bradley, it’s been a pleasure for me, too.

BB: Have a lovely rest of your day and maybe go drive that Elan some more.


So there you have it. I was moderately excited about the new T.50 prior to this interview, but hearing how excited Gordon Murray remains about projects like this makes it all the more electrifying. This guy is a proper enthusiast, a real one-of-us kind of guy, and to see him get excited about an old Lotus Elan or an Alpine A110 is pretty great. If those are the cars he places on a pedestal, surely the T.50 is going to be a real G. It’s a shame the damn thing has a 7-figure price tag.

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For those of you lucky, or exploitative enough, to be able to afford one, you’d better damn well drive the thing. And for all of the other sports car manufacturers paying attention to this car, maybe it’s time to refocus on lightweight and driver enjoyment than max power delivery. Please let this be an industry sea change.

Anyway, here’s hoping we all get to see a T.50 in the carbon some day.

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