Top 10 Gordon Murray Designs
Gordon Murray is one of the most eminent motoring and motorsport car designers. We look back at ten of his landmark designs
Over the 1988 F1 season only once was the MP4/4 beaten to pole position or a race win. With Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna in the cockpit, 15 out of the 16 races went to McLaren – a record that still stands. With John Barnard departing to Ferrari, this was the first McLaren to be designed by a team with Murray at the helm. The Brabham BT55’s low-line layout carried over, so that the driver’s shoulders could be lowered to the same height as the engine cam cover. The ‘bathtub’ seating position has remained with F1 ever since.
IGM Ford Special
In 1967 Gordon Murray finished what would be the genesis of a 50-year engineering and design career. The South African’s new IGM Ford Special was conceived with one objective in mind – fittingly, to go racing. Looking not unlike a Lotus Seven, the car was successfully campaigned by Murray in the 1967 and 1968 seasons in South Africa, before he moved to the UK.
Ever since Chris Craft drove Murray’s Duckhams Ford LM at Le Mans in 1972, he had proposed that the pair produce a car together one day. The Rocket project had the broad aim of building a vehicle lighter than a Lotus Seven. The two-seater weighs less than 400kg and uses a high-revving Yamaha FZR motorcycle engine. Murray drew on his favourite racing cars from the 1950s and ‘60s as inspiration for the 1992 design.
The BT44 holds a little piece of history for being the first Gordon Murray designed car to win a Formula 1 race. At only the third round of the 1974 season Carlos Reutemann took the spoils in the South African Grand Prix. Then, at the finale at Watkins Glen, he and team-mate Carlos Pace scored a one-two finish and claimed the fastest lap also. It was the first racing car to use rod-operated rising rate suspension, and the first grand prix car to feature a semi-dry sump gearbox.
In designing the McLaren F1, Murray envisaged what he believed would make the ultimate
road car. Lessons learned from Formula 1 led Murray’s thinking on the F1: it was the
world’s first all-carbonfibre road car and the first road car with ground-effect aerodynamics.
In 1993, a McLaren F1 prototype reached a record-breaking 231mph at Nardo. Five years
later, Andy Wallace drove the XP5 prototype at Ehra-Lessien, setting a new production car
world record of 240.1mph – a figure that remains unbeaten for a naturally-aspirated engine.
McLaren F1 GTR
Thanks to the success of the BPR Global GT Series, sportscar racing was immensely popular in the mid-1990s. With the likes of the Ferrari F40 and Porsche 911 Turbo converted to race specification, demand came for Murray to transform the F1 from ultimate road car into GTR racer. An aerodynamic body kit was added plus carbon brakes and strengthened suspension. On its debut at Le Mans in 1995, it won a historic victory – the first manufacturer to win at its first attempt.
GMD City Car
Gordon Murray Design was set up in 2007 to develop a new manufacturing system called
iStream. It was designed to take Formula 1 structural composite ‘sandwich panel’
technology to the point that it was affordable and could be produced in high volumes. The
three-seater T.25 was the first showcase of this new process. Smaller and lighter than
similar city cars – at just 630kg – it won critical acclaim from across the motor industry upon its launch in 2010.
The ‘Fan Car’ remains the only F1 car to hold a 100 per cent strike rate. Having exploited a loophole in the regulations for the 1978 season, what resulted was a fan turbine sticking out from under the rear wing. Able to both cool and suck the car into the ground, cornering speeds increased dramatically as a result. Niki Lauda won on its first and only outing at the Swedish Grand Prix. Despite the stewards confirming that the car was legal, mounting pressure from rival teams led Brabham to voluntarily withdraw it from the rest of the season.
Global Vehicle Trust OX
The OX is specifically aimed at tackling a host of transport challenges in the developing
world, following a brief from entrepreneur and philanthropist, Sir Torquil Norman. It required
a multi-purpose layout and superb all-terrain ability. Murray’s design for the OX is nothing
short of revolutionary, with a ‘flat-pack’ format that fundamentally changes the way a vehicle
can be bought and transported. The OX is far shorter than a large SUV, and yet it can carry
a payload of nearly two tonnes – approximately twice the capacity of most current pick-ups.
When Nelson Piquet won his first of three F1 championships in 1981 it also restored a Brabham car to the top of the pile following a 14-year hiatus. Murray and his colleague David North developed a hydro-pneumatic suspension system, which automatically held the car low once the natural aerodynamic forces had pushed it down, neatly circumnavigating a new rule banning driver-operated systems that had the same effect. That meant when the car was stationary it complied with minimum ride height measurements but would then compress at high speed.