Why the Gordon Murray T50 is both the past and future of sports cars

Gordon Murray Design has just revealed the T.50 supercar to the world’s press (and a few social media influencers) this past week saturating every social media channel, blog, and website. 

If you want to know all about the conception, engineering detail, design and development of the car, there are a myriad of videos and podcasts to give you plenty of detail.

What I’m more interested in is the philosophy behind the car and how it could influence regular sports cars of the future, because let’s face it, there are only a few people in the world capable and willing to spend £3m on a car.

Gordon, being a very successful Formula 1 design engineer in the past, has a huge appreciation for what Colin Chapman did in making his Lotus Formula 1 cars as light as they could possibly be. The positive compounding effects of lightness in a motor vehicle is at the very heart of the T.50 and something he rigidly adhered to in design and engineering. 

If a car weighs less, it needs less power to gain speed, which in turn means the engine capacity can be smaller, which in turn means in can be packaged smaller, which also means it will be lighter and more fuel efficient and on it goes. Wheels can be smaller and narrower, while brakes obviously have less to haul down, also benefiting from lightness. All of this smaller sized componentry generates opportunities for practicalities due to the extra space on hand. 

But all of this is for nothing if it doesn’t translate into an extraordinary driving experience and for that, Gordon needed a few things to happen. Of course, lightness was one. It had to have exceptional mechanical grip without the need to rely on sophisticated electronics. It needed to have a naturally aspirated engine which set new standards. And it needed to be a manual. 

The driving experience had to take precedence over any lap time, sprint time, or top speed number. As a whole, the T.50 has gone in a completely different direction to its peers, of which are very few if we factor in the rough price of £3m after taxes. Whether or not the T.50 achieves its goal in delivering on its promises remains to be seen but on paper, in philosophy, it may well change the game. 

A nod to the past

Gordon refuses to use technology for technology’s sake and recognises what makes a sports car truly engaging to drive. And those answers to what makes a car engaging to drive are often the simplest, and rooted in the past. Here are a few the T.50 plays to:

  • It doesn’t chase 0-100 times, lap times, or top speed claims but is simply engineered for performance
  • It chooses mechanical grip over electronic interference
  • It’s manual with three pedals
  • It uses physical switches for controls as opposed to touchscreens
  • It uses a naturally aspirated engine without chasing 1000hp+ figures

With every other supercar manufacturer in a futile race to the bottom (or top) where physics will simply put a stop to it all anyway, Gordon’s T.50 stands out. There is only so much HP or kw/hr a vehicle can manage, only so fast a car can accelerate and only so fast it can go before it starts looking like the ThrustSSC land speed record holder out of necessity. 

As I and many have noted before, the roads aren’t getting wider and the speeds limits are getting slower, and Gordon wants his cars to be used. Whether or not they will be is another matter. 

It’s also the future

It’s the future because of the philosophy, shunning the technology influenced race for more of everything. More speed, more advanced materials, more…stuff. Sounds exactly like a laptop or mobile phone war doesn’t it? How many more lenses can they fit on the back of our mobile phones?! 

So just how can the T.50 shun technology and still be a car of the future?

This isn’t about the big fan sticking out the back of the T.50 which you’d expect might dominate any conversation about the car. This is more to do with what we want and expect from a sports car, putting the onus back on the experience and out of the hands of marketing departments. It’s the future because:

  • It shows with clever packaging, cars needn’t be oversized and cumbersome. 
  • It shows that light weight can reduce demands on materials, engine size, power outputs, braking systems, electronics.
  • It shows we don’t need crazy aero packages with vents and slats everywhere.
  • It focuses on experience over lap times.

Gordon’s approach is nothing new however, at least to a couple of Japanese manufacturers. Mazda has been an advocate for light weight in their MX-5 since it’s inception in the late 1980s and resisted huge horsepower gains for slower thrills, and quite successfully in the latest edition. The GT86/BRZ from Toyota and Subaru also followed the same philosophy quite successfully. 

Where it is new is at the top end of the market where big figures and gentleman’s club claims matter. How can it not claim to being the most accelerative, fastest, or quickest around Nurburgring yet still cost in the region of £3m? Because it promises an experience your Chiron, Pagani, or Ventomotsathingy just can’t replicate. 

If only manufacturers of mass produced sports cars played to this philosophy a little more, longevity of combustion engined sports cars could be extended, the cars themselves would become more enjoyable to drive, more attainable, more relevant, and hopefully more exciting.  

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