The upcoming T.50 (bottom) aims to be the ultimate driver’s supercar by blending features from Gordon Murray’s BT46 Formula One ‘fan car’ (top) and his McLaren F1 road car (middle). Picture: SUPPLIED
The upcoming T.50 (bottom) aims to be the ultimate driver’s supercar by blending features from Gordon Murray’s BT46 Formula One ‘fan car’ (top) and his McLaren F1 road car (middle). Picture: SUPPLIED

In 1978 South African Gordon Murray designed the innovative Brabham BT46 Formula One car with a unique trick: a fan that sucked the car to the road.

The incredible downforce it produced was so effective that the Brabham comfortably won its first race in the hands of the late Niki Lauda, but the resultant uproar from rival teams over the unfair advantage saw the fan car withdrawn from the very next Grand Prix. It never raced again.

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Now the visionary designer, through his company Gordon Murray Automotive, is bringing back the fan in his new street-legal supercar, the T.50, due to be launched in early 2022.

Professor Murray claims the T.50 will have the most advanced aerodynamics of any road car, courtesy of its rear-mounted 400mm fan which rapidly expels the air flowing beneath the car to create a suction effect for greatly increased grip.

It’s a big deal because the fan generates huge downforce even in slow corners, giving an advantage over the traditional scoops and wings used by others supercars which work better the faster the car is going.

The T.50 is the latest project of visionary SA-born designer Gordon Murray. Picture: SUPPLIED
The T.50 is the latest project of visionary SA-born designer Gordon Murray. Picture: SUPPLIED

There’s also an aesthetic appeal, as the fan allows the upper surfaces of the car to retain design purity by doing away with all those exaggerated spoilers.

Described as the lightest, purest and most driver-focused supercar yet, the mid-engined, rear-wheel drive T.50 will cost about £2m (R37.5m) before taxes and only 100 units will be built.

The T.50 is conceived as the spiritual successor to the Murray-devised McLaren F1 of the 1990s, which was the ultimate supercar of its time with its 386km/h top speed and its lightweight carbon monocoque chassis that ensured brilliant handling.

Like the McLaren F1, the T.50 will have a three-seater cockpit with the driver in the middle and two passenger seats set diagonally behind. With its lightweight carbon fibre tub the car will deliver unmatched power-to-weight, and its 980kg mass is significantly less than any other current supercar.

The T.50 will be powered by a compact and light, naturally-aspirated V12 engine with an output of 485kW and the ability to rev to an astonishing 12,100rpm to deliver a stirring howl. It will also have an H-pattern manual gearbox as part of the purist driving experience.

Says Murray: “I have absolutely no interest in chasing records for top speed or acceleration. Our focus is instead on delivering the purest, most rewarding driving experience of any supercar ever built — but, rest assured, it will be quick.”

The T.50 is named to commemorate every race or road car so far penned by Murray featuring a ‘T’ designation, and this will be his 50th car. It will be manufactured in the UK by Gordon Murray Automotive, which was founded in late 2017 as part of Gordon Murray Group.

Murray was born in Durban in 1946 and gained a mechanical engineering diploma from Natal Technical College. He designed, built and raced his own sports car, the IGM Ford, in the local National Class in 1967 and 1968, before moving to the UK and joining the Brabham F1 team as technical director.

After 17 years with the team, in which it won the 1981 and 1983 championships, he became technical director for McLaren Racing which won three consecutive titles from 1988-90.

Murray left F1 racing in 1990 to establish McLaren Cars Limited, which produced the iconic F1 road car in 1992 and also the Mercedes-Benz McLaren SLR supercar of 2003. In 2007 he started his own company.