Here’s why the Gordon Murray T.50 and the McLaren F1 are very similar

The Gordon Murray T.50 supercar just broke cover and many already view it as a spiritual successor to the iconic McLaren F1. And this isn’t surprising, because not onlywas the T.50 was designed by the same man that penned the F1, but they also share many similarities, from the front end design and the naturally aspirated V-12 to the lightweight carbon construction and the central driving seat. But how similar are they? And is the T.50 actually a modern version of the McLaren F1? Let’s find out in the comparison below.

Exterior Design

Is the Gordon Murray T.50 the True Successor to the McLaren F1? Exterior High Resolution Wallpaper quality
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1993 McLaren F1 High Resolution Exterior
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The T.50 is a unique design, as all new cars should be, but you can definitely see some McLaren F1 in there.

The front section is clearly inspired by Murray’s design from the 1990s. The headlamps feature a similar placement in the fascia, while the front lid is almost identical in terms of size, shape, and placement. The way the windshield flows into the front section is also very similar and it probably has to do with how the dashboard was adapted to the central driver seat layout.

Is the Gordon Murray T.50 the True Successor to the McLaren F1? Exterior High Resolution Wallpaper quality
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1993 McLaren F1 High Resolution Exterior
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The T.50’s profile is obviously different, with no connection to the F1 overall. However, Murray retained a few key features, like the shape of the cabin, the small horizontal window integrated into the door window, and the scoop that raises only slightly in the center of the roof. Around back, we can see how the roof scoop transforms into a raised tunnel atop the engine hood, so not only it feeds air into the V-12, but it’s also part of the car’s aerodynamic system, just like on the F1.

Similarities end here and they’re just a handful, but it’s pretty obvious that Gordon Murray kept what worked on the McLaren F1 and used everything else to make the T.50 a better car. And that’s the way to go when you want to improve a successful design.

Interior Design

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Of course, the interior of the T.50 is a massive improvement compared to the F1 in terms of materials and ergonomics, but the two supercars share many features.

The three-seat layout is obviously the main highlight here. Back when he designed the F1, Murray basically wanted a road-legal car that offered the same thrills as a Formula One race. The initial plan was for the F1 to be a one-seater, but he eventually decided to offer room for passengers after studying a three-seat layout with the side seats mounted slightly behind the driver. The F1 was the first and only production car with such a layout until now, when Murray replicated it in the T-50. And just like in the F1, the passengers sit in the monocoque, which helps save weight and doesn’t ruin the car’s weight distribution. Impressive enough, the passenger seats weigh only 4.4 pounds.

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Both the T.50 and the F1 feature a wraparound dashboard that extends into the door panels. This is a cool feature given that both have butterfly doors, which make fit and finish a bit more complicated to achieve. The instrument cluster is obviously placed in the center, behind the steering wheel, and just like in the F1, the T.50’s hud extends over the entire width of the footwell.

Of course, the T.50 comes with digital displays, cool lightweight pedals and a bit more legroom for all passengers since the consoles that flanked the driver seat in the F1 are gone. It's an F1 cockpit designed for 2020 standards.
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The T.50 also features the innovative storage options seen in the F1. But while the latter featured storage compartments in the lower rear fenders, the T.50 offers storage room in the upper areas on the fender, flanking the engine compartment. Access is provided by lifting the two-piece engine hood instead of individual, hinged fender panels like on the F1.

Carbon-fiber monocoque

Gordon Murray is working on a spiritual McLaren F1 successor
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Both the T.50 and the F1 feature carbon-fiber monocoque and that's hardly surprising.

Murray has been talking about a lightweight carbon monocoque for a supercar for years now and the one in T.50 is the final result of his work. The McLaren F1 was the first-ever production car to feature a carbon monocoque, so the T.50 is far from revolutionary, but there are big differences between the two. In Murray’s own words in his interview with Jalopnik, the F1 was a crude application of technologies that McLaren was using in Formula One at the time. The carbon-fiber, the aluminum honeycomb between the skins, and the epoxy resin all came from the company’s Formula One shop. This was groundbreaking back then, but technology has evolved in almost 30 years and Murray had access to the latest composites for the T.50.

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According to him, the T.50 boasts double the torsional stiffness of the F1, but at the same time the body and the chassis are 110 pounds lighter.

The T.50 tips the scales at 2,173 pounds, which makes it around 336 pounds lighter than the McLaren F1. And as we pointed out in our debut article for the T.50, Gordon Murray’s supercar is even lighter than the Mazda MX-5 Miata, which comes in at 2,341 pounds.

