GMA T.33 – the Emperor’s New Clothes?

GMA T.33 – the Emperor’s New Clothes?

Anyone with half an ounce of petrol running through their veins knows who Gordon Murray is – but for those who don’t he’s basically automotive royalty thanks to the fact that he designed and engineered the legendary McLaren F1. He did some other cars but that’s certainly his crowning glory, so when last year he revealed the T.50 supercar from his Gordon Murray Automotive company, the world of petrolheads started frothing at the mouths. But now, less than 6 months later and before a single T.50 has been built, GMA has revealed the T.33 – a lower priced model. So why am I not excited?

Let’s start with the T.50 – it was effectively a carbon copy of the F1, brought right up to date with some added bits that Murray always wanted to put on a road car. So it has a central driving position with two outer passenger seats, a roof scoop, diminutive dimensions, half-opening side windows, in fact visually it’s 80% McLaren F1 with some more modern surfacing. It also has a naturally aspirated V12 engine with a manual gearbox, much like the F1 though it does feature a ground-effect fan which effectively sucks it to the ground creating huge downforce at any speed without the need for big wings. It doesn’t look very good wedged on the back of the car though.

To clarify, I absolutely adore the technical makeup of the T.50, a 654bhp n/a V12 that revs to a staggering 12,000rpm in a car weighing 985kg and shifted manually is a proper supercar and will undoubtedly drive like nothing else available today. I just wish Murray had styled it more individually instead of it being an F1 pastiche. They are going to make 100 of them and they cost a heady £2.5m each – and crucially are apparently all sold. There’s also a track-only version as well, though it’s unclear if those are included in the 100 cars. So by all accounts, a very interesting supercar, a viable rival for cars like the Koenigseggs and Bugattis of this world. But now, Murray has revealed the next model – the T.33

So let’s deal with the styling first – and it’s very important to point out here that styling and design is very much subjective – just because I feel a certain way doesn’t mean I’m right or wrong, it’s simply how I interpret that design. And I say that because….. crikey it’s dull. Murray has stated that the T.33 reflects his love of design classics like the Alfa Romeo 33 Stradale (no relation in the name), Ferrari Dino 206SP and Lamborghini Miura, creating a timeless, more graceful and less cluttered shape than rival supercars. But honestly to me, he’s gone too far and it borders on looking bland.
 
Now yes, saying a low-slung supercar is bland might be pushing things but to me the proportions are off and the front end is anodyne. My issue with the front end is mainly the lower grille opening, it’s just a wide expanse of black, curved up at the sides to a point, so along with the headlights it looks like some sort of Japanese anime character. You can have timeless and stylish without going into the realms of bland – the Koenigsegg Regera for example – but the T.33 just doesn’t quite gel for me. The side profile doesn’t really work for me either, the body coloured section of the roof really highlights the extra body length aft of the doors and makes it look taller than it needs to. I personally think it looks much better in body colour:

At the rear the T.33 has a much cleaner design than the T.50 thanks to the lack of a massive fan, and in my eyes is the most successful angle. Up top there’s a roof scoop to feed the engine with air and unusually for a car like this, it’s attached directly to the engine so will move with the engine like a 70’s muscle-car ‘shaker hood’. I’m glad to see full side windows too. The T.33 may look similar to the T.50 on first glance, but it’s longer and the windscreen is set further back – that’s thanks to it only having two seats. The T.50 is the only model that will have that layout because it keeps it special and retains the link to the F1 – it causes too many other constraints and compromises elsewhere in the design for it to be considered practical. The rest of the interior is minimalist but functional.

But the real appeal of the T.33 is the mechanical makeup. Murray states that if you can own just one of his cars, it should be the T.33 as it’s more usable and I have a feeling may even be the better car to drive. So behind the driver sits the same 3.9 litre naturally aspirated V12 engine, in this configuration producing 607bhp and will rev to 11,100rpm – still a truly staggering figure for a road car. Given the larger dimensions and nods to practicality the T.33 weighs around 100kg more than it’s (slightly) older brother, but performance will still be electrifying.

That glorious engine sends its power through a six-speed manual gearbox as with the T.50, but here there will be an option of an as-yet-unspecified paddle-shift gearbox. Given the bespoke nature of the engine we can only guess as to the auto ‘box but my money would be on it being a single clutch unit.  The T.33 will be the last GMA car to feature a non-electrified powertrain too, all future cars will be hybrid or EV – the latter is very interesting given Murray’s obsession with weight, as batteries are certainly not light.

As with the T.50 the suspension is all-independent coil-over with double wishbones at the front, but all components are changed due to the different weight distribution of the 2-seat layout and the fact that the T.33 has new passive aero. There’s also some added practicality – with the front boot and some pods in the rear wings the T.33 has 280 litres of storage space, most likely maximised with some rather expensive bespoke luggage.

To summarise, this is a £1,400,000 supercar, limited to 100 units and again is pretty much sold out. So is it really worth getting excited about? I wonder if any T.50 owners will be slightly irked that before their car has even been built a newer, almost as quick version is revealed that costs a million pounds less? But then as has been pointed out to me, T.50 buyers were shown the T.33 before they ordered and most have ordered both, so frankly that puts me back in my box. I love that Gordon Murray is making cars again, though given that 10 years ago he was touting a new manufacturing system that meant small volume cars could be built more efficiently I was hoping he’d be releasing something in the sub-£100k sports car marketplace rather than aiming his sights at the super-rich.