Gordon Murray

Ian Gordon Murray[2] CBE (born 18 June 1946 in Durban, South Africa),[3] is a South African-born British[4][5] designer of Formula One racing cars and the McLaren F1 road car.

Professor Gordon Murray

Ian Gordon Murray

(1946-06-18) 18 June 1946
Durban, South Africa
ResidenceSurrey, England
Alma materDurban University of Technology
OccupationExecutive Chairman
EmployerGordon Murray Design (2005–present)
McLaren Group (1987–2004)
Brabham (1969–1986)
Known forTeam McLaren
McLaren F1

Early life

Born to Scottish immigrant parents, Murray was born and grew up in Durban, South Africa. His father was a motorcycle racer and later prepared racing cars. Murray studied mechanical engineering at Natal Technical College (now Durban University of Technology, which made Murray an Honorary Professor in 2002 and awarded him an honorary doctorate in 2011). He built and raced his own car, the IGM Ford, in the South African National Class during 1967 and 1968.

Formula One Career

Brabham: 1969–1986

Murray moved to England in 1969, hoping to find a job at Lotus Cars. But Murray was offered a job at Brabham after coincidentally meeting then Brabham designer Ron Tauranac. When Bernie Ecclestone took over the Brabham team, he appointed Murray Chief Designer. There Murray designed many Grand Prix cars, some of which were World Championship Grand Prix winners. These designs include the extraordinary BT46B, also known as "the Brabham fan car", as well as the World Championship winning BT49 and BT52. Murray developed a reputation for an innovative approach to design, applied not only to car concepts and details but also to race strategy.[6]

Between 1973 and 1985 Murray’s Brabhams scored 22 Grand Prix wins, finished 2nd in the Constructors' Championship in 1975 and 1981,[7] and gave Nelson Piquet Drivers’ Championships in 1981 and 1983.[8] For the 1986 season, Murray designed the radical and highly ambitious lowline Brabham BT55 in an effort to increase downforce without adding excessive drag by lowering overall ride height. The car however was not a success, and the year proved disastrous for Brabham, with the team's 1985 car, the Brabham BT54 called into use for the British Grand Prix in a desperate effort to get results.

Despite the BT55's problems and lack of results Murray remained convinced that his design was correct. During 1986 it was discovered the car's main problem was actually the BMW engine which in the lowline design had to be turned to an angle of 18° from horizontal. This caused oil surge when cornering and further harmed the engine's already poor throttle response. While the car had better downforce in the corners than its predecessor and was one of the fastest in a straight line thanks to its low drag, the engine problems saw to it that the car was only competitive on the fast circuits of the year such as Hockenheim, the Österreichring and Monza. In a late 1986 season interview, Murray stated that he believed the lowline concept would work better if mated to a more compact V6 such as the Honda or TAG-Porsche engines, rather than a taller Straight-4 like the BMW. A further noteworthy aspect was the inconsistent Pirelli race tyres which had also hampered the team's 1985 season.

McLaren: 1987–1991

After leaving Brabham, Murray had received an offer from Ron Dennis and joined McLaren as Technical Director on a three-year contract taking over the role formerly held by John Barnard. Learning from his low-line Brabham experience (he had also brought his BT55 drawings with him from Brabham), Murray played a part in the design team, headed by Steve Nichols, which produced not only 1987's McLaren MP4/3 which had won 3 races and had been much more streamlined than the previous McLaren MP4/2 series designed by Barnard, but also the 1988 Honda turbo powered McLaren MP4/4 which won 15 of the 16 Grands Prix, and gave Ayrton Senna his first Drivers' Championship. In the Constructors' Championship McLaren's points score of 199 was (at that time) an all-time high. Murray also played a small part in the design of the 1989 MP4/5 and 1990 MP4/5B along with Nichols and Neil Oatley. The MP4/5 and MP4/5B also won the driver's and constructor's championships in both years. Over the period 1988–91 the McLaren team won four consecutive Constructors' and Drivers' Championships: Alain Prost won the Drivers' Championship in 1989, Senna won further Drivers' Championships in 1990 and 1991.[9]

List of Formula One designs

The list of cars that were designed by Gordon Murray and actually raced in Formula One is:

McLaren Cars

From 1991 to 2004, Murray headed the offshoot McLaren Cars team to design road-going supercars: the McLaren F1 and the Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren.

