Heroes: Gordon Murray and the Mclaren F1
In the next few weeks we will be running a mini series titled "Heroes" which are tribute articles to some of the legends in the automotive realm.
Welcome to the beginning of the new Z-Car Culture series ‘Heroes’, where we will be following the stories and careers of our industry’s best influencers, icons, champions, legends, contributors and many more. We’ve decided to just call all of them Heroes because what they have done or are still doing is noteworthy by all accounts even by global standards. These are the people that changed or improved the Automotive world as we know it, to say the least. Over the course of the next few weeks we will be going through their individual stories and contributions that have landed them into the Automotive Hall of Fame.
I’ve had quite a difficult time trying to come up with something cool and original to write about the Mclaren F1 also known as Gordon’s firstborn road legal child, which is a mouthful. Honestly the problem was that it had been done multiple times before and done well, not only by the best of journalists and reviewers but even dozens of documentaries based on Murray and his creation/s. So I thought to myself, why should I even bother to write about someone and something that is already critically acclaimed. The F1 is a car that requires no introduction because it was an almost biblical revelation when it first came out to the world. So I sort of abandoned the idea of writing on it because I felt there wasn’t anything new that I could say about either Mr Murray or the F1, nothing that hadn’t been shared before, especially since I’ve never driven one let alone seen one in person, I digress. I will simply pour out my affection for cars whenever I get a chance and hopefully some of you can tag along and join me here.
This car rocked the boat in such a way that had never been seen before, throwing all the big time players overboard. Gordon Murray did mention that at the time he was developing the blueprint for the F1 he did go out to drive and experience the then current competition in the supercar realms. At the time that competition would have been made-up of the 959, XJ220, Diablo, EB110 and the fire breathing F40 and in today’s context those are some of the cars that represent the pinnacle of analogue driving to most. So it probably was surprising to most of us when the uncompromising Gordon Murray mentioned his dismissal of all of them “driver’s-cars" and this is where he gets intresting really. His reasons stemmed from various negative experiences felt by him in most of these mainstream supercars. For example he didn’t like how the Jaguar XJ220 had been packaged especially on the inside where it felt cramped while surrounded by the bulk of the vehicle(foreshadowing ala Aventador). He also didn’t appreciate the lack of responsiveness/immediacy from the Bugatti EB110’s quad turbo v12 because he wanted a car to be as alive as its driver’s inputs. He also didn’t care much for the F40, while an absolutely brilliant driving tool it is, the fit and finish of some of its panels left a lot to be desired in his eyes.
This level of critical thinking is what sets this man apart as a designer because he accepted no compromise, no style for style’s sake, no quick fixes. Its actually a bit scary the lengths to which he went to avoid these aforementioned compromises mostly because most of us wouldn’t even be bothered by more than half of these problems we’d probably just call niggles. However It is these incredibly high standards that do fortunately end up creating the masterpieces of our world. I cannot even begin to go in depth with how groundbreaking or innovative the F1's production was. That’s an endless rabbit hole that non of us can get back out of and besides that’s not the most intriguing thing about this story. The most inspiring part of this story is actually something that we rarely get to witness these days unfortunately. Most of us know the stories of Enzo Ferrari, Ferruccio Lamborghini, Ferdinand Porsche, Soichiro Honda, Colin Chapman and so on. These men were known for their obsessive fascination with automotive design and engineering.
In their prime, all of these gentlemen had the same no-nonsense approach to their vehicles and they viewed them in the same way a father views their child. .This is something rarely seen in today’s world but we do catch glimpses of it here and there.We do have Pagani, Koenigsegg, Singer, Ruf to mention the obvious ones but I do put Gordon Murray up in those ranks (possibly higher). With today’s supercar largely influenced by trends perpetuated by the prevailing influences (looking at you YouTube), I do find myself longing to see more distinct designs or driving philosophies being thrown-into the mix by our current manufacturers. This isn’t to say modern supercars and their technology aren’t amazing, fun or competent because they are,contrary to what others may have you believing. With the release of his upcoming T50 hypercar, all I really want to get out there is Gordon Murray is and will always be a landmark throughout Automotive history, as a visionary and as a pace maker. Hopefully this runs of onto others in the industry….
Author: Kudzanai Manyau