In early December Gordon Murray sat down with the editorial team of Motor Sport to record a talk show at the Royal Automobile Club in Pall Mall. Over the course of an hour the celebrated designer covered topics as diverse as architecture, Formula 1 and Jim Clark. Here are some of the highlights.
Gordon Murray on
…. his aesthetic sense
When I went to high school, I did a month of art, and then I switched to technical drawing – thank goodness, because I would have made a pretty lousy artist, I think. I love styling cars. I’ve styled all my cars; I’ve led the styling team on all of them apart from the SLR, which was done by Mercedes. I think that’s why the cars are slightly better proportioned than other cars of the time.
…the new company
I don’t want to start a car company at 71 years old. What we are starting is an automotive business, and there’s a subtle difference. I thought, “While we’re licensing iStream Superlight, how nice it would be to come up with a few platforms people can licence.” You cut out of the customer timescale all of the concept and design loops before you actually get to a rolling chassis
Then I thought “If we’re going to make our own platforms, why don’t we make limited editions of our own car?” And if you want to grab people’s attention, do a headline car. I’ve thought for five years I’ve probably got one more good sports car in me, and what a great opportunity to do it using our new technology, and to re-launch the IGM brand, which is now 50 years old.
…declining a job offer from Colin Chapman
I thought Chapman and I were too alike. I was very bolshy in those days, very autocratic. I looked at Chapman and thought, “He’s probably pretty much the same”. I could just see a lot of head-banging. I thought we’d spend most of our time arguing rather than getting on with the job. That’s why I declined.
…the confidence of youth
I look back and I’m more terrified now. At 24, 25 I was designing cars, but by 26 I was running the team when Bernie [Ecclestone] made me Technical Director. I should have been terrified, but I wasn’t. I must have had a massive amount of confidence and self-belief in those days. And as I said, I was much more bolshy in those days, so I was probably a bit forceful.
…whether active suspension belongs in F1
Absolutely not. I don’t like anything that complicates the cars even further and takes away driver input from the performance envelope point of view. I’d like to see Formula 1 getting back to being more of a driver’s championship. No interference from the pits at all. Nothing. That would get rid of probably a quarter of the budget, as well. These days the gear changes are all selected on a simulator before they leave for the circuit. Now you’ve got a massive team of people, not only at circuit but back at base, making decisions all the way through the race. The driver still has to have a lot of natural ability, but it’s a bit ‘point and squirt’, and I don’t like that.
…whether F1 cars are quick enough
From a speed point of view, they’re quick enough. They don’t sound good enough, but they’re quick enough. Speed is actually irrelevant. Formula 1 only needs to be quick enough so that it is still the quickest formula of circuit racing, that’s it. It’s perceived speed that’s important for the public. If you look at a 1960s race for the 1.5-litre formula, those cars had very little power –180hp – but they look quick because they’re drifting and sliding, and you can see the driver fighting. it’s perceived speed that matters; the actual numbers aren’t that important.
…which driver he’d like to have worked with, but didn’t get the opportunity
I would love to have worked with Jimmy Clark, I just would have given anything to work with him. When you see somebody who can jump out of a saloon car into a Formula 3 car, into a Formula 2 car, into a Formula 1 car, and then an Indianapolis car, or a Galaxy, Lotus Cortina, and can handle that engine characteristic, that chassis characteristic, those vehicle dynamics – wow, I would have liked to have worked with him.
…how keen he is to get back into racing, as either driver or team principal
Actually, both, while I still can. I had the good fortune that Charles March asked me to bring my T1, my first IGM racing car, to Goodwood. I ran it up the hill at the Festival of Speed, and that was pure nostalgia. I was 19 again. The noise, the smell, the way the car handled, the steering feel; everything came back to me. It would be fun to do some hillclimbs or something with that.
And I’ve just built a recreation of the Brabham BT 44B and I’d love to drive that, too. I drove all the Formula 1 cars up until the BT 48, and then we lost our tall drivers and I made the monocoque three inches shorter and I couldn’t fit anymore. Stupidly. Didn’t think of that. So I never drove the fan car. I’d like to. That would be fun.