Gordon Murray Design

In July 2007 the Gordon Murray Design consultancy was established, and released initial details regarding its upcoming T.25 (Type 25) prototype city car along with mention of a future lightweight, economical supercar project.[10][11] The T25 will be smaller than a Smart Fortwo.[12] In November 2009 Gordon Murray Design and Zytek Automotive announced plans to develop an electric-powered version, the T.27.[13]

On 17 November 2008 Gordon Murray won the ‘Idea of the Year’ accolade at Autocar magazine’s annual awards ceremony for the manufacturing process proposed for the T.25.[14]

The car, dubbed T27, will be the product of a partnership between Murray’s company and British technology company Zytek, which will build the powertrain.[15]

A celebration of 50 years of Murray's involvement in the car industry was held called One Formula. Every one of Murray's F1 designs was on display along with the McLaren F1 roadcar and examples from his personal car collection, along with hundreds of rock band T-shirts that Murray had amassed over the years. The book One Formula - 50 years of car design details Murray's designs.[16]

Other projects

In 1981, Murray was involved in improvements for Midas Cars.

Murray independently designed the Rocket, an ultra-lightweight, open cockpit roadster powered by a 1-litre motorcycle engine, which has an appearance similar to that of a 60's era Grand Prix car. Looking like a single-seater, it could accommodate a passenger in tandem with the driver, the second seat located beneath a removable cover. The Rocket was built by former racing driver Chris Craft at the Light Car Company.

Murray is a contributing editor for American Road & Track.[17]

In September 2016 it was announced that Murray had been appointed to develop the Ox, a flat pack low-cost vehicle, for the British charity Global Vehicle Trust.[18]

Murray is collaborating with TVR to design the upcoming TVR models[19] scheduled for release in 2017.

Portrait of Murray

Murray agreed to sit[20] for sculptor Jon Edgar in 2009 as part of his Environment Series[21] of terracotta heads, on the strength of his developing vision for small car design.[22]


On 28 December 2018, it was announced that Murray had been made a CBE in the 2019 New Year Honours, for services to motoring.[23]


  1. "Director Ian Gordon Murray, Designer Ian Gordon Murray". Directorstats.co.uk. 2017. Retrieved 11 December 2017.
  2. "Racing principles' role in cutting emissions". BBC News. 9 June 2008. Retrieved 3 May 2010.
  3. "Gordon Murray". oldracingcars.com. Retrieved 6 November 2012.
  4. "Director Ian Gordon Murray, Designer Ian Gordon Murray". Directorstats.co.uk. 2017. Retrieved 11 December 2017.
  5. "Nelson Piquet". Motor Sport Magazine. December 1981. Retrieved 11 December 2017.
  6. Cross, N. and A. Clayburn Cross (1996) "Designing to Win: the methods of Gordon Murray, racing car designer", Design Studies, Vol. 17, No. 1, pp. 91–107.
  7. Henry, A. (1985) Brabham: The Grand Prix Cars, Hazleton Publishing, Richmond, Surrey, UK.
  8. "F1 Team & Drivers Hall of Fame: Nelson Piquet". FIA. Retrieved 24 October 2007.
  9. "F1 Team & Drivers Hall of Fame: Ayrton Senna". FIA. Retrieved 24 October 2007.
  10. "T.25 - The Facts". Gordon Murray Design Limited. Archived from the original on 6 September 2009. Retrieved 8 January 2016.
  11. "New Models: Gordon Murray's ultra-lightweight microcar: first details". Channel 4. Archived from the original on 14 January 2009. Retrieved 8 January 2016.
  12. Tan, Paul. "5 Things We Know About Gordon Murray's T25 City Car". Paultan.org. Retrieved 2 October 2010.
  13. "F1 Designer Unveils Electric Car". BBC News. 5 November 2009. Retrieved 2 October 2010.
  14. Ed (18 November 2008). "Wins 2008 Idea of the year". Gizmag.com. Retrieved 2 October 2010.
  15. Thursday, 5 November 2009 (5 November 2009). "More details: T27 electric car". Autocar.co.uk. Retrieved 2 October 2010.
  16. Murray, Gordon; Porter, Philip (2019). One Formula - 50 years of car design. Porter Press International. ISBN 9781907085307.
  17. Hide Comments (1 February 2002). "On the Road – On the Road (1/2006)". RoadandTrack.com. Archived from the original on 21 November 2007. Retrieved 2 October 2010.
  18. "Meet the OX: The world's first flatpack vehicle that can be put together in 12 hours and is the unlikely brainchild of a supercar designer". This is Money. 6 September 2016. Retrieved 6 September 2016.
  19. "TVR confirms carbonfibre chassis for new sports car". Evo. 21 January 2016. Retrieved 6 September 2016.
  20. "portrait of Gordon Murray | Jon Edgar". Retrieved 8 April 2019.
  21. "The Environment Series Heads". Jon Edgar Critical Mass.
  22. "Jon Edgar - The Human Clay: 14 Nov - 22 Dec 2011" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 26 January 2013. Retrieved 8 January 2016.
  23. "Gordon Murray is made a CBE in 2019 New Year Honours". Car Dealer Magazine. 28 December 2018. Retrieved 28 December 2018.
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