Legendary South African-born F1 designer and father of the McLaren F1, Gordon Murray, has finally unveiled his company's T.50 “analogue hypercar”, endowed with a free-breathing 3.9-litre V12 engine, a 6-speed manual gearbox and F1 fan-car-inspired active aerodynamics.
1. Gordon Murray, CBE
Professor Gordon Murray was born in Durban, moved to the UK in the late Sixties and designed the Bernie Ecclestone-owned Brabham F1 team’s cars from 1972 to 1986 (two of which won drivers’ world championships for Nelson Piquet in 1981 and 1983) and assisted Steve Nichols and Neil Oatley at McLaren to design the Honda-powered cars that dominated grand prix racing for 4 years (1988-1991) in the hands of Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna.
Murray then founded the road-car division of the Woking-based F1 team and designed the definitive, genre-redefining McLaren F1 supercar; he was also involved with the Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren, but thereafter he founded Gordon Murray Design Ltd (a design and engineering consultancy) and focused on a number of projects, including a 1-seater track car, city cars, a light commercial vehicle and the new TVR Griffith.
Prof Gordon Murray, CBE.
Murray spearheaded the iStream manufacturing process and his group, Gordon Murray Automotive (GMA) will be producing the new T.50 at a new factory based in Dunsfold. In 2019, he was made a Commander of the British Empire by Prince William in recognition of his contributions to the motorsport and automotive sectors over the past 50 years.
2. Sub-tonne kerb weight
The T.50 is designed to be the spiritual successor to the F1 by virtue of its lightness, compactness and space-efficiency. The entire car weighs just 986 kg – almost a 3rd lighter than most supercars and 150 kg lighter than the original 3-seater. Its all-new carbon-fibre monocoque weighs only 150 kg and GMA’s engineers modelled the diameter and length of the T.50’s fixings “to ensure they’re only as strong as they need to be”. The 900 nuts, bolts and washers affixed to the T.50’s chassis are made from titanium.
Here’s further proof of the intense weight-saving programme: the T.50’s pedal box is 300g lighter than the McLaren F1’s, while its transmission is 10 kg lighter. Its windscreen is made from ultra-thin glass, which is 28% thinner than that of a typical road car. The driver’s seat weighs 7 kg – and the passenger seats weigh less than 3 kg apiece.
3. Small footprint, unfussy styling
Although virtually all road cars are now substantially larger than their equivalents from 30 years ago, the T.50 is just 30 mm wider and 60 mm longer than the McLaren F1 and its exterior design is refreshingly simple; the newcomer has remotely-released dihedral doors, but, as opposed to most hypercars, there are no elaborate wings, vents and ducts.
In profile, the T.50's design looks near-perfectly proportioned.
The T.50's "see-through" passenger compartment is very distinctive. The dihedral doors rise up and forwards to create a striking visual impact, as well as easing ingress/egress, even in tight parking spaces. These doors are joined by a pair of glass-topped gullwing rear openings that hinge along the spine of the T.50 to fully reveal the V12 powertrain.
From the rear, the T.50 is distinguished by the integral ground-effect fan, but its complex aerodynamic systems also incorporate active under-body elements and rear aerofoils.
Murray was determined to create a clean, pure shape that would ensure the T.50 "would still look fresh in 30 years."
4. References McLaren F1, 1978 'F1 fan car'
A three-seater with a central driving position, the car combines the unique qualities of Murray’s two most iconic creations in a stellar 50-year, 50-car career: the seminal, ultra-light McLaren F1 3-seat supercar of 1992 and the Brabham BT46B grand prix “fan car” of 1978, whose extraordinary levels of downforce briefly rocked F1; it took one race win (by Niki Lauda) before the team withdrew the car in the face of opposition from rivals.
Since the first details of the T.50 emerged last year, it was clear it would use much of the packaging and technology of the F1, simply because, in Murray’s view, there’s no better way of doing it. “No one else makes supercars our way,” he says. “I’m happy about that.”
The iconic (and BMW-powered) McLaren F1 supercar was named #1 in our Top 100 Coolest Cars of all time.
5. That 400-mm ground-effect fan
The 400-mm rear-mounted electric fan is designed to extract air from beneath the car to radically increase downforce and grip. Downforce is generated either by an active rear spoiler or via a large venturi beneath the body that channels airflow into the fan. The feed of underbody airflow can be varied by the opening or closing of slots ahead of it.
Aerodynamic downforce is a great thing to have when you need it, says Murray, and that’s principally between 100 and 160 kph, the point at which your car benefits most from greatly enhanced cornering adhesion. It would be nice to have downforce that works at lower speeds too, but passive aero gadgetry doesn’t provide it, he adds.
The ground-effect fan, which briefly upturned the F1 establishment in 1978, is integral to the T.50's active aerodynamics.
As it turns out, when going faster, less aero-effect is required. “Aerodynamic load rises as the square of speed,” Murray says, “and so does drag. Which means many cars with serious performance use up their suspension travel at high speed. You can reduce it with expensive, bulky variable-rate (suspension) complexity, but who wants that?”
