Gordon Murray recreates his Brabham BT44 F1 and Duckhams Ford sports prototype designs, then gives them a blast on track
Gordon’s on cloud nine after driving two cars from his early design days – his continuation Brabham BT44 and T3 Duckhams Le Mans prototype
Here at Gordon Murray Design we are assembling a heritage collection that we hope to display in a special building after our headquarters move in two years’ time. The collection has three sections – my early personal car designs from the Sixties and Seventies, the racing cars I designed, and cars we have produced at GMD.
We’re doing pretty well with the first group, beginning with the rebuilt IGM Ford (T1) I ran up the hill at the Goodwood Festival of Speed last year. The IGM Minbug (T2) is also complete and running. We recently found and are about to restore T4, the Formula 750 racing car I designed and started building in 1972 when I was working at Brabham.
The missing car from my early years was T3, the Duckhams Ford Le Mans 3.0-litre prototype that I designed for Alain de Cadenet to race in the 24 Hour race of 1972. It was a great candidate for a continuation car because I still had all the drawings. I was also keen to build a continuation Brabham BT44, which produced my first Grand Prix win in 1974.
Armed with my original drawings, many photographs and some assistance from Bernie Ecclestone, we set about finding someone to build the cars and came up with two companies who frequently work together on classic builds. R&J Simpson Engineering built the monocoques, bodies, suspensions and systems, and Akron Sport managed the powertrains, finishing, set-up and running. Both companies did a fantastic job – the cars are beautifully built and incredibly accurate.
With the builds finished, I nostalgically relived my design days in the early Seventies. I had flashbacks of problemsolving and moments of inspiration when I picked out design details on the cars. For example, the Brabham BT44 was the first car to use rod-operated rising-rate suspension and to attach the rear spring load directly to the engine, and of course to have that aerodynamic triangular shape.
Another thing that struck me was just how tidy and compact F1 cars were then. The Duckhams LM also brought back great memories of our 1972 giant-killing Le Mans trip. I find it fascinating that the brain has the ability to remember the fun stuff while blocking out the memory of 20 hour days and designing on my drawing board until three in the morning in an unheated flat!
The best part of the re-acquaintance came when Akron Sport brought both cars to Dunsfold for a shakedown. Akron driver Aaron Scott gave them a preliminary run, then it was my turn. I ran the F1 car first. Even with the seat out it was a tight fit (I’ve put on two stone since I last drove a 44 in 1975). It rained as I went on track, adding to the thrill of my first F1 drive in 43 years. The car felt very tight and connected and a little like a video game.
The LM car also felt taut and responsive. It was interesting too, because I hadn’t driven the original back in 1972. I was amazed by the 3.0-litre DFV – so responsive and powerful, and such a great sound.
I was on cloud nine after Dunsfold. It was so uplifting to drive my designs after all those years – that morning has gone down as one of my best-ever classic car experiences.
Gordon was on cloud nine after driving his continuation Brabham BT44 F1 car and Duckhams Ford
Gordon Murray is one of the most innovative automotive designers of his generation. He designed Gp-winning F1 cars for Brabham and Mclaren and the Mclaren F1 road car.