A couple of weeks ago, the internet’s petrolhead websites were awash with the unveiling of a new hypercar. It’s not from any famous car manufacturer. It doesn’t make a bajillion horsepower and it’s not electric either. So why was everyone SO invested and excited about this new supercar? Because of the man who made it — Gordon Murray.
The company bears his name, i.e., Gordon Murray Automotive. The car is called the T.50, keeping in line with the man’s nomenclature for his creations. We could go on for a while about the various accomplishments of Gordon Murray himself, mainly around his championship-winning Formula 1 cars. But a good friend of mine has already done it so check out his special on Murray here.
A shortlist of his career highlights as an automotive designer include BT46B (Brabham’s F1 fan-car in 1978), MP4/4 (Ayrton Senna’s title-winning McLaren F1 car in 1988) and the McLaren F1 road car. There are many more astonishing achievements to his credit in terms of title-winning F1 cars and concepts that are used in Formula 1 even today.
The McLaren F1 is often hailed as the best road car ever made. It was a wondrous work of engineering and design that focussed on offering the best possible driving experience. That’s why Murray was obsessed with keeping the weight low, why it has a three-seat layout with the driver in the middle like in a racecar and why it featured a fast-revving naturally-aspirated V12. It was designed to look timeless with its butterfly doors and simple contours that cover the clever and artful engineering under the panels.
The McLaren F1 held the record of being the world’s fastest production road car with an average top speed of 386.4kph. A record that stood for over a decade before being claimed (properly) by the Bugatti Veyron Super Sport. It probably has the title of being the world’s fastest naturally-aspirated road car pretty safe as all future record-holders featured forced induction. But the man behind the McLaren F1, Gordon Murray, is the least interested in all that. In fact, he’s not a 100% happy with it and he’s been wanting to have another go at making the perfect driving machine exactly as he’d imagined it.
Well, he’s decided to make it himself and this is the first look at the final product – the GMA T.50. The truest successor to the F1 that will ever be. It does bear some similarities with the McLaren in terms of its compact proportions, elegant design and of course – the three-seater layout with the driver in the middle of the cabin.
The T.50 is light, with a kerb weight of 980kg which is quite low compared to most modern usable supercars. But Murray likes his cars to be comfortable so it does get creature comforts like air conditioning and an audio system. It also has luggage space and the car is wide enough to seat three adults. In terms of design, the T.50 has also been sculpted to be timeless and it seems to have met that target. Murray mentioned that he was not a fan of designing cars with outrageous vents and fins and wings, so the team worked hard to keep the car’s clever aero hidden behind its elegant shapes.
Around the rear, the visually dominating element is the giant fan in the centre. Unlike the Brabham fan-car, this is a very sophisticated system that allows the T.50 to generate a lot of downforce without the use of a massive wing. It has active aero flaps either side of it. The fan system controls the flow of air over the flanks, down the spine and from underneath to keep the car to generate ground effect which greatly increases grip. We are yet to see the T.50 in action so it’ll be fun to see just how effective the fan interactive aero system (FIAS) is in practice. Under it lies the very aggressively designed active diffuser which also plays a key role in the car’s aerodynamic prowess. Murray also calls this approach as ‘boundary layer aero’.
Murray has given it 6 aerodynamic modes, two are automatic and four are driver-selectable. Auto regulates the fan and the flaps to generate the amount of downforce as required while driving while Brake Boost triggers the fan to spin fast and have the flaps fully erect at 45-degrees to reduce braking distance from high speeds. The driver-selectable modes are Streamline, V Max Boost, High Downforce and Test. Streamline mode adjusts the active aero and the fan speed to create a longtail effect which would allow the T.50 to achieve high straight-line speeds. V Max Boost is like a push-to-pass system, redirecting the 48V fan motor to send its power to the crank instead for more power. Test mode is as its name suggests, running the flaps and fan through a testing sequence and serves two purposes: checking that everything works as it should before you set off for a spirited drive, and to show off the clever fan-assisted aero system to your friends.
