Automotive designer Gordon Murray, appointed to the Order of the British Empire in 2018, has devised everything from Grand Prix–winning Formula 1 racers to road warriors like the McLaren F1. Far from slowing down, the 73-year-old Murray shares what drives his work and why his independent new project is so personal.
How do you approach automotive design?
I’ve always been driven by lightweighting and pushing the boundaries of design. It’s important to learn from experience, and learning what not to do is essential. Automotive design is all about packaging and problem solving, and 20 years in Formula 1 teaches more intensely than any other background.
What are some of the industry’s recent hits and misses?
In the last two decades, the automotive industry has taken some seriously wrong turns, such as introducing biofuel and chasing hydrogen fuel cells too early. We also produce far too many cars that are too large and heavy, including some new electric cars. One of the good stories? The massive improvement in the efficiency of the internal combustion engine.
How goes your current project, the T.50?
I’m really enjoying this supercar. One of the reasons the McLaren F1 became iconic is that, unlike most supercar manufacturers, McLaren let me have a completely clean sheet of paper for the design. Now, once again, I have a fresh start with the Type 50, and there have been huge advances in materials and technologies since I designed the F1 30 years ago. The other satisfying part of the program is that, with only 100 cars being built, I get to know all the owners. The T.50 is better than the F1 in every way, and I think it will probably rank as the last great analog supercar.