Why Gordon Murray Automotive Should Have Your Attention

The legendary engineer's newest project could be more important to the future of the car industry than Tesla.

In a press release Monday, Gordon Murray Design announced that its titular engineer, Gordon Murray, will open a “low-volume” car manufacturer in his own name. Gordon Murray Automotive, as it will be named, will demonstrate a standard for its own products with a “flagship model,” which is said to “buck the current trend for ever more complicated and heavy vehicles.” The vehicles will be produced using an improved iStream system—another Murray product that integrates ultra-stiff, lightweight, low-cost chassis design with ease of production. Murray explains that the company’s “flagship” vehicle will revive the traits that made Murray’s ultimate road car—the McLaren F1—an instant legend.

“With our first new car, we will demonstrate a return to the design and engineering principles that have made the McLaren F1 such an icon,” said Murray in the company’s announcement.

The Drive reached out to Gordon Murray Automotive regarding details on the company’s future vehicles. A company spokesperson stated that while the press release sums up all that the company is ready to discuss, more information “will be shared within the next fortnight” on its plans for the future.

You’re probably now wondering why a self-described low volume car company, the pet project of an engineer, is arguably one of the most important stepping stones toward the future of the automotive industry. It’s simple: Gordon Murray Automotive could be Murray’s method of building a portfolio for his iStream production techniques, which promise to permit cheaper, quicker production of composite tubs for cars.

As described, with a promise of 200 kilograms—441 pounds—of weight savings when applied to a typical supermini, it would cut the weight of a car like the Ford Fiesta down to Lotus territory, shaving almost a fifth of the car’s mass. As Colin Chapman figured out so many decades ago, weight spoils everything about a car, from performance to fuel economy. With less weight, a car can use a smaller engine, allowing it to be even more frugal with gas.

iStream’s concept, meant to improve upon every area of modern automobile manufacturing, has been designed to be viable on a massive scale, one suitable for the likes of Ford, Honda, and Toyota. I believe Gordon Murray Automotive means to prove its system to giants such as these—and to reap the rewards of licensing the production techniques to them. Imagine if, say, the already-lightened aluminum Ford F-150 received the iStream treatment, allowing its weight to be slashed from over two tons to under 3,400 pounds. It could use smaller tires, smaller engines—allowing it to be both as economical as a modern sedan, but still be as capable as its ancestors.

Gordon Murray describes weight reduction as the “final frontier” of the car world, and it’s hard to disagree with the man behind what could be both the greatest road car (the McLaren F1) and race car (the McLaren-Honda MP4/4) ever made.

Here’s hoping his startup succeeds in the goal of establishing iStream as the manufacturing system to adopt in the 21st century. The automotive world’s future could be even brighter if the trend of ballooning curb weights of modern cars is reversed, because it would almost certainly mean the cars of the future would be superior—empirically and subjectively—to the cars of today.