Gordon Murray plans to unveil a production-spec version of his revolutionary T50 ground-effect ‘fan car’ in May.
The £2.3 million (Rs 21.44 crore) ‘analogue’ hypercar, to be built at Murray’s new Dunsfold factory in the UK, will move immediately after launch into a prototype build and development phase, before production build-up begins during 2021.
The first of the planned 125 cars – 100 road cars and 25 purely for the track – will reach its new owner at the beginning of 2022 and production will continue for a year.
Under a deal just announced, the T50’s all-important aerodynamics package is being developed with the assistance of the Silverstone-based Racing Point Formula 1 team, formerly Force India. Access to the team’s moving-floor wind tunnel, plus the expertise of its F1-trained technicians, will allow Murray to use large-scale models to refine the T50’s revolutionary active aero package.
A three-seater with a central driving position, the car combines the unique qualities of Murray’s two most iconic creations in a stellar 50-year, 50-car career: the seminal, ultra-light McLaren F1 three-seat supercar of 1992 and the Brabham BT46B grand prix ‘fan car’ of 1978, whose extraordinary levels of downforce briefly stood F1 on its head and took one race win before the team withdrew it in the face of opposition from rivals.
The new T50’s most striking feature is a 400mm rear-mounted electric fan, designed to extract air rapidly from beneath the car, radically increasing downforce and grip. The aero set-up can be configured in six different modes, two of them automatic, the rest driver selectable. They vary from the super-slippery Streamline mode to the High Downforce setting, for use when exceptional stability and traction are needed.
Ground-effect ‘fan car’ innovation rewrites the rulebook for road-car aerodynamics; 6 aero modes enable driver to optimise dynamic and outright performance; Vmax Mode and ram induction boost T.50 output to 700hp.
The first details of the T50 emerged last summer, when it became clear that it would use much of the packaging and technology of the F1, simply because, in Murray’s view, there isn’t a better way of doing it. The car has an all-new carbonfibre tub and is powered by a bespoke mid-mounted normally aspirated 4.0-litre V12, built by Cosworth, producing around 650bhp.
The engine revs to 12,100rpm, with a 12,400rpm hard limit, which will make it the highest-revving road car engine yet built. Experimental versions are running at full speed on the dynamometer and said to be producing exhaust notes whose quality very much matches the high output.
At the front of the engine, a 48V integrated starter/ generator connects directly with the crankshaft. It acts as a starter motor, then converts to a generator to produce the power needed to spin the lightweight fan at speeds of up to 8000rpm.
The V12 is mounted very low in the T50’s all-carbonfibre tub, driving the rear wheels through a six-speed H-pattern manual gearbox built by Xtrac. Murray says most buyers are “relieved” by the presence of a proper stick shift, but he directs those who prefer paddles to the 25 late-build track cars, which will probably use them.
Spiritual successor to McLaren F1 avoids hybrid tech
In another nod to traditional driving, the T50 avoids hybrid technology: Murray says it would increase kerb weight far beyond the current figure of just 980kg, with many knock-on disadvantages. He wants the T50 to be seen as the spiritual successor to the F1 in its lightness, compactness and space efficiency, with those properties all enhanced by the use of modern materials and techniques.
The T50 is just 30mm wider and 60mm longer than the F1, having about the same road footprint as a Volkswagen Golf. “No one else makes supercars our way,” said Murray. “I’m happy about that.”
The car needs very little obvious upper-body aerodynamic addenda, allowing for a purer front-end shape. Although the frontal styling has yet to be revealed, Murray says its relationship to the F1 will be clear.
Downforce is generated either by an active tail spoiler or via a large venturi beneath the body, a system of slots and ducts with the 400mm fan at its rearmost extremity. The feed of underbody airflow can be varied by the opening or closing of slots ahead of it.
The T50’s two automatic aero modes are Auto (which optimises use of the fan, the rear spoiler and the underbody diffusers) and Brake (which opens the spoilers and runs the fan at high speed, sucking the car onto the road and increasing both stability and rolling resistance).
The driver-select aero modes are High Downforce and Streamline, which cuts drag by about 10% by closing underbody vents and speeding the fan to create a ‘virtual longtail’. There’s also a Vmax mode, a kind of ‘push to pass’ setting that adds 30bhp for up to three minutes. Near the top speed, the ram effect of a roof-mounted induction air scoop (a Murray favourite) boosts power to about 700bhp. The final aero mode is Test, which allows an owner to demonstrate the functioning of the aero system when the car is stationary.
Most T50s are already sold, although there are still “a few” opportunities for buyers. Murray said he is pleasantly surprised at the comparative youth of the latest crop of buyers: 40% are under 45 and three are buying their first-ever supercar. “People tell us the McLaren F1 was their poster car when they were growing up,” said Murray. “Now that they’ve built successful businesses, T50 has become their F1. We’re very happy with that.”
Why the fan makes so much sense
Aerodynamic downforce is a great thing to have when you need it, explains Gordon Murray, and that’s principally between 60mph and 100mph, the point at which your car benefits most from greatly enhanced cornering adhesion. It would be nice to have downforce that works lower down, too, but passive aero gadgetry doesn’t provide it.
When going faster, you could often do with less aero effect. “Aerodynamic load rises as the square of speed,” Murray says, “and so does drag. Which means many cars with serious performance use up their suspension travel at high speed, which is about the last thing you need. You can reduce it with expensive, bulky variable-rate complexity, but who wants that?”
All of which, in a nutshell, makes the case for the T50’s brand of variable, fan-based downforce. It can be strong at 30mph. (Murray says the T50 sucks hard enough at full-fan speed to stick itself to the ceiling.) But the system is tunable and delivers exactly as you want it to. You can use it to help stop your car from seriously high speeds. And you can adjust it for decent stability yet good ride quality while cruising autobahns at 150mph. In short, it looks like one of those things, once explained, that every serious future fast car will need.
T.50 TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS
Supercar with GT capability
Coupé – central driving position
Length: 4,349 mm
Width: 1,850 mm
Height: 1,152 mm
Wheelbase: 2,700 mm
Front track: 1,586 mm
Rear track: 1,525 mm
Weight: 980 kg
Chassis / Body
Full carbon fibre pre-preg monocoque, carbon fibre body
Type / number: Cosworth GMA
Configuration: V12 semi-structural
V. angle: 65°
Displacement: 3,994 cc
Valve train: Double overhead camshafts / variable valve timing / 4 valves per cylinder
Lubrication system: Dry sump
Maximum power: 650 hp
Maximum torque: 450 Nm
Maximum rpm: 12,100 rpm
Starter: 48-volt integrated starter
Alternator: 48-volt ISG (integrated starter-generator)
Configuration: Transverse all synchro constant mesh
Speeds: 6 forward and reverse
Gear selection: Manual with reverse lockout
Front: Double wishbone with anti-roll bar
Rear: Double wishbone – included axis GSP system
TypeRack and pinion with LSPA
Full ground-effect with fan-assisted boundary-layer control
6 aero modes
Exclusive: Gordon Murray tells Autocar about his 2022 hypercar