Gordon Murray has launched his own car company. Forget million-pound price tags; his first effort will be a radical new small car so frugal you’ll recoup its £5000 cost in four years of ownership.
Gordon Murray Design describes it as ‘a new class of vehicle. You won’t get in it, sit in it or put luggage in it like a normal car. This will not be just another small big car; it’s just different.’ It aims to use small size, lightweight materials and simple design to cut cost, consumption, congestion and whole-life emissions, including those emitted as it is built. The first prototypes will be running within two years and the design will be sold or licensed to a major manufacturer to be built in large volumes. Helped by low fuel consumption and tax breaks, running costs will be a quarter that of an entry-level Golf, he claims. Next year Murray will start work on his second project, a sports car ready by 2010 and which he says will match the McLaren F1 for engineering purity and driver focus but at a fraction of the cost. The new company will build this car itself and it will bear Murray’s new mermaid logo, inspired by the Murray clan crest.
The new company was launched at a party held last night at its headquarters near Guildford attended by senior car industry figures, former F1 world champion Damon Hill and cars from Murray’s personal collection, including his McLaren F1, SLR and original Fiat 500. CAR Online was there, too, reporting first-hand from one of the most intriguing launches of recent times. Codenamed the T25 (all Murray’s clean-sheet designs have a type number – the F1’s was T22) the new small car will have a small petrol engine. ‘But I don’t give a monkeys what you power it with,’ says Murray. ‘You can run it with a fuel cell or reconstituted cockroach wings or whatever you like in the future. What we’re selling is a whole new vehicle architecture. We’re going to prove that you can significantly reduce emissions over the whole lifecycle of the vehicle, but still have fun driving it and still feel safe.’ The layout of the car remains secret, but Murray describes it as an MPV, and sys that a range of variants can be developed from the basic architecture at very low cost. Murray has been working on the concept since the mid-nineties. ‘I’ve done a massive amount of work over the past dozen years on the financial incentives. People say they want greener cars but they keep buying five-metre, two-tonne cars. But this car will come with a bunch of incentives on things like tax and parking that mean that within four years you’ll pay off the purchase cost with the savings; it’s not just fuel. Basically, the car is free after four years, and if that’s not an incentive I don’t know what else to do. I’ll go back to racing!’
The T25 will be developed for Europe and Japan initially, and will weigh around 500kg. It will be designed primarily for urban use, for first time buyers and as a second car for families. A low part count will make it simple, cheap and green to manufacture. The Caparo Group, which bought out the company that developed the T1 supercar is a major investor in Gordon Murray Design and could put the T25 into production itself in its low-cost Indian manufacturing facilities. Murray is reported to have received over £5 million in backing from Caparo and a Silicon Valley venture capital company and has already been approached by several major carmakers interested in building his radical new design. Murray also plans to go racing. With 14 mostly ex-McLaren employees, Murray’s new design and engineering facilities can handle three major projects. Although designed specifically for road use the sports car is likely to form the basis of the third project, a Le Mans racer. The McLaren F1 was also designed as a road car but won Le Mans at its first attempt in 2005 and two World Sportscar Championships. Murray’s Brabham and McLaren Formula One cars won five F1 World Championships.