Gordon Murray is best known as the top-shelf Britain-based designer of Formula 1 racing machines and the co-designer of the million-dollar V12 McLaren F1 sports coupe, and fanatics of high-performance supercars would probably prefer he stick to that.
But the South African-born mechanical engineer recently confirmed in a rare post on his blog, the first in more than a year, that someone has bought the concepts to his city car, a class of vehicle still looked upon as glorified golf carts. He says his two models -- a gas drinker and a battery loader -- will become real deals within three years.
“The T.25 and T.27 concept has now been sold to a customer and with a following wind a lot more drivers should be able to enjoy the center-drive experience in 2016!” Murray blogged, without providing more details. He’s a car designer, so we can presume the buyer is somehow connected to, well, making cars. (Tesla Motors Inc. [NASDAQ:TSLA], anyone?)
The two vehicles would join an increasingly crowded market for city cars, such as the Fiat 500, the Daimler Smart car and the planned BMW i8. The T.25 and its electric sibling, the T.27, would be made using Murray’s iStream process, aka stabilized tube-reinforced exoframe advanced manufacturing. The process involves using low-cost composite panels that work similarly to carbon fiber to distribute the load with a strong but light frame. Early crash tests show the car is in line with city cars: In other words, you wouldn’t want to get into a collision with an SUV in one, but it meets industry standards for the vehicle’s class.
Basically, what Murray has done is apply a monocoque structural approach, which employs an external skin, rather than an internal frame, to support an object’s load. The McLaren F1 was the first car to use this design principle using carbon fiber, making it the world’s fastest production car that naturally aspirates, according to the Engineer in an interview with Murray in 2011. These tiny cars are meant to be affordable, so Murray is opting out of costly carbon fiber in favor of a cheaper alternative.
Whether city cars will ever be more than a retail niche that depends on urban rental-fleet sales has yet to be seen, but the eco-trend isn’t going away, nor are large cities getting any smaller and less dense.
A car that takes up one-third of a standard parking spot might appeal to people who aren’t interested in long highway adventures, but want something that can carry three people and groceries from downtown to some outlying district. A Murray-designed minicar might help diminish that glorified golf-cart image.