Exclusive Q&A with Gordon Murray on making the T50

We talk to the man who built the McLaren F1, and then built its spiritual successor, the Gordon Murray T50.

The Gordon Murray Automotive T50 is now official: the £2.8 million ($5.1m) supercar that’s smaller than a Porsche 911, lighter than an Alpine A110 and powered by an atmospheric V12 promises to be a unique machine. But then its creator, the man that designed the iconic McLaren F1, knows a thing or two about doing things differently.

Ahead of the car’s debut, Gordon Murray spoke to us about his passion for design, what customers can expect from the T50, and how weight played such a crucial role in its inception.

Why did you build the T50?

“I thought it was time. I wanted my 50th car to be pretty special, and people have been asking for many years what I was going to do after the McLaren F1. This my answer.”

Is the car here the T50 as it will appear in production?

“Yes, we won’t change anything now. We’ve had time to consider everything in a way we didn’t really have with the F1. There are things about the McLaren that I still don’t like, because we signed it off in the clay and you can’t always see the highlights accurately. But this time, we’ve been really careful and methodical, and there’s nothing I don’t like. I think it should look pretty timeless.”

Have you been helped by improvements in materials since the McLaren F1 days?

“Of course. You notice that almost everywhere in the car. But quality and weight-saving aren’t just about exotic materials. Saving weight is a mindset. You have to refuse easy compromises — and then you can get great results. Look at our wheels, for instance. They don’t have to be huge like other supercars’ because the car is light. We laid down an aggressive weight target for them and beat it by about 0.5kg per wheel. That’s 2kg; we’d kill for 2kg.”

Isn’t there a weight-saving story about the pedal box?

“Yes, I designed that myself. At first, I said to the guys: ‘Let’s just do them like we did with the F1’. We’ve already done all the stress calculations and they’re pretty good. But that seemed a bit defeatist. So I did them again and found I could save 300g.”

Has the V12 engine run yet?

“It ran on the dyno last week. We’ll have a complete engine to put into our mule, called George, by the middle of August. Then in September we’ll have two others, XP1 and XP2, and we’ll get serious about testing.”

How many test prototypes will you produce?

“We’re building 10. We’ll need one, maybe more, for crash testing. And we also have full programmes planned for places like Nardo and Arjeplog. Those will run right up to the start of building in October next year. But we expect to be able to do the mechanical sign-off next summer.”

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