But the important things here is that just like its spiritual predecessor, the T.50 is significantly lighter than its competitors.
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For instance, it’s a whopping 850 pounds lighter than the McLaren Senna and around 800 pounds lighter than the McLaren 765LT. It’s also almost 1,000 pounds lighter than the Ferrari F8 Tributo and more than 1,000 pounds lighter than the Lamborghini Huracan.

While supercars are becoming heavier with each generation, Gordon Murray found a way to take the F1 recipe to the next level with a much lighter T.50. That’s because he believes that a sports car that weighs in excess of 3,000 pounds will never handle like one that tips the scale at around 2,000, no much how much technology you add to compensate.

Drivetrain and Performance

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The McLaren F1 was designed in an era when naturally aspirated engines were still a thing. Nowadays, all-motor designs are going the way of the dodo bird. Automakers are opting for smaller, turbocharged engines because they can produce more power and return better fuel economy. But Murray remained faithful to the naturally aspirated design and dropped an all-motor V-12 in the T.50. Just like the McLaren F1 had.

Another thing these supercars have in common besides featuring naturally aspirated V-12 engines is that both are powered by units developed in cooperation with other companies.

The 6.1-liter V-12 from the F1 was developed by BMW, while the 3.9-liter V-12 in the T.50 comes from Cosworth.
McLaren F1 Gordon Murray T.50
Engine V-12 naturally aspirated V-12 naturally aspirated
Displacement 6.1 3.9
Source company BMW Cosworth

The newer engine is obviously a bit more powerful. The V-12 in the F1 cranks out 618 horsepower, while the Cosworth V-12 comes with 650 horses on tap. Unlike the F1, the T.50 also features a 48-volt starter-generator that’s gear-driven by the front of the crankshaft. Although it doesn’t make the T.50 a mild hybrid, it does provide additional oomph at times, increasing total output to 690 horsepower. This means that the lighter T.50 also benefits from an extra 32 horsepower and, for short periods, an extra 72 horses.

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Another key difference here is the redline. While the F1's V-12 revs up to 7,500 rpm, the T.50 V-12 is capable of a whopping 12,100 rpm, comparable to Formula One engines from the 1990s.

Modern F1 engines are able to rev higher at 15,000, but the T.50 remains the production car with the highest redline.

As far as performance goes, Gordon Murray has yet to release acceleration and top speed figures. That’s partly because Murray wants the T.50 to offer "the best driving experience on the planet" instead of outstanding performance numbers, but I’m tempted to believe that the company is still testing the car.

Still, given the power-to-weight ratio, the T.50 should be able to hit 60 mph from a standing start in less than three seconds, which will be at least two tenths quicker than the McLaren F1. Expect top speed to exceed 200 mph, but it probably won’t go beyond the 220 mph. This means that it won’t match the F1’s incredible 240.1-mph benchmark, which still makes it the fastest naturally aspirated production car in the world.

The Driving Experience

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This is what brings the F1 and T.50 together and what makes the T.50 a true successor to the F1. The three-seat layout with the driver’s seat in the center, the naturally aspirated V-12, and the lightweight construction, all common to both the F1 and the T.50, have one purpose: to give drivers the most thrilling and authentic driving experience. The T.50 comes to do just that in an era when supercars are loaded with driving assist technology that takes away all the fun. The modern supercars are also significantly heavier and Murray argues that while they’re "more capable than the McLaren F1, none of them give you the thrill and the driving experience that the F1 gives you." The T.50 is here to fill that void.

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"When you jump back, you can drive all of these cars, and some of them are just so much quicker around the circuit. You get the feeling that, sort of, almost anybody could drive them. They do everything for you. None of them make a particularly nice noise. Absolutely none of them have the instantaneous snap throttle that you get in an F1, because A) they’re heavy, and B) they’re turbocharged most of them. None of them do that," Murray told Jalopnik.

All told, the T.50 not only borrows some design, aerodynamic, and construction features from the F1, but it also offers a pure driving experience. And it does that by being unique and better in just about every department.

Ciprian Florea
Senior Editor and Supercar Expert - ciprian@topspeed.com
Ciprian's passion for everything with four wheels (and more) started back when he was just a little boy, and the Lamborghini Countach was still the coolest car poster you could hang on your wall. Ciprian's career as a journalist began long before earning a Bachelor's degree, but it was only after graduating that his love for cars became a profession.  Read More
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