Gordon Murray's Rocket is his purest road car | Thank Frankel it's Friday

28th January 2022
andrew_frankel_headshot.jpg Andrew Frankel

Yesterday Professor Gordon Murray unveiled his latest road car to the waiting world and it did not disappoint. The GMA T.33 ‘supercar GT’ will be not only absurdly fast and, given its specification and creator, almost certainly unfeasibly good to drive, it is also genuinely beautiful in a way its recent predecessor, the T.50, did not quite manage. Just 100 will be built, each costing £1.65 million and I’d be surprised indeed if they’re not all sold by the time you read this.


Of course part of the pitch, if pitch were needed, is that this is a car from the same man who created the McLaren F1 which was launched in 1994 and has become the most revered and valuable production supercar in history. And rightly so: there has never been another car which so expanded the envelope of road car ability, and I suspect there never will.

But it wasn’t his first crack at a road car. And I mention this now because it’s exactly 30 years since he and his mate, the late Chris Craft, launched a machine that was lighter than the F1 and, as things turned out, would transpire to be rarer too even though a mere 64 street legal F1s got built.

I refer to what was known at the time as the Light Car Company Rocket, and of all the cars I’ve driven entitled to wear a number plate it was at the time the most extreme by a distance. Lacking doors, windows, a windscreen or roof, with a tandem two seat cockpit, zero luggage space and without the smallest concession to anything other than the business of driving, it made a Caterham look like a Rolls-Royce. I guess today something like a Ariel Atom is cut from a similar cloth, but three decades ago, we’d never seen anything like it.


It was powered by 1.0-litre Yamaha motorcycle engine and came complete with its sequential transmission, so you did with your hand what riders would have done with their feet had the powertrain been mounted on a bike. One forward, the rest back, if memory serves. It was also fitted with an unusual reverse gear which essentially reversed all the forward gears, allowing the car to travel as quickly going backward as forward, enabling my lunatic friend Colin Goodwin to earn a line in Guinness’s good book for reaching 104mph while looking over his shoulder.

If the car had a problem, it was that there wasn’t much point driving it unless you were going as fast as you could on perfect roads. I remember taking it to North Yorkshire in the spring of 1992, feeling a bit of twit wearing a helmet and not much enjoying the drone up the A1. Because its engine displaced a mere 1,002cc yet developed 145PS (107kW) – an unprecedented specific output for a road car engine at that time and better today even than that fitted to the likes of the 6.5-litre V12 in the Ferrari 812 Competizione – you had to have 8,500rpm on the clock just to get it to do its stuff. At normal road car revs it had very little pull indeed.

But once you got it there, oh my goodness. I remember we took a Caterham along, fitted with a 2.0-litre, 177PS (130kW) motor and the Rocket made it feel ponderous. Between 8,500rpm and peak power arriving at 11,000rpm it was the most exciting thing I’d driven. And because it was so light – we weighed it at 400kg dead – and because Gordon had designed it, it was astonishingly softly sprung, so just breathed its way effortlessly across the landscape, leaving the Caterham far behind.


Until, that is, you slackened off your pace just a little. It was tiring using all the revs all the time, always making sure you were in the right gear but if you just relaxed for a minute, all the performance dropped away and the Seven would be snapping at your exhausts the very next minute.

Even so, I really liked the Rocket, liked its ambition, its looks and its ability to get from one place to the next like no car before. In the end I gave the verdict to the Caterham – much to Gordon and Chris’s chagrin – because with a hood, heater, side screens, a windscreen and torque everywhere it was just a far more usable not to mention substantially cheaper car. But I’ll never forget flying across the moors in the Rocket. At the time I described it as “the greatest experience available on a public road.” Thirty years on I expect that would still not be that far from the truth today.

78MM pictures by Tom Shaxson and James Lynch.

  • Gordon Murray

  • Rocket

  • Light Car Company

  • T.33

  • GMA

  • Gordon Murray Automotive

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