Gordon Murray Automotive T.50 – lightweight ethos revealed

Is it possible to build a road-going 980kg V12 hypercar in 2020? If anyone can, it’s Gordon Murray and his team

As development of the Gordon Murray Automotive (GMA) T.50 continues, Gordon Murray and the team have revealed another insight into the design and engineering of its spectacular V12 hypercar.

We’ve already seen, and crucially heard, the T.50’s Cosworth-built naturally aspirated V12 engine, but now GMA’s team has revealed the obsessive nature of the T.50’s lightweighting, a methodology that goes beyond just reducing weight where possible, but actively thinking about every component from the ideation phase to create inherently lightweight components by design, irrelevant of cost or ease of design. 

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Lightweighting 

GMA had previously announced the quite staggering 980kg weight figure it’s targeting, but has now gone into further detail about how precisely that extreme figure is to be achieved, and the level of obsessive attention to detail required to reach that goal. 

At its core, the T.50’s carbonfibre monocoque chassis and body panels collectively weigh less than 150kg, an astonishingly low figure considering the safety regulations that must be adhered to in 2020. The cabin itself, as previously mentioned, is laid out in a three-seater configuration, with each of the three seats also constructed from carbonfibre. The driver’s seat itself weighs in at a scant 7kg, with each of the passenger seats even less at 3kg. 

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Other interior components such as the pedal box have also been targeted to save weight, coming in at 300 grams less than those of the F1, while the super-thin windscreen is 28 percent lighter than typical automotive glass applications.

The team had weekly ‘weight watchers’ meetings to review every single component of the T.50 to ensure that there was no surplus weight where it’s not required. Even the T.50’s 900 fixings are all optimised to be only as big and heavy as absolutely necessary when cycled through a digital strength simulation. So far do the savings go we’d not be surprised if the GMA office canteen has a strict no complex carbohydrates policy...

Powertrain

Despite being sourced from outside GMA, the powertrain has been designed to the same stringent lightweighting mentality. The engine itself, designed and produced by Cosworth to a specific set of benchmarks set by GMA, weighs just 180kg, an astonishing 60kg less than the BMW-built S70/2 V12 in the F1. The 65-degree V12 will be naturally aspirated, displace 3980cc and rev to 12,100rpm (1000rpm more than the 6-litre unit being developed for the Aston Martin Valkyrie, also by Cosworth). The power unit will be rigidly bolted to the rear of the carbon tub and will act as a stressed-member part of the chassis, much in the same way as the Ferrari F50’s engine.

The car’s electrical make-up will utilise a 48V system, forming a type of mild-hybridisation that not only powers the T.50’s rear-mounted fan and active aero, but will also provide a subtle 30bhp boost in certain aero modes, building combined power to 700bhp. This extra boost will come from a small electric motor, which also acts as a starter motor and generator.

The six-speed manual gearbox is another bespoke commission, this time designed and built by XTrac, but weighing 10kg less than the unit found in the F1. As in that car, the traditional manual gearlever will sprout from a console to one side of the centrally mounted seat.

Active aero

The GMA T.50’s unique aerodynamic package comprises a combination of elements derived from Gordon Murray’s Formula 1 cars as well as the latest developments made in both modern-day F1 and road car development. Dominating the package is that rear-mounted 400mm fan, which rapidly accelerates the air passing under the car and out of the rear diffuser.

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This is combined with a selection of movable aero devices that sit on the T.50’s underfloor, inside the rear diffuser and at the leading edge of the rear end. The underfloor ducting, together with the fan’s unique design does away with the need for the air ‘skirt’ found on Murray’s F1 cars, while also doubling as further cooling for the mid-engined V12 when required.

In order to take full advantage of the variability of the aero package, the T.50 has a total of six different aero modes, two of which are automatically deployed without driver intervention, and the other four being selectable. Auto Mode is the default, making the system variable in response to driver inputs, while a Braking Mode then activates under heavy braking, lifting the aerofoils and operating the fan at high speed, doubling downforce, therefore enhancing the tyres’ purchase on the road surface for the most effective braking performance.

The four further modes include High Downforce Mode for fast road or track driving by activating the fan and aerofoils. This improves traction and high-speed cornering grip, raising downforce over the default mode by 30 per cent. Streamline Mode reduces drag over the default mode by 10 per cent for high- and low-speed cruising, and closes all the underbody ducts and activates the fan at high speeds to extend the trailing wake of air behind the car, in effect creating a virtual long-tail.

VMAX Mode shares this slipperiest of set-ups with Streamline Mode, but adds a further 30bhp of electrical power from the integrated starter-generator to the V12’s crank for up to three minutes, raising peak power to 690bhp.

To validate these modes, GMA has partnered with the Racing Point Formula One team in Silverstone as it moves from virtual to physical testing inside Racing Point’s wind tunnel. The first quarter of 2020 will also see the opening of the Gordon Murray Automotive customer experience and service centre, which will sit alongside the company’s new headquarters and manufacturing facility, which will commence building cars in January 2022.

Though a full reveal is still to come, GMA also revealed an image of the T.50, with a rear-quarter rendering giving our first look before the full launch in May. Straight away, parallels can be drawn to the F1 in the roof and door structures, but from there the T.50’s relative simplicity in its bodywork and purity of detailing is obvious. The rear is dominated by the fan, which together with movable aerofoils on either side give the T.50 a unique rear aesthetic. The exhaust outlets are also placed high up toward the foils, leaving the diffuser section free of any airflow-corrupting exhaust gases.

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A total of 100 units will be built commencing in 2022, priced from £2million before local taxes or charges. Given the McLaren F1’s reputation, it’s not surprising to hear that a majority of the build run has already been allocated, with a strong reception from Japan and the US. 

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