The world may be going to hell in a handbasket, but you know what? It is all going to be okay, for in the year of Our Lord 2020 a true successor to the McLaren F1 is upon us. And who better to deliver unto us a proper successor than the man who designed the original, Gordon Murray himself. Step aside Aston Martin Valkyrie and Mercedes-AMG One, the king is back in the form of the Gordon Murray Automotive T.50.
The T.50 is exactly what you would expect from Murray. Three abreast seating, naturally aspirated mid-mounted V12, paired to a six-speed manual, with rear-wheel drive, and weighs under a ton. It is every bit as sensational aesthetically and mechanically as the McLaren F1 of the 1990s as you’d expect. Not to mention its astronomical £2.36 million price tag and planned build run of a hundred examples. Just six short of the number of F1s built.
Saving weight on the T.50
Dig a little deeper and you’d find that every engineering detail of the McLaren F1 been refined on the T.50. 30 years’ worth of advancement in carbon-fibre construction has given the T.50 a monocoque that is thinner, lighter, and double the torsional stiffness of the F1. Even the car’s 19-inch forged aluminium wheels are lighter than the F1’s 17-inch magnesium items. This, of course, meant that Murray could get the T.50 to that magical mark, recording a 957kg dry weight.
How does the rear fan on the T.50 work?
The key feature of the T.50 that F1 owners won’t find on theirs is the 400mm rear fan. Love it or hate, Murray claims that the fan has to be that big for it to lower the pressure in the steeply raked rear diffuser for the air to flow out and deliver the intended aerodynamic ground-effects. The lower pressure also speeds up the airflow beneath the T.50 from its mid-point, increasing downforce and improving stability.
That’s not all, drivers can tweak the behaviour of the active spoilers and diffuser to either increase downforce by 50 percent, or set the fan to draw air from the top deck to create a “virtual long tail” to cut drag by 12.5 percent and improve aerodynamic efficiency. Brilliant stuff. All achieved without the usual supercar cavalcade of wings and ducts that would otherwise ruin its immaculate shape. Murray admits the fan concept was incredibly complicated to design on the T.50 but its clean shape speaks for itself.
What engine does the T.50 use?
The ground-effects aerodynamics, while ground-breaking and impressive, isn’t the T.50 pièce de résistance. That would belong to the power unit. Murray was adamant that the T.50 had to have the ultimate incarnation of a naturally aspirated V12. This time around, instead of turning to BMW, Murray sought Cosworth to design the ultimate naturally aspirated engine. And they didn’t disappoint.
Cosworth delivered a bespoke 3.9-litre V12 dry-sump unit that produces 488kW and revs to 12,100rpm. The torque is a little thin at 467Nm at a stratospheric 9000rpm. However, with 71 percent of it served from 2500rpm, that would be more than enough for a sub-1000kg car. Not only that, but Murray also claims that it is the lightest road-going V12 ever at a featherweight 178kg.
As exciting as the power figures seem, the engine can rev from idle to redline in just 0.43sec that is the most tantalising. Murray claims the engine is the most responsive ever and I’ll take his word for it. Especially when we are talking about “blink-of-an-eye” time spans.
The engine incredible numbers are also made possible by freeing it of any belt-driven ancillaries. In replacing the usual ancillaries, Cosworth stuck in a 20kW integrated starter motor. Not only did the starter motor clean up the engine shape and design, but it also saved nearly 20kg. Furthermore, the starter motor serves as the alternator, and supplies 48V of power to the fan motor and air-conditioning compressor. In doing so, the starter motor reduces complexity and energy losses on the engine.
What gearbox does the T.50 use?
In typical Murray fashion, the T.50 only comes with a traditional H-pattern six-speed manual. Murray also managed to maintain the F1’s nine-degree gear throw and claims that the T.50 will have a better feel. While we are on aesthetics, Murray has left the gear shifter mechanism exposed, similar to Pagani’s treatment on the Huayra. And in keeping the flab low, the gearbox’s aluminium casing is just 2.4mm thick and the whole assembly weighs 80.5kg.
The significance of the T.50
As a commemorative piece for Murray’s 50th design and the 50th anniversary of his career, it is a masterpiece. It is more than another million-dollar car for enthusiasts to fawn over. It is a final testament to every aesthetic and emotional value that makes cars more than the sum of its parts.
The T.50 is the culmination of Murray’s engineering genius and single-minded approach to car design. It is a car that we will probably never see the likes of again. I would have expected nothing less of a 21st-century restomod of the McLaren F1 by its designer.
However, the T.50 is just that, a re-imagining of the same icon for a new century. With just 100 being built each for a near-as-inconsequential multi-million-pound price tag, like the McLaren F1 back in its day, it is also nothing all that revolutionary.
It would be ground-breaking if Murray’s brilliance was translated over to non-supercar designs like the T.25 city car and be brought to reality. There is hope that the T.50 is the opening chapter for a larger Gordon Murray Automotive operations. After all, they did build an entirely new facility to produce the T.50 in. It would be a shame if they didn’t expand it to produce more down-to-earth Gordon Murray designed creations. Now, that would be something.