The waiting is over… details of Gordon Murray’s much-anticipated follow-up to his 1992 McLaren F1 are revealed today in for what many will be the most significant supercar news in 27 years.
The first car to be confirmed from the new Gordon Murray Automotive company, the no-holds-barred successor to the F1 icon is Gordon Murray’s 50thdesign of race and road car in half a century and, following his habit, will be called T.50.
From what we know so far – no pictures of an actual car but plenty of details – the T.50 draws on Murray’s record of engineering innovation in both Formula 1 and road cars to reprise the McLaren F1 for the 2020s. Think road rather than track, analogue rather than digital, and supercar rather than hypercar.
Combine those thoughts with a three-seat, central driving position cabin and the underbody fan of the Brabham BT46B “fan car” to suck it to the ground. That particular aerodynamic innovation was so effective it was banned from F1 in the day but in T.50 its time may finally have arrived.
The man whose cars have won five F1 world championships and 50 grands prix says the T.50 takes his mantra of light weight, compact dimensions, innovative aero and relative engineering simplicity – there’s no hybrid or all-wheel-drive here, not even a turbocharger or dual-clutch gearbox – to a new level for supercars. It’s fighting talk in a world with cars like the Aston Martin Valkyrie, Mercedes-AMG Project One and McLaren Senna in it.
Those are all substantially more powerful than the T.50, which has 650PS (641bhp) from its Cosworth-sourced, normally-aspirated 4.0-litre V12. Taking up less road space than a Porsche 911 and impressively weighing in at under a tonne are sure to enhance its performance credentials, as will a redline set at an amazing 12,100rpm, but just how fast will it be?
Murray is adamant: “I have absolutely no interest in chasing records for top speed or acceleration. (That) only adds weight, notably through ever-more powerful engines, which increase the requirement for larger, heavier ancillaries. Our focus is instead on delivering the purest, most rewarding driving experience of any supercar ever built – but, rest assured, it will be quick.”
Gordon Murray Automotive (GMA) describes the T.50 as a “grand tourer supercar” and there is no mention anywhere of its track ability, distancing it from the Aston/Merc/McLaren trio. The McLaren F1 remember was developed solely as a road car, only later becoming the Le Mans-winning GTR.
The single image so far released shows a conventional mid-engined profile with long wheelbase and the longitudinally-mounted V12 well ahead of the rear axle. It drives the rear wheels only via an Xtrac-developed six-speed manual gearbox and limited-slip rear diff – as old school as it gets. The only electronic driver aid mentioned is anti-lock brakes.
The sketch shows an arrowhead seating layout with the central driver’s seat flanked by two set-back passenger seats, as pioneered by the F1 and latterly resurrected for the McLaren Speedtail. Access is via dihedral doors, again as used first by the 1992 F1.
The structure is a carbon composite body around a central carbon tub with, surprisingly, no mention of Murray’s iStream carbon honeycomb manufacturing process. With much of the clever aero – including the 400mm fan under the car to provide the ground effect – the body deliberately eschews scoops, spoilers and wings. The sketch shows just an F1-style ram-air induction intake on the roof and what appears to be some form of active rear lip spoiler. As for downforce, that will be provided by the ground effect aero created by the fan at the rear of the car.
At 4,380mm long the T.50 is 100mm (4 inches) longer than the 1992 F1 but, more relevant today, 100mm shorter than the latest 911 and 150mm (6 inches) shorter than the Sports Series McLaren, as well as a good bit narrower at 1,850mm despite the three-across cabin.
Packaging ingenuity was an F1 strength and is certain to be here as well. GMA says the car is an “everyday supercar” capable of GT style cruising for “driver and two passengers with exceptional comfort, safety, practicality and luggage space”. If they can pull all that off in a car around the same overall size as a Lotus Evora it will be impressive.
With typical Murray weight-saving fanaticism, the T.50 will come in at 980kg dry. GMA says no other supercar for the road can match it, and as we all know it is very easy to find supercars that weigh half a tonne more than this. It gives the T.50 a power-weight ratio of 663hp/tonne which is about the same as some heavier hybrid cars with 1,000bhp.
The 65-degree, dry-sumped V12 developed for the car by Cosworth is notable more for revving to an incredible 12,100rpm than its power or torque. Its 641bhp is matched by a modest 450Nm (332lb ft) of torque. With no turbos – in the cause of purer response and noise – the only forced induction is the ram-air feed from the roof intake. There are no electronic drive modes as such but we are promised driver-selectable engine maps to suit different driving conditions.
The suspension is by double wishbones front and rear and the brakes are carbon ceramic. The Xtrac six-speed manual gearbox comes with a lever in a traditional H-pattern gearbox gate, which will surely appeal to traditionalists in a world of twin-clutch autos and flappy paddles. GMA says it’s a bespoke gearbox developed for the T.50.
So what do we know? That T.50 is more supercar than hypercar. That it is for the drivers, and more a heart-stealer than a record-breaker. That 100 only will be built, in a new plant in Surrey, with first deliveries in 2022. That it will cost upwards of £2m plus taxes. And that there is a great deal of work still to be done, not least on getting that Brabham-style “fan” assisted underbody aero working, something on which GMA is working with an unnamed F1 team.
With the target of “the purest, lightest, most driver-focused supercar ever built” and a car that “betters the F1 in every area”, the challenges are very real, and maybe just too big – for anyone perhaps except Gordon Murray.
“Just as with the F1, we have no specific targets for acceleration, top speed or lap times. The F1 was fast because it was light and relatively small. Once again, I have focused on the complete driving experience, not horsepower or top speed.
“We expect this to be the last, and the greatest, ‘analogue’ supercar ever built.”