Through a gap in the trees, at the bottom of some landscaped gardens draped in autumn’s fallen leaves, evidence of an emerging new British car company and engineering force is suddenly visible. There, not far away, is the open shell of a factory that will make Gordon Murray Automotive’s distinctive supercars from early 2024.
The building – all 4,000 square meters of it – is being waterproofed for a couple of weeks, and the site near Windlesham in Surrey is a hive of activity as builders race to beat the winter rains. Health and safety signs abound, juxtaposed by the high fence that cordons off the facility – but today Auto Express is being given an exclusive tour.
Our guide is not Gordon Murray himself, but Philip Lee, who has been entrusted with the day-to-day operations of the core components of the Gordon Murray Group (GMG). As a rough guide to structure, there’s Automotive (GMA), which sells dream cars like the T.50 and T.33, and Technology (GMT), which supports but sells electric-vehicles to outside customers. Provides expertise.
Murray, now executive chairman of the group, has a history of cool ideas – not just his famous motorsport designs but also the iconic McLaren F1 supercar and Rocket sports car. But Windlesham is concrete evidence of how his investors – a diverse group including private equity, sourced through F1’s iconic devotees – are now intent on building the 76-year-old’s vision into a profitable business, and doing so In doing so, strengthen his legacy. ,
The site – formerly home to global gas giant BOC – is spread over 54 acres. By the time it’s finished, Lee says, it will cost GMG around £50 million – “a bit of a bargain”, when the factory and offices are included. It has been rolled into an overall investment package of £300 million, a serious chunk of transformation in an area that is not known as a hotbed for modern automotive engineering and manufacturing, except for McLaren in Woking.
In an era when UK plcs are struggling to find investment for any quarter, let alone engineering or manufacturing, the progress GMG is making is impressive. the project is on time; It is also on budget, although Li admits that inflation is bound to put finances for the second phase of construction under “a little more pressure”.
Still, on the day of our visit, landscapers are molding earth mounds around a small test track that already has its ‘curb tests’ and some suspension-bashing Belgian pavés. Only days earlier, Murray and celeb advisor, three-time Indy 500 winner Dario Franchitti, fielded a variety of vehicles on the track for the first time, including a fully fanned-up T.50.
Windlesham’s asphalt isn’t for developing cars – GMA will maintain its base at Millbrook for the undercover, high-speed running needed for early prototypes – but rather the first few yards of any vehicle’s life as confirmed. Cheeky, however, the layout incorporates a gentle slope with its main straightaway design, Lee believes, for Gordon to hold its annual soapbox derby races.
The factory’s first product would be the T.33, GMA’s second and milder more conventional V12 supercar (the fan-featured T.50 and T.50s featuring Niki Lauda are being built at the current headquarters in nearby Dunfold). And as Lee points out, the feature is being built with customers in mind. “At one end we have a split-level area where components will be distributed and stored,” he explains. “Then the middle part of the building loses the second floor to open up the space and help us to do assembly in a bright, airy environment.
“The final area will again go back to a split layout, with sales on the ground floor and then a customer space above; They will be able to see the production line, but we can also work there for events or functions.
“It reflects how closely we work with our customers; Some people want us to build cars, of course, but others like to be involved in what we’re doing. They all want Gordon’s vision – that’s one thing you learn by talking to them – but there are different levels of immersion in the process.
The T.33, T.50 and T.50s Niki Lauda have all sold out – even with prices north of £3 million. This revenue is useful, Lee says, but that income is almost secondary to how the three cars, and those that will follow, legitimize the technology side of the business. “I’ve always had this philosophy in life,” he says, “that it’s better to explain to people what you’ve done, and then say what you’re going to do as a result of what you’ve done.” It’s just to keep telling people what you’re going to do. And now we are in this situation. The cars are on the road, with the T.50 undergoing the final stages of homologation and the first production cars starting in December.
