How to Make A 980KG Supercar: T.50 – A Focus on Lightweight

By: Gordon Murray Design Ltd | Photos Courtesy of: Gordon Murray Design Ltd

Last year, Gordon Murray Automotive (GMA) announced details of its plan to create the world’s lightest, most driver-focused supercar. Setting the benchmark so high required new levels of innovation, and a shift away from the current supercar trend of ever-greater power, speed and – inevitably – weight.

Revealing a total vehicle weight of just 980kg, the GMA team undercut the typical supercar (approx. 1,436kg) by almost a third. To achieve this engineering feat, the team chose not to present a stripped-back track vehicle, but to deliver owners a car that is comfortable, practical and drivable every day.

Commenting on his ‘every component counts’ approach to lightweighting, Professor Murray said: “Designing a lightweight sports car does not come from specifying exotic materials alone, it comes from a state of mind, from absolute focus and control, and from a deep understanding of lightweight, optimised design.”

Weight-to-power, not power-to-weight

One of Murray’s core philosophies is that there is a huge difference between power-to-weight ratio and his own design perspective that considers a vehicle’s ‘weight-to-power’.

In the T.50, every 100hp only has to propel 150kg of car, whereas for the typical supercar (1,436kg with 684hp) the weight it has to propel is 40% higher, at 210kg. It is this weight-to-power calculation that drives the development of the T.50, with every component designed and engineered to achieve the lowest starting weight. This focus and control ensures no retrospective weight-saving measures need to be implemented late in the car’s development.

Weighing just 980kg and powered by a 650hp V12 engine, the T.50 sets a challenging benchmark for rival supercars. To match the T.50’s 663hp/ton, the typical 1,436kg supercar would need an additional 300hp. Of course, the 950hp required to match the T.50 on paper would add cost, complexity, and require larger, heavier components (tyres, drivelines, transmission, brakes, etc.) to handle the extra power.

Weight kills dynamic performance

A heavy car can never deliver the dynamic attributes of a lighter car – even if it has the same power to weight ratio. While it is possible to disguise a heavy car’s dynamic capabilities with complex active suspension and sophisticated electronics, the agility, responsiveness and reward of a lightweight vehicle cannot be matched.

Professor Murray said: “Today, the enjoyment of driving has been lost as so many supercars only come ‘alive’ at the upper-ends of their performance capabilities. Chasing a top speed only adds weight (notably through ever-more powerful engines), so the future of true performance cars lies in shedding weight intelligently.”

Every component counts

With a compact footprint of just 4,380mm (l) x 1,850mm (w), the T.50 is smaller than a Porsche 911 but offers comfortable space for three passengers and luggage. Its fully carbon fibre monocoque and body panels weigh less than 150kg in total. Inside, the three racing-inspired seats are also constructed using carbon fibre. The centrally-positioned driver’s seat weighs less than 7kg, while the passenger seats that flank it to the rear each achieve a weight that is under 3kg.

The T.50 is equipped with a naturally-aspirated V12 powerplant, the world’s highest revving road car engine (12,100rpm), which produces 650bhp. Through exacting standards, innovative engineering and the expertise of Cosworth Powertrain engineers, the weight of the GMA 4-litre unit is less than 180kg. This makes it the lightest road-going V12 ever made and more than 60kg lighter than the BMW S70/2 V12 in the McLaren F1 – while generating more power.

To minimise weight at every stage of development, GMA’s senior design and engineering teams hold a weekly ‘weight watchers’ meeting to review the weight of the car and its components. Monitoring the weight of every part, down to nuts, bolts and washers, the team keeps close checks during every stage of the development process.

This method has seen countless designs, revisions, trials and refinements of components large and small. Highlighting the team’s fanatical mindset around minimising weight is the approach the engineers took to specifying the car’s fixings (nuts, bolts, screws, etc). On many cars, these fixings are generic and far larger than they need to be. For the T.50, the diameter and length of each fixing (around 900 in total) was optimised by calculating the forces to which each would be exposed.

For the Gordon Murray Automotive team, no saving in weight is considered insignificant. For example, the pedal box is 300g lighter than the F1’s and the glazing is 28% thinner than usual while remaining a strong structural component. For the whole team, their lightweighting focus is unwavering, every innovation, test, and revision combines to deliver the purest, lightest, most driver-focused supercar ever.

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