Meet the McLaren F1 30 years on – the Gordon Murray Automotive T.50. Revealed here in full for the first time, it applies three decades’ worth of technological advancement since the launch of Murray’s seminal supercar to “make a far better all-round car…improved on the F1 in every way”. Did the best just get better?
Gordon Murray's V12 T.50 supercar revealed
Conceived, designed, built and honed by Murray, the all-British, multimillion pound T.50 aims to steal the crown as the greatest analogue driver’s car. Billed as the “purest” modern supercar, it’s an exemplar of light weight and innovative aerodynamics – that big hairdryer on the tail is not there just for show…
Murray says that to have this car with his own name, and mermaid-logo badge, on the nose represents the proudest moment of his 50-year career. Given that career encompasses 50 GP wins, five F1 world championships, two sports car world championships, victory at Le Mans, the most acclaimed supercar of the modern era and the 49 other eclectic, often ground-breaking but always interesting Murray designs that came before Type number 50, that’s saying something.
The T.50 is neither the most dramatic looking nor most powerful new road car, and may not be the fastest either. GMA says it doesn’t know how fast it is and isn’t about to find out. You want 0-62 times and top speed? Look elsewhere.
Instead of chasing performance figures the T.50 – with its three-seat cabin like the F1 before it – uses the latest tech to chase some very old-school virtues in order to hit its brief as the most driver-centric supercar.
Engine response, induction noise, steering precision, chassis feel, balanced control weights, intuitive ergonomics, good visibility and, for a compactly packaged mid-engined car that takes up no more road space than a Porsche Boxster, enough of a practical side to use every day – these are the ingredients GMA cites as key to the T.50’s appeal.
Nothing, however, says “driver centric” more than a central driving seat especially when it is bright orange in an otherwise grey and black cabin.
Welcome then to a world of a screaming normally-aspirated V12, where a remarkable 12,100rpm redline is displayed on a real tacho dial (with a needle that goes round!), where cogs are changed via a manual six-speed gearbox with pedals optimised for heel and toeing. There’s unassisted steering, a manual fly-off handbrake, and big round knobs rather than touch screens. But this is also a world of carbon and titanium, of active aero, carbon ceramic brakes and Apple Car Play, Bluetooth and digital cameras for rear view mirrors. 1990, welcome to 2020.
The layout of a V12, six-speed ‘box and rear-wheel drive via a mechanical limited slip diff may be shared with the McLaren F1 but the components themselves are very different, with the engine this time not from BMW but Cosworth. Like the Xtrac transmission, it’s a totally bespoke unit for this car alone and designed to be as light as possible. The whole drivetrain forms a semi-structural part of the car and with a very low crank height is key to the T.50’s low centre of gravity to the benefit of agility. The car does have traction and stability controls but both systems can be fully turned off.
The V12 has over 2-litres less cubic capacity than the F1’s BMW engine and not unexpectedly can call on almost 200Nm less torque than the old-stager. The T.50 has 467Nm (344lb ft) –entry-level Porsche 911 territory – which peaks at a heady 9,000rpm, though GMA quickly adds that 71 per cent of it is available from 2500rpm. Despite that the T.50 is clearly going to offer a very different driving experience from the turbo-boosted or electric motor-assisted low-down punch that defines most performance cars these days.
But will there be a car to match the T.50’s top end? The only thing we can say is that none is likely to match the Cosworth engine’s astonishingly wide power band, extending all the way to that Formula 1-like redline. The other astonishing thing is that, without tardy turbochargers or belt-driven ancillaries, it is said the engine can rev to its red line in just three tenths of a second.
The engine doesn’t need all those revs to deliver max power: that peaks at 663PS (488kW) at a “mere” 11,500rpm. The T.50 is thus 36bhp more powerful than the McLaren F1. But, and here’s the cherry on top, the T.50 weighs 150kg less than the F1 despite being 75mm longer and a little taller and a wider.
While there are many more powerful cars than the T.50, none weighs under a tonne like the T.50. Just as with the F1, Murray has been fanatical about weight. The monocoque is a carbon-clad aluminium honeycomb structure, F1-style and long Murray’s favoured way to combine maximum rigidity and light weight. The whole thing is clad with carbon panels. The suspension is forged aluminium with no electric or hydraulic components, and the wheels are centrelock alloys. Inside, titanium is used for things like the pedals and the gear lever.
The result is the T.50 tips the scales at 986kg which GMA says is a third less than a “typical supercar at 1,436kg” (which, GMA doesn’t add, just happens to be the weight of the only slightly more powerful McLaren 720S). The T.50’s power-to-weight is 672PS per tonne.
In 1993 the McLaren F1 did 0-62mph in 3.7 seconds and 0-124mph in 8.8 seconds; today’s Macca 720S does 0-62 in 2.9 seconds and 0-124 in 7.8. By rights the T.50 should drive past both. While not saying, or even claiming to know, its car’s accelerative abilities, GMA does say that to be on equal terms, your typical 1,436kg supercar would need at least another 300bhp. And giving it that would be pointless because it would add such weight and complexity that the handling and responses would be spoiled – such is Gordon Murray logic.
