It's official: two seats, no active aero, but £1m cheaper than the T.50 and still V12 powered
By Mike Duff / Thursday, January 27, 2022 / Loading comments
The spectacular GMA T.50 was a manifesto piece, but the new T.33 proves that Gordon Murray Automotive is a fully fledged car company, one that promises a series of models created under the personal direction of the man who is probably the world’s most famous supercar designer.
When PH got the chance to interview Murray ahead of the T.33’s unveiling, and to see the styling concept up close, there was no shortage of highlights to discuss. Yet it was the atypical topics that really stood out as I typed the transcript later, digressions into the minutiae of headlight performance or the intricacies of the passing the U.S. ‘pole test’ for low speed impacts; Murray is not your typical car company boss.
But nor is GMA ever going to be a traditional car company. Because while the products have obviously been getting most attention – the T.50’s combination of a central driving position, naturally aspirated V12 engine, manual gearbox and active aerodynamics making it hard to concentrate on anything else – GMA is very different from the ‘normal’ supercar makers, too.
Take the T.50 ordering process as an example, with Murray casually saying he has been doing specification sessions with customers around his continued work on the T.33, these taking between six and seven hours on average. “I did a 14-hour day yesterday,” he admits, “with 100 cars a year I think it’s manageable – it’s what the customers want.”
Buy a Ferrari or a Lamborghini and you don’t get to discuss the finer points of colour and trim for a day with the CEO. But it’s when the conversation turns to Murray’s concern about running costs that things start to feel more alien; it’s a topic that has never been broached by any other supercar company executive I’ve interviewed.
“The service interval is 6,000 miles and the oil change is going to be around £460, with the first major service around £1,800. There are mainstream cars close to that. This is a car that is designed to be used, something you might want to put 8,000 miles a year on,” Murray says, “if you want something flash or brash or loud or compromised then you’d never come to us, but we seem to be attracting a certain type of person who wants to use the car. That’s great.”
While the T.33 looks more conventional than the T.50, it is still packed with innovative thinking. The T.50 was, in essence, an updated version of Murray’s most famous road-going design, the McLaren F1 – while the T.33 is a two-seater better suited to everyday use. The new car loses the T.50’s 48 Volt active aerodynamics and has gained weight, although not enough to prevent it from being lighter than any rival. Murray promises the T.33 is on track to weigh just 1,090kg, 100kg more than the T.50. But the good news is that it keeps the Cosworth-created 4.0-litre V12 engine and the option of a manual gearbox. At £1.37m pre-tax it is £1m cheaper than the T.50, even if VAT will increase it to £1.64m.
Murray says that he has been thinking about the T.33 for even longer than the T.50, that partially explaining its apparently unchronological name, Murray assigning each of his designs a T-prefix number. “When I thought one day I might do my own car I went through the numbers with Kev Richards, who is now my creative director, and we banked some we liked the sound of,” Murray says, “I said to Kev that if we’re going to do our own car it has to have a small capacity engine and I wanted to do a 3.3-litre car.”
That plan took a ding when Cosworth discovered they’d need a bigger engine to meet GMA’s targets, but the T.33 name survived the switch to the 4.0-litre engine. The new model’s V12 is the least changed part of the car, keeping the same block and heads as the T.50, plus gear-driven camshafts. Timings have been altered and the motor has a slightly reduced rev limit and a lowered torque curve to improve driveability.
These things are relative – the T.33’s peak 615hp still arrives at a heady 10,500rpm – the same speed as the larger Cosworth V12 in the Aston Martin Valkyrie makes maximum power. The T.33’s limiter is set at 11,100rpm, 1,000rpm shy of the T.50’s. Ultimate torque is a less brawny 332lb-ft, yet while this comes at a decidedly peaky 9,000rpm Murray says that 75 percent of it is available at just 2,500rpm.
GMA is offering the choice of both manual and automated six-speed gearboxes, both made by Xtrac. The manual is as in the T.50, the automated one a version of the one offered in the track-only T.50S Niki Lauda with Xtrac’s pioneering Instantaneous Gearchange System. This uses a ratchet and pawl mechanism to allow two consecutive gears to be selected and engaged at the same time, but with only one driving. Shifting is therefore effectively instant, and even with the need for an automated clutch for starting and stopping the ISG ‘box weighs 4kg less than the manual. Both gearboxes will be offered with the option of a taller, over-driven sixth gear to improve cruising refinement. Yet enthusiasm for the lighter, faster transmission has been muted among early customers.
