IN THIS GAME, DESIGNERS don’t talk about other designers, engineers won’t discuss engineers, and senior execs will not comment on any other car or brand at all, Some barely acknowledge their existence, and worse, you very, very rarely hear any praise of another car, brand or person. However, if they reach over, pause your dictaphone and ask, ‘Off the record?’ then you know you’re going to be hit with something ridiculously juicy, something laden with opinion (and quite possibly lies), something politically motivated, or something downright improper. Stuff you don’t, or can’t, print, in other words. Stuff like: ‘xxx doesn’t know their xxx from their xxx, and that they only got their job because they are xxxing xxx in the xxxing xxx. Off the record, of course.’
I’mexaggerating, obviously, but it’s fair to say you rarely hear the key movers and shakers in the auto industry comment about rival brands, cars or people. And when you do, it’s difficult to believe what you’re hearing. And then there’s Gordon Murray. While chatting on the phone the other day about his new Shell partnership (see evo.co.uk for more), I wondered, you know, whether maybe Gordon would like to comment on Adrian Newey’s Aston Martin/red Bull hypercar? ‘No problem,’ he said. I nearly fell off my chair.
‘Actually, Adrian and I had a lunch together 18 months ago,’ began Murray, ‘ where we talked about supercars – I don’t know how much that had to do with it! No, I think he’s always wanted to do a supercar – and so did I when I was in racing.’
Murray was on a roll now, and then pondered whether Newey’s car would be less about the numbers and more about the driving experience.
‘The driving experience and performance can be on different planets. Take the Bugatti Veyron. It’s a very quick locomotive, in a straight line. It’s quite startling. But as a driving experience it’s one of the worst I’ve ever had. It just doesn’t do anything that pleases me. ‘It will be interesting to see whether in the pursuit of speed, [Aston Martin] loses a lot of that stuff. That’s what I thought long and hard about with the F1. The driving experience – a lot of that stuff is out in the ether somewhere.’ ‘You mean how someone responds emotionally to a car?’ I asked. ‘ Yes,’ replied Murray. ‘For instance, what makes someone feel good about getting in a car, or starting up a car, or seeing the components, the engine. It’s all that lovely petrolhead stuff that’s very hard to put your finger on and therefore difficult to design into a car. ‘From a performance point of view, we’re certainly going to get some of that – it will be interesting to see how he does from the road car point of view. ‘The other thing is that they’ve got Marek Reichman. I love the stuff he does – it’s all very well proportioned and I don’t think there’s anything he’s done in the last few years that I don’t like. I think that will be really interesting, those two mixing the style and the aerodynamics. ‘When I worked with Peter Stevens with the Mclaren F1, I knew what proportions I wanted, the size, the classic shape, so it was predetermined a bit and Peter did a great job of making that real.’ So there you have it. Rather than tell me to switch off a dictaphone, spin me a load of crap, insult his peers and generally mock everyone who isn’t him, Gordon Murray is open, honest, encouraging, critical ( but balanced), complimentary, conversational and, best of all, gets it. Or, in other words, Gordon Murray is a legend. As if you didn’t already know it.