Top speed? The F1 was famously the world’s fastest car for a while in the 1990s with its 240mph. Will the T.50 match that? Again, GMA won’t be drawn. All it tempts us with is a drive mode called V-Max Boost. This stalls the electrically-actuated spoilers and diffuser, reducing downforce but also cutting drag (by 12.5 per cent). It also puts the car’s signature aerodynamic fan in its maximum setting to deliver 15kg of thrust and create a trailing wake that GMA likens to a virtual long tail. In this setting the fan is powered by the 48-volt starter-generator, freeing up a few horses so that GMA says the car can call on 700PS (514kW) for short bursts. What that means in top speed terms is anyone’s guess.
The fan – inspired by Murray’s F1 Brabham BT46B Fan Car – is central to the car’s ground-effects aerodynamics, claimed to be the most advanced road car aero ever. The electrically-driven 400mm fan sucks up air under the car and accelerates it through control ducts in the rear diffuser. It has filters so it can’t suck in rubbish and, unlike the F1 Brabham or a hovercraft, doesn’t need side skirts to make a seal.
Six modes, including four driver-selected settings, manage airflow in conjunction with the active spoilers and diffuser valves to tailor aero abilities over a range of conditions, including maximum downforce for best traction, lowest drag for cruising and a braking mode that, says GMA, can shorten stopping distance from 150mph by 10m. Is it strange there’s no track or race mode? No. Like the F1 before it, the T.50 has not been conceived as a track car.
A T.50 party trick with the car parked up promises to be the fan’s test mode. This cycles through the full range of movement of spoilers and diffuser ducts and spools up the fan to its max, underbody pressure displayed on a special fan gauge on the dashboard. Sounds like a neat way to wow a Goodwood Breakfast Club. Another way it will wow when parked up is by showing off its V12 under the glass-topped gullwing rear covers. There’s no plastic (or carbon) engine dressing here, just cam covers, inlet trumpets and exhaust manifolds.
The fan system has another benefit: with all the hard aero work going on underneath, the body can be notably free of vents, ducts and wings. The simple, unadorned look is surely to the T.50’s benefit: this is a handsome beast for sure. As Murray says: “I was determined to create a clean and pure shape that would ensure the T.50 will still look fresh in 30 years.”
There are clear similarities with the F1, not just the dihedral doors but also the cold-air ram induction intake immediately above the driver’s head. Just as the F1 did, it gulps in air for the engine while panels in the roof act as a loudspeaker, amplifying engine sound within the cabin. And if you get tired of that – unlikely surely – there’s a 700-watt 10-speaker audio system.
Gordon Murray’s focused driver approach is evident inside in lots of ways, not just the central driving position. Behind the carbon three-spoke wheel is the big analogue tachometer. The titanium gear lever is mounted on a panel to the right (as with the F1, there’s no option to have it on the left). There are paddles behind the wheel but obviously not for changing gear: one operates headlight flash, the other the horn. There are no stalks; indicators are thumb-buttons on the steering wheel spokes. Rotary switches either side of the wheel control heating/aircon, lights, wipers and the fan functions, while twin screens display car information and infotainment.
While today is debut day for the Surrey-based company’s most important ever model, don’t expect to see a T.50 on the roads just yet. The first cars to be built are scheduled for January 2022. Even then they will be a rare sight: with just 100 to be made they will always be prized possessions.
This is despite a typical Murray insistence on everyday useability that extends from speed hump-friendly ride height to good visibility, better-than-F1 ingress and egress to the all-important centre seat and somewhere to put the overnight bag (288 litres total stowage, they say). There’s even a GT mode that limits revs to 9500rpm and power to 600PS which with admirable aplomb GMA says makes the car “ideal for urban commutes” (yeah, we wish…).
For Murray it all adds up to a better F1: “We have taken the same focused approach that was applied to the design of the McLaren F1, but thanks to modern materials and 30 years of development, we have been able to deliver a far better all-round car.
“From the first touch of the titanium throttle pedal to the V12 screaming at 12,100rpm, the driver experience will surpass any supercar ever built. I believe no other company could deliver what we will bring to market in 2022, producing this British supercar will be my proudest moment.”
Price of this potential game-changer? £2.36m ex tax, plus another half a million to keep the UK VAT collector off your back. The only thing we’d say to that is Murray’s McLaren F1 these days changes hands for four times that amount…
Gordon Murray Automotive T.50 by numbers
£2,360,000 before tax (so with UK vat £2,832,000)
28,400 revs per second engine response
12,100 rpm red line
4352 mm long
986 kg wet weight (dry it is 957 kg)
663 PS at 11,500rpm
700 watt Arcam 10-speaker audio system
467 Nm at 9000rpm
400 mm rear fan
288 litres maximum stowage compartments (using third seat)
166 PS-per-litre, highest specific output of any road-going normally aspirated V12
178 kg weight of alloy V12
150 kg weight of carbon monocoque and body panels
120mm front/140mm rear ride height
100 cars only
80.5 kg weight of gearbox
80 litre fuel tank
50th Gordon Murray road/race car design
28 per cent thinner glazing to save weight
19-inch front / 20-inch rear wheels
15 kg of thrust from fan at the back
13 kg – combined weight of all three carbon seats
12.5 per cent less drag with fan in “virtual long tail” streamline setting
8.5 kW (11bhp) 48 volt fan motor
7.8 kg, weight of each front wheel
3.9 litre V12
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