“I may well have shot myself in the foot,” Murray admits, laughing, “because we’ve presold half the cars already, and so far have only had two people order a paddle shift. So I’ve committed myself to millions of pounds in development spend and could end up with 97 manuals and three autos.”
The automated gearbox will definitely be used by future GMA models, which Murray confirms – in passing – will all need some level of hybrid assistance to meet ever-tightening emissions standards. “We’re trying to work out if we can still offer a manual,” he says, “it depends on where the clutches are, so we don’t know yet, but I’d love to offer it if we can.”
The biggest change between T.50 and T.33 is the arrival of a new underbody structure. The T.50 uses a carbonfibre monocoque, but the newer car is switching to one that uses honeycomb carbon fibre pieces bonded into an aluminium frame. The idea is based on GMA’s innovative iStream technology, and Murray says it is a stronger and lighter solution than press-formed carbon fibre normally used for road car tubs.
Suspension is by double wishbones all round, the rear ones hung from the transmission. As with the T.50 there are no active dampers, nor even a rear anti-roll bar. “If you’ve got a very lightweight car with a very low centre of gravity and a very low unsprung weight there’s absolutely no reason why you need to complicate it,” Murray says, “to prove it I’d invite anyone to drive the Alpine A110. I’ve got one, it’s my everyday car, and it’s the best ride-handling compromise out there. Start adding active dampers, active roll control and all the rest and you’re suddenly at 1,500kg.”
While braking is by carbon-ceramic discs the T.33 will use standard Michelin Pilot 4S Sport tyres in off-the-shelf sizes, with Murray seeing no need for expensive bespoke compounds. “You can get them wherever you like, you won’t need to buy them from us,” Murray says, raising the fascinating prospect of spotting a T.33 sitting on a ramp at your local Kwik Fit.
Design features plenty of what Murray admits are ’60s influences, but without any attempt to make it retro. “Why does a Tipo 33 Stradale never look old, or a Ferrari 206 SP Dino or a Miura?,” Murray asks, “why do they never date? It’s because the proportions are perfect, the overhangs, the cut-offs, the cabin glass versus bodywork, and the shapes are all classic curves. They didn’t try too hard, they weren’t full of holes and ducts and stuff.”
But although the T.33’s shape might be much simpler than the wing-and-grille supercar norm, every part of its form has been carefully considered, especially given the need to achieve aerodynamic stability without the huge wings that Murray hates. So although it lacks the T.50’s fan-assisted aerodynamics, it does use a passive version of the same system which can divert low pressure air from behind the car to the underbody diffuser to improve its efficiency. Called Passive Boundary Layer Control, and protected by a fresh patent, Murray says this is about 30 percent as effective as the fan-boosted system of the T.50, and means the only moveable aero element is a hinged flap at the back of the rear deck which changes its angle to alter the effect.
We will have to wait to see the finished interior – the design concept doesn’t have one behind its darkened windows. Murray promises this will feature a similarly uncluttered layout to the T.50, with the dashboard featuring a large analogue rev counter and with rotary mechanical controls instead of any need to deal with a touchscreen interface.
The dihedral opening doors should make it easy to get in and out, and there are also luggage compartments behind these on each side which, together with an underbonnet frunk, give a total of 275 litres of luggage space. Murray also promises plenty of oddments storage in the cabin; his biggest frustration with his A110 is the lack of interior stowage. He also says the T.33 will have the best headlights in the segment, created by British specialist Wipac, after an exhaustive benchmarking of every rival. “The best for throw and spread was the McLaren 720S – it was streets ahead of everybody else,” he says, “ours are 15 percent better.”
One detail missing from the official statistics is any claimed performance figures. There’s a good reason for this. “For the T.33 and the T.50 I have not got one performance goal, I honestly don’t care,” Murray says, “this has got a power-to-weight ratio just a bit shy of a Ferrari LaFerrari, so it isn’t going to be slow. But if it does 0-60 in 2.9 seconds or 3.1 seconds? I couldn’t care less.”
Despite the seven-figure asking price there seems little doubt GMA could sell more than the 100 T.33s it will be producing given more than 50 raised hands before it has been formally launched. But that’s not the point – exclusivity will always be one of the company’s core principles.
“We will do other variants, all at the same rate of 100 a year, but the next one isn’t going to just be this with a different rear bumper, it will be a very different car,” Murray promises.
But one that will likely be just as exciting.
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