The T50’s system of variable, fan-based downforce is tuneable and delivers exactly what is required; it greatly improves the hypercar’s handling at lower speeds and boosts its ability to stop in a hurry, but, at the same time, when the T.50 is cruising at high speed, the system can be tuned to facilitate decent stability and reasonable ride quality.
6. Six different aero modes
The mid-engined T.50’s all-important aerodynamics package was developed with the assistance of the Silverstone-based Racing Point Formula 1 team. Access to the team’s moving-floor wind tunnel, plus the expertise of its F1-trained technicians, allowed GMA to utilise large-scale models to refine the T.50’s revolutionary active aero package.
The large dihedral doors provide easy access to the T.50's cockpit; passengers sit on either side of the driver.
The T.50’s aero set-up can be configured in 6 different modes, 2 of which are automatic, the rest of which are driver-selectable… The 2 automatic aero modes are Auto (which optimises the use of the fan, the rear spoiler and the underbody diffusers) and Brake (which opens the spoilers and runs the fan at high speed, pushing the car down and increasing stability and rolling resistance).
The driver-select aero modes are High Downforce and Streamline, which cuts drag by about 12.5% by closing underbody vents and speeding up the fan. There’s also a Vmax mode, which uses the car’s 48-volt integrated starter-generator to drive the fan – freeing up power to the driveshaft. Combined with the ram-air induction, this boosts power to 515 kW for short bursts of acceleration. The final aero mode is Test, which allows an owner to demonstrate how the aero system functions when the car is stationery.
With the T.50, Gordon Murray Automotive is not chasing power or top speed figures, but seeking ultimate driver engagement.
7. Highest-revving road car engine
Murray insisted that, like the McLaren F1, the T.50 had to be normally aspirated and feature no hybrid assistance apart from a 48V integrated starter/generator, which is connected directly with the crankshaft. It acts as a starter motor, but then converts to a generator to produce power to spin the ground-effect fan at speeds of up to 8 000 rpm.
Developed by British engineering firm Cosworth, the T.50’s 65-degree 3.9-litre V12 produces 488 kW at 11 500 rpm and 467 Nm at 9 000 rpm. The engine weighs 178 kg, which is about 60 kg less than the McLaren F1’s 6.1-litre V12. The engine’s rev limit is at a dizzying 12 100 rpm and to enhance the driver and occupants' aural experience, Direct Path Induction Sound, a system that was pioneered on the McLaren F1 (and refined on the T.50) channels the motor's throttle-induced induction growl into the cabin.
The motor might seem peaky (rev-hungry), given its 12 100-rpm redline, but it delivers 71% of its peak torque from 2 500 rpm.
Not only is the engine the most power-dense naturally-aspirated engine ever produced, it's also the highest-revving road-car engine in the world. To give you an idea of how free-revving this astounding motor is, the V12 will pick up revs at 28 400 revs per second, which enables it to hit its redline from idle in just 0.3 of a second.
8. A 6-speed manual 'box
The V12 drives the rear wheels through a 6-speed H-pattern manual gearbox (built by Xtrac) that weighs only 80.5 kg. "The gearchange's motion and weighting were honed meticulously until we achieved the perfect result: a narrow cross gate and a short throw. It delivers slick, crisp gearchanges – truly a joy for the driving enthusiast,” Murray says.
The T.50's simple instrument cluster (with a large central rev counter) is flanked by a pair of retro control-knob clusters.
9. Practical 'everyday supercar' interior
“Comfortable, refined, spacious and easy to drive – that's not a typical description for a supercar with the capabilities, power or driver focus of the T.50," says Murray. "I’ve designed this car to be used every day, with almost 300 litres of luggage and storage space, a 10-speaker 700W Arcam audio system and an Apple CarPlay/Android Auto-compatible infotainment system. From its exceptional visibility and compact footprint to ease of ingress and egress, the T.50 rewrites the supercar rule book for usability.”
Like the McLaren F1, the T.50 has a centrally-positioned driver’s seat flanked by two passenger seats. There are no touchscreens and no stalk controls – even the indicators are operated by thumb-buttons on the steering wheel’s spokes. The pedals are milled from solid aluminium and laser-etched, while the titanium gearstick spouts from a ‘floating’ console, which features the drive mode selector, infotainment control knob and an engine start/stop button, which sits beneath an anodised red “missile switch” cover.
Only 100 roadgoing units of the T.50 will be produced. The newcomer's price tag is approximately R53 million.
10. First deliveries in 2022
GMA will produce 125 cars – 100 road cars and 25 track units – at the company’s production facility in Dunsfold Park, Surrey, with the first delivery scheduled for 2022.
Murray has personally met or spoken to every buyer and will hand over every car collected from the Gordon Murray Automotive’s UK customer reception centre. Around the world, T.50 owners will have access to a service network in the UK, US, Japan and Abu Dhabi – with a "flying technician" service supporting these and all other markets.
Most T.50s are pre-sold, although there are still “a few” opportunities for buyers who are willing to fork out an approximate R53 million (or more) for the privilege of owning one.
“People tell us the McLaren F1 was their poster car when they were growing up,” says Murray. “Now that they’ve built successful businesses, T50 has become their F1.”