Design legend Gordon Murray speaks to us about the
This 2016 London Classic Car Show at the ExCeL Centre is to feature a tribute to the McLaren F1 and its mastermind – designer Gordon Murray. It’s set to tell the story of his vision, explore his philosophy and reveal the many extraordinary details that make up the McLaren F1.
The man behind the machine will be live on stage at the show on the preview evening on Thursday 18 February. Classic Car Weekly’s Murray Scullion caught up with him to talk about the show, as well as discuss the masterpiece that is the McLaren F1.
HOW DID YOU GET INVOLVED IN THE SHOW? The organisers approached me and I was really honoured to get involved with the London Classic Car Show. We had quite a few ideas knocking around as to what we wanted to do. It was an open discussion and I was fine with all the suggestions. At one point we were close to theming the exhibition around the Formula 1 cars I’ve designed, but we agreed to concentrate on the McLaren F1.
WHY THE F1? The McLaren hasn’t been covered in enough detail and this show gives us the opportunity to do it. The car often gets lost in numbers and accolades and people gloss over the design of it. I’ve designed 70 vehicles but the McLaren F1 is the standout car. With racing cars you have inspiration every six or seven years and everything else is evolution. The McLaren F1 was designed from a completely clean sheet.
WHAT IS THE ONE THING YOU WOULD HAVE CHANGED ON THE MCLAREN F1? I designed the F1 from the ground up and literally signed off thousands of pieces of design papers. However there’s one piece of design that’s always aggravated me. In the cockpit there’s an interior light switch, which rattled around on high-speed runs. The production guys made a bracket for it, which attached to another bracket, which I hate. It ruins the whole car for me. It should really be just one aluminium piece.
TELL US ABOUT WORKING WITH BERNIE
ECCLESTONE? Nobody knew what was going on with Bernie at Brabham! Nothing was communicated to us in an 18-month period. When he finally took control at Brabham he sacked the rest of the designers and left me in charge.
YOUR FATHER ALSO WORKED WITH CARS. HOW
MUCH DID THAT INFLUENCE YOU? Dad was a motor mechanic back in South Africa, and he never had a new car until my brother and I bought him one. Growing up, we always had Peugeots – 203s and 403s. Peugeot’s wins in the East African Safari Rally definitely proved good advertising for a motorsport-loving family. We also had a MkI Ford Zephyr.
SO, WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST CAR? A 1956 Hillman Minx. I actually wanted an Austin-Healey Sprite but they were too much money, and it was my dad who was having to buy it.
ARE YOU ANTICIPATING THE LONDON CLASSIC CAR
SHOW AS EAGERLY AS THE REST OF US? I’m really looking forward to seeing it and to see what the organisers have done with it. I’ve never worked with a more helpful bunch of people and I’m really pleased visitors will be able to see a McLaren F1 up close. So many people would not have had the chance otherwise, and this opportunity will really showcase what I believe is a brilliant machine.
DO YOU HAVE A FLEET OF CLASSICS? I’m a huge fan of classic cars from all countries and I especially love American stuff. The French have designed some wonderful cars and the Renault 4 is particularly brilliant. I’ve got an Austin-Healey Frogeye Sprite, Minis, a 1500 Triumph Spitfire, two Lotus Elans, various Cortinas, and a McLaren F1. I drive them too – in the summer all my classics get a good run and I commute to work in them as well.