Upcoming GMA T.50 hits the track for the first time but with only limited running
The Gordon Murray Automotive T.50 supercar has been driven for the first time, during a brief shakedown near the firm’s headquarters in Surrey.
Legendary F1 and car designer Gordon Murray took the wheel of the T.50’s XP2 prototype for some low-speed running at Dunsfold aerodrome – the same site where GMA’s teams of engineers and designers are based, and also where the T.50 will go into production. The car’s Cosworth-developed V12 engine was restricted to just a few thousand revs, but Murray said he was encouraged by his first impressions.
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“The prototype is currently running at considerably less than its 12,100rpm limit,” Murray, said, “but it felt fantastic on my first drive. The car was responsive, agile and rewarding to drive. It was a fantastic experience to be sitting in the centre of the car once again with great all-round visibility and I can see how much the owners will enjoy this. Obviously there’s still a lot of development miles to be completed and many more prototypes to build, but the trajectory of the T.50 development is where we want it to be.”
Murray admitted to Auto Express earlier this year that restrictions on travel because of Covid had forced his team to rethink the logistics of when the T.50 might get access to the test facilities in continental Europe required for high-speed running. However, the project still aims to deliver the first of the limited run of 100 T.50s in 2022.
Gordon Murray Automotive T.50: design and specs
Famed automotive engineer Murray describes the T.50 as a true analogue supercar and the perfect antidote to increasingly heavy modern hypercars.
Last year at reveal, Murray styled the T.50 as a celebration of the 50th year in car design and Formula One engineering. It features ground-effect aerodynamics and a purpose made V12 engine from Cosworth, while all of the major components have been sourced from UK companies.
Only 100 will be produced, costing £2.36million each before taxes, and almost two thirds of the production run has already been sold.
Murray explains that the T.50’s design is an exercise in purity, emphasising the absence of large wings, flaps or vents, found on contemporary supercars and hypercars. As such, the low nose of the vehicle is smooth and unspoilt by a large splitter or canards, and is reminiscent of the McLaren F1.
“It looks even better than I hoped,” he told us during a walkaround with the car. “There’s not a single surface on this car that I’m not happy with. It looks really cool, and a massive change from the current crop of supercars. There seems to be a war to see who can make the most outrageous-looking car with swoops and ducts and wings. This one’s pretty pure like the F1.”
Against the tape, the T.50 is 4,352mm long, 1,850mm wide – giving it a footprint that’s a little larger than a Volkswagen Golf’s – and 1,164mm tall. Crucially, weight is kept below one tonne, at 986kg with fluids. The chassis is bonded carbon-aluminium, while the bodywork is carbon fibre.
However, the T.50’s most obvious revision over the McLaren F1 is at the rear, where a large fan is found. It’s an engineering feature Prof Murray has used before, most notably on the infamous BT46B Fan Car that raced – and won – the only event it competed in during the 1978 F1 season. Its success ensured that the technology was subsequently banned from the sport.
The fan provides the T.50 with true ground-effect aerodynamics, without the need for any large wings or splitters. It operates in many configurations, increasing downforce by 100 percent in ‘braking mode’, allowing the T.50 to come to a complete stop 10 metres shorter from 150mph than it could otherwise. A small positive side effect of the fan is that it also provides an extra 15kg of thrust. Murray revealed to Auto Express that a twin-fan arrangement was considered during the McLaren F1’s development, but that time constraints ruled it out.
The drivetrain is another nod to analogue supercars of the past. Professor Murray has commissioned Cosworth to develop a high-revving, naturally aspirated 4.0-litre V12 for the T.50 developing 654bhp and up to 690bhp with ram induction. Maximum power is produced at 11,500rpm, with the redline set at 12,100rpm.
The mid-mounted motor is fully on show in the engine bay, unobscured by covers. “This is such a killer engine Cosworth has done. It’s so far ahead of anything else that’s ever been produced in its weight, layout, maximum revs and power density. In particular, the responsiveness is light-years ahead,” Murray told us.
No performance figures have been revealed just yet; according to Murray, they aren’t the point of the T.50. “The reality of chasing top speeds only adds weight, notably through ever-more powerful engines, which increase the requirement for larger, heavier ancillaries. We are taking a very different approach,” he explained.
Drive is sent to the rear wheels, and the T.50 features a bespoke six-speed manual gearbox developed by specialist Xtrac. Several drive modes have been confirmed, including a streamline setting that creates a ‘virtual longtail’, a high-downforce mode to make the most of the fan’s ground effect, and a V-Max setting for top-speed runs, using ram induction to boost power to 690bhp. Alternatively GT mode restricts the engine, making the T.50 more user-friendly.
The feature most reminiscent of the McLaren F1 is found inside, with a three-seat layout placing the driver centrally and ahead of two passengers. Behind the wheel is a rev counter flanked by two large screens, and Murray promises a driver-oriented environment with simple, tactile controls. Creature comforts include a 10-speaker stereo, smartphone connectivity and a pair of screens instead of wing mirrors.
And, there’s already a harder, track-only version – the T.50S Niki Lauda, which is lighter, features the downforce generating, but imposing wings and flaps Murray wanted to avoid on the road car, and features 725bhp.
The T.50 will be built at a factory in Dunsfold, Surrey, but once the production run has ended, the Gordon Murray Group will move into a new £50 million campus down the road in Windlesham, a move that will also create 100 new jobs.
The Windlesham campus will consist of three new buildings. The first phase of construction will create a vehicle manufacturing centre, customer sales department and the Gordon Murray Group heritage collection. Further buildings, due for completion by 2024, will include a research and development hub, plus sales and marketing centres for the GMA products that follow the T.50.
A road course for fine tuning products will also be built on site. This will include a rough section of Belgian Pavé – a stretch of stone cobbles used to test a car’s build quality and the endurance of suspension components to their limits.
Gordon Murray Q&A
Gordon Murray introduced his car personally to media ahead of its reveal. Our deputy editor John McIlroy caught up with the legendary designer – and the T.50.
Q: Why are you making this type of car – an indirect successor to probably your most famous creation, the McLaren F1?
A: “Well, if you look back, I honestly don’t think anybody’s done an F1 since the F1 – that much absolute focus on the driving enjoyment and the light weight. And a car with no targets – no top speed, 0-62mph or lap time at the Nürburgring to think of.
“There are plenty of cars out there that are much more capable than the F1 – the turbos, the hybrids – but none of them gives me the spine-tingling sensation that the F1 gives me. Some people still say that you can’t beat the driving experience of an F1. But I can tell you this is going to move the game on again.”
Q: This is the launch car for Gordon Murray Automotive. What are your brand’s core values?
A: “Our three targets are to be the lightest car, the best driving experience and the best engineering in whichever sector the car is positioned.”
Q: And you’re definitely going to stick to no more than 100 cars per year?
A: “Never more than a hundred. Of anything. We have specifically not gone for capacity beyond that figure.
Q: You’re probably not going to tell us what type of car is coming next, then…
A: “Well, we have an eight-year plan, but I’m keen to get the T.50 out of the door first. We’ll start delivering cars to customers at the beginning of 2022.”
Q: Can you resist the temptation to make an SUV?
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