Musings on the Motoring World

Are we overhyping Gordon Murray?

If there is one thing about spouting automotive opinion in the Anglo world is that you don’t throw shade on the British parade. Even if you are a mullet-wearing republican puritan cowboy, you’d be wise to show some tact and at least extol the off-road prowess of a Land Rover and the handling superiority of a Lotus even if a jumper cable is more of a necessity than a caution for either car.

Likewise, the English are also protective of their motoring personalities. It would be more acceptable to call The Queen a cold-hearted lizard person than to even suggest that Lewis Hamilton is a bit of a brat and Gordon Murray might be a tad overhyped.

There is no denying the genius of Murray, after all, he gave us what possibly is the most successful Formula One racecar in history, the MP4/4, and the most iconic supercar of the 1990s, the McLaren F1. He is without a doubt an icon to the automotive world in the same way Charles Darwin was to the scientific community, and he is still doing his part in trying to change the world with the Ox “flat-pack” truck.

Trouble is, like many notable personalities in history, we rarely acknowledge that his home runs were a team effort. The McLaren F1 owed much of its iconic status to Paul Rosche’s screaming BMW V12 engine, Mansour Ojjeh’s blessing, and the smooth lines of Peter Stevens. However, when his creation isn’t a blank-cheque Le Mans-winning V12 supercar, it hasn’t been redefining the genre.

While his other creations like the Light Car Company Rocket and the T.25 prototype city car has been praised for its brilliant packaging and engineering, it hasn’t translated into runaway sales successes – not a surprising track-record considering that of the F1’s original production run of 300 just over 100 were produced and despite its record-setting £600,000 price, McLaren lost money on every one.

The tandem-seating Rocket was too expensive and too impractical to elevate itself beyond a mere curiosity, whereas the T.25 prototype – built to demonstrate the capabilities of his own iStream production process – has been fascinating nerds but have yet to convince businesses to buy into it.

Nevertheless, in the eleven years between the T.25’s first debut, Murray has been busy approaching investors and steadily improving the iStream process, though with little road-going results other than the reborn TVR Griffith that is expected to roll out next year.

In the meantime, Murray has announced plans to get the iStream ball rolling again with a new iStream Superlight production process that is said to be able to produce a body that is 50 per cent lighter than conventional stamped metal bodies through the use of high-strength aluminium frames and carbon-fibre composite panels, whereas the chassis is scalable to suit sports cars right up to electric cars, SUVs, and even light commercial vehicles.

Like the original iStream, the new iStream Superlight process will be accompanied by a sports car prototype. Known as the T.43, the Lotus Exige-sized coupe will feature a 164kW 1.5-litre turbocharged three-cylinder paired to a six-speed manual, and will only tip the scales at an amazing 850kg. Packaging being his specialty, Murray says his new creation will feature class-leading ergonomics, visibility, and cargo capacity.

That being said, indications from Gordon Murray Design points to the T.43 being less of an actual model the public can put a deposit on but another demonstration of the iStream Superlight production process, much like the T.25 was to the original iStream. It is said that the designs for the T.43 will be licensed for sale, and hopefully this time around, investors will share his vision much in the same way that Mansour Ojjeh did for the McLaren F1, so don’t be holding your breaths just yet. In the meantime, if you need to celebrate an inspirational automotive engineering mastermind, there is always Christian von Koenigsegg.

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