Tay­lor Si­mon


Classic Sports Car - - Comment -

Ge­nius – it’s a term that is used all too glibly, and has be­come very much de­val­ued. But true ge­nius is very rare. I never met Ein­stein or Mozart, but I do know Gor­don Mur­ray, and you only have to talk to him for a few min­utes to re­alise that his brain goes in a com­pletely dif­fer­ent di­rec­tion to yours and mine.

Then you look at what he has cre­ated. A string of For­mula One cars that won World Cham­pi­onships, and in­tro­duced bril­liant ideas that be­came the F1 norm in their day: car­bon brakes, air jacks, re­fu­elling stops (sub­se­quently banned), tyre heaters and the sen­sa­tional fan car (banned af­ter its first race, which it won). Af­ter that the Mclaren F1 road car, with its cen­tral driv­ing po­si­tion, car­bon con­struc­tion and ac­tive aero, which will for ever be one of the all-time greats. Plus its rac­ing de­riv­a­tive, which won Le Mans.

Then, in a com­plete change of di­rec­tion, the Mur­ray mind switched to city cars, elec­tric cars and a 4wd truck for third-world coun­tries that packed flat like a piece of Ikea furniture. Now comes the creation that Gor­don be­lieves will be, of all his ideas, the most im­por­tant and the most ben­e­fi­cial to the world: istream.

It’s a rad­i­cal re­think of the way road cars should be built, us­ing a light, stiff frame­work clad with bonded hon­ey­comb pan­els. Gor­don says it will need a frac­tion of a man­u­fac­turer’s usual investment for a new model, yet it takes less en­ergy to build. An istream small car will be about 200kg lighter than one with typ­i­cal uni­tary con­struc­tion, so it can have a smaller en­gine, use less en­ergy, and be cheaper to run. The new TVR is the first pro­duc­tion car to use istream in its car­bon form. It’s some 200kg lighter than its op­po­si­tion, and at the same time it sets new stan­dards for tor­sional rigid­ity.

The pas­sion driv­ing ev­ery one of Gor­don’s de­signs has al­ways been light weight. He be­lieves sav­ing weight is bet­ter, and less waste­ful, than adding horse­power. The T1 he built in his teens in South Africa won a lot of races sim­ply be­cause it was lighter, and stiffer, than the Lo­tus Sev­ens it was up against. When he and his wife Stella ar­rived in the UK, young and pen­ni­less, he built the T2. This bonded and riv­eted buggy with 850 Mini en­gine was their sole car for three years. It weighed 530kg.

Later, the tandem­seat Rocket road car, with 1000cc Yamaha en­gine and 10-speed Weis­mann gear­box, had 165bhp to move just 370kg. Even the Mclaren F1 in long­tail GTR form was only 915kg.

To launch his new factory at Dunsfold, Gor­don as­sem­bled a fas­ci­nat­ing ex­hi­bi­tion of 38 of his de­signs from the T1 on. And it’s here that, while Gor­don Mur­ray De­sign is busy devel­op­ing istream projects for the mo­tor in­dus­try, Gor­don Mur­ray Au­to­mo­tive will build a lowvol­ume sports car, called the IGM af­ter his ini­tials.

As well as rock mu­sic, eclec­tic T-shirts, ice­cream so­das and Bob Dy­lan, Gor­don also likes clas­sic cars. But he doesn’t think of them as clas­sics: just as de­signs that, whether old or new, are wor­thy of re­spect. So he also lined up some of his own col­lec­tion, and they told you a lot about the man: no flash, weighty, vul­gar su­per­cars, just small ef­fi­cient ma­chines, from the Honda S800 and the lit­tle De To­maso Val­lelunga to the Alfa SZ and the Abarth Za­gato.

Each had a dis­play card quot­ing its weight. Did you know that the orig­i­nal Mini 850 – he has a per­fectly re­stored ex­am­ple – weighs 40kg less than the BMW 700 coupé? Or that his Lo­tus Elite at 563kg is 100kg lighter than his Fro­g­eye Sprite? His Lo­tus Eleven is 500kg, the same weight as his ’60s Fiat 500, but he also has a Fiat 500 that he built at Mclaren as a test mule. With a sin­gle-cylin­der Yamaha 350 en­gine and six- speed se­quen­tial ’box, it comes in at just 450kg.

The only car that seemed out of place was a 1955 Ford Thun­der­bird, in gleam­ing pink. When I sug­gested to Gor­don that it wasn’t quite his sort of thing, he said: “I love it. It weighs 1380kg – not so bad when you re­alise that it’s lighter than a BMW 5 Se­ries.”

As for the IGM, here’s Gor­don’s phi­los­o­phy: “Sports cars are get­ting larger and heav­ier, and in 2018 we can’t go on burn­ing more and more horse­power. The IGM will turn the clock back and fo­cus on in­volv­ing the driver again.”

Us­ing the car­bon ver­sion of istream con­struc­tion and a tiny three-cylin­der turbo en­gine, the IGM will be the size of a Smart Road­ster and do 140mph – a sort of Mclaren F1 in minia­ture. The queue forms here.

‘Gor­don be­lieves that sav­ing weight is bet­ter, and less waste­ful, than adding horse­power’

Abarth 1000SP, Alfa TZ, Abarth Za­gato, Lo­tus Eleven: Gor­don likes light cars. Be­low: Minibug was his only car for three years

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