IT’S ALL IN THE DETAIL
Gordon Murray guides us through his greatest bits
▶ T.50 GEARKNOB
‘The mermaid on the T.50 gearknob [above] may look like a sticker but in fact it’s a machined titanium piece around 10mm deep, inlaid into the gearknob and hand polished. I wanted this from day one, but it took the T.50 team a year to find a company who could do it!’
▶ T.50 GEARCHANGE MECHANISM
‘I drew inspiration from some of the ’60s sports racing cars in my collection – in particular the Abarth racers. On the F1, I designed a very solid-looking aluminium lever which was very ’90s, but on the T.50 I decided to return to a more pure, functional art form. The lever itself is machined from a solid titanium billet and is a slender, tapered column just 8.5mm in diameter. Before I selected the diameter, I clamped titanium rods of various diameters in a vice and felt the stiness; 8.5mm is just right. The rest of the mechanism is aluminium and titanium – beautifully machined and on show.’
▶ BRABHAM BT52 FRONT CASTING
‘I designed a radical front end to the monocoque on the 1983 championship-winning Brabham BT52 [right].
With a conventional F1 monocoque, there are a lot of separate mounting points at the front end which all have to be manufactured and jigged in place to pick up lots of components; top and bottom wishbone joints, steering rack, suspension rockers, spring and damper mounts, anti-roll bar, master cylinders, front crash structure, front wing mounting… I designed a single, thin-wall magnesium casting that had all of these mounting points CNC-machined in, so no jigging was required. The casting bolted to the front of the carbonfibre/aluminium monocoque. Even the steering rack housing was cast in. I also designed a quickchange front spring system machined into the casting – the mechanics loved it!’
▶ T.50 TACHOMETER
‘The 120mm-diameter tachometer has clear monochromatic graphics, an aluminium dial face and a machined aluminium needle. The instrument is floodlit and a truly lovely part.’
▶ F1 LM HANDBRAKE
‘I had a huge problem in positioning the F1 handbrake on the carbon beams which ran down each side of the driver. After much head-scratching, I designed a lever with a fly-o mechanism so it dropped flat when deployed to allow access to the central seat. On the road car, it was a wood-clad aluminium part to match the gearlever. For the LM, I re-designed the lever to look more technical.’
▶ T.50 PEDALS
‘I designed the F1’s pedals and they were considered a good piece of design in 1992. When I drew the T.50 pedals I wanted to move the design up onto a completely new plane. The clutch and brake are machined from aluminium billet. The throttle pedal is machined from a solid billet of titanium. We achieve the anti-slip properties by leaving the machined edges sharp and this saves the weight of an anti-slip pad. The pedal set is 300 grams lighter than the F1 pedal set.’
everyday driving. The T.50 – which Murray says is ‘an astonishingly usable supercar’ – makes 70 per cent of its maximum torque at 2500rpm, but the T.33 delivers 75 per cent. It produces 90 per cent of its maximum torque from 4500rpm to 10,500rpm. ‘It’s a flat line basically. The T.50 is astonishingly everyday usable. The T.33 is even more so.’
Murray is quite serious that the T.33 is an ‘everyday’ supercar, so seating comfort, space and visibility are all crucial qualities. ‘It’s got low maintenance costs, decent ride height, good luggage space, a range of more than 400 miles and good ride comfort.’ A track racer it ain’t.
The V12 is the heart and soul of the T.33. It’s much lighter, much faster revving and much higher revving than any rival, and will doubtless make a wonderful noise. V12s won’t be around for much longer, sadly, and one suspects that the GMA Cosworth V12 may well be the apogee of the 12-cylinder art.
At 3994cc it’s small next to Ferrari’s and Lamborghini’s modern V12s, which are 6.5 litres. A lower-capacity engine is lighter and, with smaller reciprocating components, helps the engine to rev faster and give superior throttle response, a key factor to driving enjoyment. It also helps to make a smaller, lighter car.
Murray’s inspiration for the engine was the classic Italian V12s of the ’60s, and particularly the 3.0 and 3.3-litre versions of the Colombo Ferrari engine. ‘When we set up Gordon Murray Design [in 2007], my creative director Kevin Richards and I looked at the T numbers,’ says Murray. ‘By then, we were onto T.25 [each number refers to a different car Murray designed, starting with T.1, his home-built racing special in South Africa]. We simply picked numbers we liked and banked them, and 33 was a number we liked, partly because of the 3.3-litre Colombo capacity.’ Incidentally, T.32 was a small electric aluminium concept sports car commissioned by Toray, the Japanese materials giant that supplies carbonfibre for the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. T.34 was the ingenious OX, an inexpensive but highly versatile flatpack truck designed for Africa, which Murray says is one of his best designs.
He also insists absolutely everything on the car is there for a reason. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the cabin. It’s minimalist but beautiful. The centrepiece is the 120mm analogue revcounter, right in front of the driver, and all the driver controls – lights, air-con, HMI, aero adjustment – are by proper analogue controls (as we’ve seen, all beautifully milled from solid aluminium alloy). The pedals are aluminium alloy. There is a choice of right- or left-hand drive and the car will be homologated for all major international markets.
At 1090kg, the T.33 is about 100kg heavier than the T.50, mostly because its aluminium/ carbon chassis is heavier than the T.50’s Formula 1-grade lightweight all-carbon tub. It’s about 50mm longer, the same width, and the wheelbase is 35mm longer. Paradoxically, a three-seat layout allows for a shorter car: the central driving position means you can push the pedal box further forward between the front wheels. The T.33 has similar dimensions to a Porsche Cayman but of course has a V12 engine – not a turbo four or non-turbo flat-six – and good luggage space, in part through the ingenious side helicopter-style storage panniers, as well as a front boot. Good packaging has always been a Murray hallmark.
The T.33 will sire two new variants, both using the same platform and V12, which will be the third and fourth cars released by GMA. Its next all-new car is four years away and will be a hybrid, ‘because we have to,’ says Murray. As with all GMA cars, the T.33 is personalised to suit the owner. ‘We are not chasing volumes or sales. We’re happy to be very small and stay small: bespoke, flexible and exclusive.’
Murray says the T.33 competes with top-end Ferraris and Lamborghinis – but ‘really it’s in class of its own. What other mid-engine supercar has a V12 that revs to over 11,000, weighs under 1100kg and has that classic style?’ Quite simply, there is none.