Building the best driver’s car in this era, you need a very special engine. That means you can’t just source a power unit that’s already in use. So, Gordon Murray went to Cosworth and asked them to build him a new naturally-aspirated V12 that would rev high and still be lightweight. The weight of the car ended up deciding the engine specs and the math pointed them in the direction of a 4.0-litre unit (3994cc). It took them a while but Cosworth finally had an engine that met Murray’s requirements. The bespoke engine develops 663PS and 467Nm. To those muttering “that’s not much”, it’s plenty for something as light as the T.50. For reference, it’s more than what the McLaren F1 made and the T.50 is about 150kg lighter too, weighing in at 178kg. Then there’s how the engine will rev…all the way up to 12,100rpm. It gets there too, 28,400rpm per second means it can go from idle to cutout in 0.3 seconds. Fired up and out on a track, this bespoke Cosworth engine will surely deliver a symphony of sounds.
But what gearbox do you choose for your ultimate driving machine? A manual one of course. Murray’s creation features a 6-speed shifter and this time he’s left some of the linkage design exposed with an elaborate carbon fibre housing design. Pagani may be famous for their exposed gear linkages but this one looks prettier next to the central driver’s seat. The entire transmission unit had to be lightweight as well and this one weighs just 80.5kg.
The T.50’s cabin is really special too, not just because of the central driver’s seat but also the details. The rotary switchgear for the engine mode, aero mode, lights, air-con and infotainment is beautifully crafted, inspired by high-end cameras for the tactile finish. Gordon isn’t a fan of all those touch interfaces or the Ferrari-style of all controls on the steering wheel itself. So, his perfect supercar has a completely clean steering wheel design with just two dials. The steering setup is also engineered for the perfect driving experience, so of course, it is unassisted. But Murray did take into account that the F1 was difficult to drive at slow speeds and was especially tiring while trying to park. So, for those practical manoeuvres at speeds lower than 24kph, it does get some power assistance to make life easier.
Behind the wheel lies the classy instrument cluster layout with an analogue tachometer in the centre, flanked by two digital displays. The left-side screen has the vehicle information while the other is for the infotainment. Murray’s tasteful simplicity carries through to the displays as well with a lack of fancy colourful graphics, instead featuring white text on black screens for clean and clear information. There are no extra screens for the passengers either side. Instead, it has two small, but high-definition displays at each end of the dashboard for the car’s cameras that will act as wing-mirrors. There are flappy-paddles behind the steering wheel too, but like the F1, they’re for flashing your lights and using the horn. Two of the most common necessities while driving anywhere on the open road.
Under the central dashboard is another work of art in itself – the aluminium and titanium pedals, all three of them. Beautifully crafted to be lightweight with carefully calibrated pedal feel, all done by Murray himself. We’ve already spoken of the beautifully sculpted gear linkage that has been left partially exposed by the hybrid carbon and aluminium cantilever for us to ogle at. Just ahead of the H-pattern manual shifter is a lovely plate with the chassis number and the stick itself has Gordon Murray’s signature next to it. But the central tunnel has other controls too like the engine start button covered by a flap, emergency lights and traction control. The dial is to toggle through the infotainment system when you’re not using your phone to control it wirelessly.
Climbing into the driver’s seat is easier than it was in the McLaren F1. The T.50 also comes with butterfly doors that look amazing of course. The rear panels open up similarly to allow us a glimpse at the wonderful Cosworth engine and some of the suspension bits too.
These panels are also the way to access to the luggage space but also give us a glimpse at the With all three seats occupied, the T.50 gives you 228 litres of storage which is just enough for a nice weekend drive. Carrying fewer people? you got more storage in the cabin too. Taking a leaf out of Koenigsegg’s book, these panels can be remotely opened via the key fob and you can open each side individually as needed.
The T.50 is a remarkable work of engineering in an elegant package, designed with a passion that no brand with its rich heritage could hope to match. It bears the symbol of the man whose pursuit of sheer driving pleasure created the best car yet and he’s certain he’s come ever closer to perfection with this new one. Will the GMA T.50 be quick? Certainly. Will it be faster than the McLaren F1? Probably, at least around a track. But the most important question can only be answered once the right people get to drive it: is it the best driver’s car to be made in the 21st century?
Only 100 units will be built with a starting price of around £2.36 million plus taxes. There’s also going to be 25 track-focused versions to follow for the racing enthusiasts. Not bad considering the retail on a McLaren F1 in good condition is a lot higher, no?
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