The purest, lightest, most driver-focused supercar ever built.” Bold words, granted, but when they come from the man who designed the McLaren F1, they need to be taken very seriously indeed.
Twenty-seven years on from the unveiling of the fabled F1, Gordon Murray is making another hypercar, and this time it’s his name that will be applied to the bodywork. Or rather, that of Gordon Murray Automotive, a sister company to his Gordon Murray Design (GMD) business that is best known for its iStream design and production system.
The new car will be called the T.50, and its specification makes us wonder if Murray has been eavesdropping on our watercooler conversations in the evo office. Indeed, the legendary designer even uses the magazine’s tagline, ‘the thrill of driving’, in his press release about the new car, which he says will be ‘‘the last, and greatest, analogue supercar ever built’’. Why? Because the T.50 shuns much of the modern doctrine on hypercars, from hybrid systems to Ring lap times and top speeds, focusing instead on a sense of involvement, and the responsiveness and vibrancy of the driving experience. The T.50 will not only be extraordinarily light, it will also be compact: shorter and narrower than a Porsche 992 Carrera, in fact.
“Automotive enthusiasts and road-test editors have discussed the concept of ‘peak supercar’ for some time,” says Murray. “The reality of chasing top speeds only adds weight, notably through ever-more powerful engines, which increase the requirement for larger, heavier ancillaries. We are taking a very different approach.”
Ingrained in the approach of the Gordon Murray Automotive product development strategy is a fastidious commitment to minimise weight – in every component. “This is the key to achieving enhanced performance and dynamics, and refocusing the supercar on the driver and the thrill of driving. We’re not interested in simply chasing numbers, and never will be,” asserts Murray.
A carbonfibre tub forms the core of the car, onto which is attached as a fully stressed member a very special engine: a bespoke, 3980cc, 65-degree, naturally aspirated V12 designed and built by Cosworth, producing 485kW and, incredibly, revving out to 12,100rpm, some 1000rpm more than the larger V12 the Northamptonshire firm has also designed for the Aston Martin Valkyrie. It’s an unheard-of number for a road car engine, and comparable to an early 1990s F1 motor.
Cosworth Managing Director, Powertrain, Bruce Wood, said: “We are tremendously excited to be part of the T.50 supercar project, and to have the opportunity to work alongside Gordon Murray Automotive. It is a real privilege to play such a key role in the T.50 with an all-new V12 engine, designed, developed, manufactured and assembled by Cosworth’s industry-leading powertrain division.
“Developing an engine that delivers superlative performance, while meeting stringent emissions targets, is a challenge that demonstrates Cosworth’s unique capabilities,” continued Wood. “To be so intrinsically aligned with a supercar that puts engine performance, response and light weighting at the very heart of the driving experience is the ultimate accolade and underscores Cosworth’s reputation and capabilities as a leading OEM tier one powertrain partner.”
It’s perhaps not surprising that this new engine produces peak torque of ‘only’ 450Nm, given its relatively small displacement, lofty rev limit and lack of forced induction or electric boost, but then with a weight of just 980kg the T.50 won’t need a huge, lazy dollop of torque to get moving with conviction. To save you doing the math, that’s 495kW per tonne, which should be plenty…
In a deliberate ploy to create the ultimate driver’s car, Murray has commissioned transmission specialists XTrac to design a new six-speed manual gearbox, which will send drive to the rear wheels only. That gearbox will be operated by a driver sitting in the middle of the car, McLaren F1-style, with passengers either side.
“Just as with the F1, we have no specific targets for acceleration, top speed or lap times,” explains Murray. “The F1 was fast because it was light and relatively small. The T.50 will deliver performance and dynamic characteristics simply out of reach for other supercars not least because of its low weight. Once again, I have focused on the complete driving experience, not horsepower or top speed.”
“I designed the F1 as a sort of super GT car – absolutely road-focused with no plan to go racing, which is why the car set new standards for packaging and luggage space. The T.50 design has the same focus and betters the F1 in every area – ingress and egress; luggage capacity; serviceability; maintenance and suspension set-up. Also, driver-selectable engine maps ensure a driving mode to suit every situation,” concludes Murray.
Murray is generating the necessary downforce to keep such a projectile on the ground via the underbody of the car, thereby keeping the top surfaces clean in design and free from complicated aerodynamic devices and body openings. To do this he’s resurrecting the tech behind one of his most famous – or infamous – racing cars: the 1978 Brabham BT46B ‘fan car’.
The BT46B was Murray’s response to the Lotus 79, which had pioneered ground-effect aerodynamics and was running away with the 1978 F1 championship. Knowing that the flat-12 configuration of Brabham’s Alfa Romeo engine made it almost impossible to incorporate the venturi tunnels required to mimic the 79’s approach, Murray instead used a large fan, driven off the engine, to suck the air out from under the car and achieve the same effect as tunnels – only more so. The late Niki Lauda went on to easily win the Swedish Grand Prix at Anderstorp in the BT46B, but in doing so created enormous controversy amongst the other teams, and following the race the car was banned from further competition, although the result stood.
For the T.50, Murray is using a 400mm fan, and has established a technical partnership with an unnamed but current F1 team, which will make its rolling road wind tunnel available to develop the fan and the car’s “continuous, dynamic and interactive underbody ground-effect systems”.
A more contemporary provision is that of different driver modes, but then with the V12 producing more than 500kW with the ram-air effect of the induction system taken into account, perhaps that’s wise. Much like the F1, the T.50 is envisaged as an ‘everyday supercar’, with good visibility, plenty of luggage space and ease of ingress and egress as priorities. It will be constructed at a new facility in Surrey, with first deliveries of the 100-unit run set for 2022.
The price? c$4million plus taxes. Given the current market value of F1s, the ‘Murray factor’, the obsession with every last gram and the T.50’s unique specification, who’d bet against a seriously moneyed queue forming? Adam Towler
HOW THE T.50 COMPARES
Engine: 3980cc V12
Power: 485kW @ TBC
Torque: 450Nm @ TBC
Top speed TBC
468kW @ 7500rpm
650Nm @ 4000rpm
7993cc, W16, quad-turbo
1103kW @ 6700rpm
1600Nm @ 2000rpm