“What I’m saying is that you can’t build a reputation driving a technology business without following the ethos and values behind making cars like the T.50 and T.33. They’re there as profit-makers, yes, but they’re also a calling card. And it will continue even further. When I joined, the first thing Gordon did was walk me through the product plan; He has cars to go till 2035.
Assuming this momentum can indeed be maintained, GMT aims to achieve this by offering customers vehicles on three of its own platforms – suitable for both large and medium SUVs, and one designed for sports cars. Will have to redeem. Li says the firm already has active projects with partners on all three of these set-ups – although some may want to build and sell them, while others may use them as technical demonstrations for their systems.
He’s a bit more coy on how the GMT-engineered SUV will stand apart from the upcoming all-electric Porsche Macan. But we already know from Murray himself that his team is looking for a lightweight vehicle — potentially a third lighter than comparable rivals — with a smaller battery but faster charging rates. GMT’s policy is to source battery cells from a single supplier, but then invest heavily in developing new methods of packaging, cooling and handling.
Although this is really only the beginning. Even to get to the part of land dedicated to the factory and future offices, you have to pass a famous piece of modern architecture that housed BOC employees back in the day. It is nicknamed the molecule (aptly for the gas company) because when viewed from above it looks like one, with threads and modules radiating from a larger core building.
Murray plans that it will not only be home to some regular employees, but also a technology campus – a breeding ground for talent where new blood can gain knowledge and experience, and be embedded within GMG’s existing engineering teams. It is possible Over time, it could become a valuable melting pot for emerging skills in engineering and software.
Our time is up, and Lee has a pressing assignment at GMG’s Millbrook base. But he still has time to guide us to one of the small workshops where the final homologation prototype of the T.50 is undergoing some fettling; In fact, it’s in two pieces, with the entire rear sub-assembly, which includes the incredible 12,400rpm V12 engine – and fan system – set separately from the main chassis.
It is a reminder of how Murray is on his way to deliver. “We’re bucking the trend,” enthuses Lee. “Here we are with a new UK HQ, and a business that is well funded, profitable and growing. Instantly.” and then some. If the pace of progress at Windlesham is any guide, then GMG is well on its way to becoming a British engineering success story for years to come.
Gordon Murray Automotive model range
- T.33: GMA’s latest car will be built in Windlesham. It’s shaped like a Porsche Boxster, but packs a V12 with 607bhp
- T.50: The spiritual successor to the McLaren F1 has three seats and a V12, and will reach customers next year.
- T.50s Niki Lauda: Track-focused version of the T.50 costs £3.1m, cuts weight and ramps up the V12 to 725bhp
Q&A: Philip Lee, Group CEO, Gordon Murray Group
Philip Lee has a financial background that includes Lotus and taxi firm LEVC – but now he works to stitch together many aspects of the Gordon Murray Group. We asked him for an update on strategy and future products.
Why: The factory is being prepared to manufacture the T.33 from 2024. Do you already know what happens after this?
A: “Actually, we’ve just started working on it. It’s Project Three. The T.50s, of course, is a derivative of the T.50, so number three comes after the T.33. For example, now we’re up -Front work – in the packaging and styling. And of course, it is clear that we will use the V12.”
Why: Gordon actually hinted a while back that the T.33 might be the last car on the V12 without even mild-hybrid assistance. Looks like the commitment remains strong anyway?
A: “Yeah. I mean, we want to use it as much as we can because we paid for its development and it’s unique to us, so we want to use it as much as we can! As far as the hybrid Yes, I will tell you that we will always follow the law and use V12. Even if it ends up using any derivatives of the technology to comply, we will do it.
Why: Investment here is significant, at a time when the UK’s future as a base for car manufacturing and engineering is being questioned. Does it bring pressure on you to grow at a fixed rate?
A: “Not at all. I’m not driven by the board saying ‘I want this level of turnover whenever, or this profitability’. Honestly, what Gordon I talk about the most is what the product will be.
Why: Is it fair to say, though, that with GMA’s specialized approach to cars, the main growth will come from the technology side of the business?
A: “Yeah it’s true. It’s not just a division that serves automotive. It’s a lot about external customers.”