For car nerds of a certain age, few cars compare to the McLaren F1. Back in 1994, the car rewrote the rules, even in the midst of a supercar boom that gave us machines like the Jaguar XJ220 and the Bugatti EB110. At around a million dollars (£640,000), its price tag was almost as unbelievable as its specifications—an all carbon fiber construction, a hand-built V12, acceleration that was unheard of outside the race track, and a top speed north of 240mph (386km/h).
Nearly three decades later, its designer, Gordon Murray, is hard at work on a sequel to this legendary vehicle. It’s going to be called the T.50, and we’ll get our first official look at it when it’s revealed next month. But in the meantime, Gordon Murray Automotive and Cosworth have released some details on the T.50’s engine, which they describe as “the greatest road-car V12 ever made.”
When he was at McLaren in the ’90s, Murray turned to his friend Paul Rosche at BMW to build the F1’s bespoke engine. This time, the job went to Cosworth, which first rose to recognition when it revolutionized Formula 1 in the 1960s with the DFV engine.
“More than half of any truly great driving experience is delivered by the engine, so right from the start I set the highest possible benchmark—to create the world’s greatest naturally aspirated V12. To be truly remarkable, an engine needs to have the right character—highly-responsive, an amazing sound, engaging torque delivery, free-revving, and it has to be naturally aspirated. For all those reasons, the engine in the T.50 was never going to be anything other than a V12,” Murray said.
Cosworth is no stranger to challenges like that, and it’s the same company that Adrian Newey—another legendary F1 designer—picked for his first road car, the Aston Martin Valkyrie. If anything, the T.50’s engine is even more outrageous than the 1,000hp (746kW) 6.5L V12 that will power the Valkyrie. For starters, it’s a much smaller motor, displacing 3.9L and weighing just 392lbs (178kg) in total. There’s also no full hybrid system, but the T.50 is a 48V mild hybrid, and its integrated starter-generator will contribute about 50hp (37kW) to the party when outright speed is required.
11? No, this one goes to 12
Murray is not a fan of the way turbochargers blunt throttle response, so this V12 is naturally aspirated. Peak power is 654hp (488kW) at 11,500rpm, with another 600 revs before the redline. And it gets there nearly as quickly as an electric motor—from idle, the V12 will reach 12,100rpm in just 0.3 seconds. High-revving naturally aspirated engines are great for power but less impressive when it comes to torque, and the T.50 is no outlier. Peak torque is just 344lb-ft (467Nm) at 9,000rpm, but Gordon Murray Automotive says that, to ensure good drivability, the engine will produce 244lb-ft (331Nm) at 2,500rpm.
In addition to performing well, Murray has insisted that the engine looks good, too, without the covers that dominate a modern engine bay. “Above all else, I wanted it to look clean like the BMW S70/2 engine [which powered the McLaren F1], which had no carbon or plastic covers. It was just inlet trumpets, cam covers, exhaust block and heads, and a few belt-driven ancillaries that I managed to squeeze out of sight. In designing the T.50 V12, I wanted it to be the antidote to the modern supercar where you can’t see the engine beneath carbon covers,” he said.
The mechanical orchestra has also been designed to sound good. In addition to the 12 cylinders and the gears that drive the camshafts, the engine sucks in air from intakes above the driver’s head, with varying thicknesses of carbon fiber in the roof that amplify sound within the cabin.
I imagine the driving experience of the T.50 will be radically different from that of the Valkyrie. Unlike Newey, Murray has eschewed paddle shifts and a semiautomatic gearbox, opting instead for driver engagement and a six-speed manual with a conventional H-pattern shift, built by Xtrac, which weighs just 117lbs (80.5kg). That said, I’m also unlikely to ever find out; just 100 T.50s will be built, each starting at $2.6 million, making the $3 million, 150-unit Valkyrie almost common by comparison.
Listing image by Gordon Murray Automotive