Thirty years on from the legendary McLaren F1, Gordon Murray is set to once again rewrite the supercar rulebook with the radical Gordon Murray Automotive T.50.
The name references the fact that the lightweight supercar is Murray’s 50th road or race car project, in addition to celebrating his 50-year career as an automotive designer.
According to Murray, the T.50 follows the ethos of the iconic F1 while improving it “in every conceivable way” to be “the most driver-centric supercar ever.” Just 100 will be built at a price of AUD$4.33m each (plus taxes) with the first customer deliveries occurring in 2022.
The T.50 is small, its size very similar to that of a Porsche Cayman at 4352mm long and 1850mm wide, though its 2700mm wheelbase and 1164mm height are much closer to that of the Lamborghini Huracan.
What sets the T.50 apart is its extremely light weight. Dry weight is just 957kg, fluids bringing the total to 986kg. This is made possible by the incredibly light body, the monocoque constructed from carbon fibre sandwich panels with an aluminium honeycomb core.
Even clad with its carbon fibre body panels the whole structure weighs only 150kg, the panels deformable in order to absorb energy in a crash, while the monocoque is stiff enough to avoid the need for any additional bracing, saving further weight.
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As with the F1, a trio of occupants sit in an arrowhead formation with the driver in the centre of the car, oriented for left-hand drive with the gearshift on the right. No detail was overlooked in the obsessive quest to save kilograms: the glass is 28 per cent thinner; the clutch and brake pedals are drilled and milled from aluminium, the accelerator pedal the same in titanium; a 10-speaker 700-watt sound system made by Arcam weighs just 3.9kg and connects to media via bluetooth.
Ahead of the driver is a 350mm carbon steering wheel and 120mm analogue tachometer flanked by a pair of digital screens that display infotainment and vehicle data. Rear vision is provided by cameras, with a pair on the wings and a third in the centre of the rear-mounted fan.
The 400mm fan is what separates the T.50 from any other supercar. Powered by an 8.5kW motor, it spins at up to 7000rpm and produces a maximum of 15kg of thrust. By accelerating the airflow under the body and forcing it through active valves in the rear diffuser, the fan eradicates the need for the weight and drag of traditional wings.
Five aero drive modes are available. Auto is the default, while Braking mode increases downforce by 100 per cent by angling the active spoilers to their maximum 45 degrees and operating the fan at high speed with the diffuser valves open. It’s claimed this shortens the stopping distance from 240km/h (150mph) by 10 metres.
In High Downforce mode the active spoilers deploy to 10 degrees and the fan spools up with the diffuser valves open to increase downforce by 50 per cent. Streamline mode achieves the opposite, cutting drag by 12.5 per cent by angling the spoilers at negative 10 degrees and partially closing the valves to ‘stall’ the diffuser and reduce downforce, while the fan draws air from the top deck to reduce drag and extend a ‘virtual long tail’ behind the car to increase aerodynamic efficiency.
In GMA’s own words the final drive mode, V-Max Boost, “is the most extreme” (there is a Test mode for when the vehicle is stationary). V-Max Boost uses the aerodynamic characteristics of Streamline mode but powers the fan using the 20kW integrated starter-generator attached to the front of the crankshaft. Combined with the effects of ram-air induction, this liberates an extra 37kW from the engine.
Not that the engine needs much assistance. The 4.0-litre naturally-aspirated V12 is a bespoke unit for the T.50, the result of a collaboration between Murray and Cosworth. Oddly, GMA states the V12 is a 3.9-litre despite it being 3994cc in capacity.
According to Murray: “To be truly remarkable, an engine needs to have the right characteristics: highly responsive, an amazing sound, engaging torque delivery, free-revving, and it has to be naturally-aspirated. For all those reasons, the engine in the T.50 was never going to be anything other than a V12.”
The numbers are truly mind-boggling by any standard; for a road car they border on the absurd. The redline is 12,100rpm with maximum power of 488kW at 11,500rpm and 525kW available for short bursts in V-Max Boost mode. Maximum torque is 467Nm at a sky-high 9000rpm, but a precise 71 per cent of this (332Nm) is available from just 2500rpm.
Remember, the T.50 weighs just 986kg, so its 336Nm/tonne torque-to-weight at 2500rpm isn’t far behind a BMW M2 CS (355Nm/tonne). And there’s almost 10,000rpm still to go. Naturally aspirated production engines with 100kW/litre are almost unheard of (the Ferrari 458 Speciale is a rare example) yet the T.50’s V12 manages 122kW/litre.
To do so there’s a dry-sump, quad throttle bodies, a 14:1 compression ratio and plenty of exotic materials. The block and cylinder heads are aluminium alloy, the rods and valves titanium, the exhaust system an Formula 1-style mix of titanium and Inconel.
Lowering the engine’s centre of gravity was a key focus, the crank sitting just 85mm above the base of the engine, 40mm lower than the F1’s BMW V12. GMA claims the V12 is the most responsive engine ever, capable of 28,400rpm/sec pick up, meaning from idle to redline takes just 0.43sec.
Engine sound is enhanced by the Direct Path Induction Sound system. The cold-air intake sits directly above the driver’s head and the carbon fibre roof panels act as a loudspeaker to amplify engine sound in the cabin, the system activated by throttle position to ensure quieter operation at light loads.
The engine and gearbox are semi-structural, attached to the chassis by anti-vibration mounts, while all engine ancillaries are gear-driven and tucked away out of sight to avoid “unsightly belts” cluttering the engine bay.
No performance claims are made for acceleration or top speed, GMA’s press release stating its aim is to deliver “optimum performance, not to hit prescribed power, speed or acceleration targets”. Nevertheless, it seems reasonable that the T.50 will get close to its theoretical top speed of 392km/h at maximum revs in sixth gear.
We’d estimate 0-100km/h in the low 3.0sec range, especially as first gear stretches to 103km/h, negating the need for a gear change. The gearing is close, with in-gear maximums as follows: 103km/h (1st); 139km/h (2nd); 185km/h (3rd); 238km/h (4th); 300km/h (5th); 392km/h (6th), though an optional overdrive stretches this to 490km/h for more relaxed touring, dropping the revs from 3400rpm to 2510rpm at 110km/h.
A Salisbury limited-slip diff apportions drive to the rear wheels. The rolling stock is relatively modest for the power level, regular Michelin Pilot Sport 4 S tyres (rather than the more focused Cup 2s) measuring 235/35 front and 295/30 rear wrapped around staggered 19 x 8.5-inch front wheels and 20 x 11.0-inch rears.
Brakes are by Brembo, 370mm carbon-ceramic rotors and six-piston calipers in the nose supported by 340mm carbon-ceramic rotors and four-piston calipers at the rear. Unlike the F1, the T.50 has ESP, ABS and vacuum-assisted brakes, however, power steering is only available at parking speeds.
According to Murray, the T.50 is intended to be the last great analogue supercar, stating: “With the T.50 supercar, we are taking the same focused approach that was applied to 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.”
Only the driving experience will reveal whether Gordon Murray and his team have achieved their aims, but their track record provides plenty of reason for optimism.