The legendary designer of McLaren’s famous F1, the superest of all supercars, is back with a sequel some twenty-eight years later. If anyone knows how to improve on the F1's iconic lightweight design, it’s Gordon Murray. And that’s exactly what he’s trying to accomplish with the perpetually upcoming Gordon Murray Automotive T.50 Supercar.
The bones of Murray’s three-seat supercar design are largely the same this time around, but everything has been further optimized for weight, it’s even more powerful, and it has some totally wild tech features that will only help it achieve mega speed.
Over the weekend, GMA unveiled a series of technological feats that it says will be found in the upcoming T.50. Chief among them is the fact that in spite of a massive V12 engine and seating for three, the new car will weigh just 980 kilograms (2160 pounds)! Not only is that 158 kilos (349 pounds) lighter than the F1, but it’s 450 kilos (992 pounds) lighter than McLaren’s top-of-the-line three-seater Speedtail.
How did they do it? The design team had weekly “weight watchers” meetings to ensure the car’s weight was of utmost importance. Over 900 different components were given a diet to ensure the 980 kg goal was met. Every single piece in the T.50 was put through a test procedure to make positive that it was only as big and heavy as absolutely needs must.
Starting with a similar carbon monocoque to the McLaren F1, the T.50 obviously has to meet the stricter crash standards of 2020. Somehow the team managed to make that body weigh less than 150 kilos. The driver’s seat, stuck out there in the middle, weighs a hefty 15 pounds, while each of the two passenger’s seats are just seven pounds each. By comparison, the stock non-powered seats in my 1997 Porsche Boxster I recently weighed at 54 pounds each.
The level of attention to detail required to lightweight a car down to this level is stunning. The team even went so far as to shave just enough material from the car’s pedal box to make it weigh 300 grams less than the pedal box in the McLaren F1. The T.50 also has special extra-thin glass which is 28 percent lighter than traditional automotive-grade glass.
Next up is the engine and gearbox. Collectively, the Cosworth V12 and XTrac traditional manual gearbox cut over 150 pounds from the BMW-sourced powertrain in the iconic F1. Together the drivetrain will form a stressed member of the chassis, similar to how the Ferrari F50 or Porsche Carrera GT did. The engine prescribed for this project is a 65-degree four-liter naturally aspirated V12 producing 670 horsepower on its way to a 12,100 rpm redline. That kind of rpm speed is only possible with ultra lightweight internal engine components, and is frankly mind boggling in what is ostensibly a street car.
So far the T.50 sounds like a pretty standard, if lightweight and high-revving supercar. So what’s all the excitement about? This car makes use of a pretty awesome 48V electrical system.
When called upon in certain modes, the T.50's belted alternator starter acts as a mild performance boosting hybrid, pumping power up from 670 horses to an even 700. For three minutes at a time, this system can add 30 horsepower directly to the engine’s crankshaft, acting as a kind of mini electric supercharger.
That electric system also powers a unique aerodynamic package with a rear-mounted nearly-16-inch electric fan and a full scad of active aerodynamic flaps. The electric fan acts as an air extraction fan, accelerating the air underneath the car up and out of the rear diffuser, helping pull it to the ground.
Rather than rely on a set of skirts, as you might have seen on the Murray-designed Brabham BT46 “Fan Car” or the infamous Chaparral 2J “Sucker Car”, the T.50 uses a series of movable aerodynamic flaps to jockey air around to keep the car stable and sucked to the ground. It’s all very science-y, and I don’t understand it entirely, but it apparently works.
It’s hard to get excited about supercars these days, as they continue to chase bigger power numbers to overpower their F150-aping curb weights. I will hold out hope that this one-ton supercar will see its tech trickle down into more pleb sports cars in the next decade. There is no reason that the current 911 Turbo needs to weigh damn-near 4,000 pounds.
While all we have right now is a rear quarter shot of the car (top) the full GMA T.50 will be unveiled later this month. If you’re in the market for a new 3 pounds per horsepower supercar, maybe check this one out.