Gordon Murrayfor a guy in his 70s. Following a successful career as a race car designer, not to mention being one of the driving forces behind the iconic McLaren F1, he founded Gordon Murray Design and Gordon Murray Automotive. There, Murray has been hard at work developing a new way of building cars that he hopes will be lighter, stronger and safer than conventional methods. He’s calling the technology iStream, and on Tuesday he unveiled the latest version, called iStream Superlight.
“The new iStream Superlight approach to vehicle manufacturing is a paradigm-shifting innovation for the global automotive industry,” Gordon Murray said in a statement. “It is a breakthrough that will deliver the lightest chassis technology for decades to come. The Gordon Murray Design team has created a unique, adaptable and cost-effective way for manufacturers around the world to dramatically improve vehicle performance and efficiency.”
iStream starts with a lightweight but rigid tubular aluminum frame, and composite panels made from recycled carbon fiber create the vehicle’s body structure. These panels derive much of their strength from a honeycomb structure built inside the panel. This is similar to the kind of construction used in Formula 1 cars, and it has the advantage of being highly modular in addition to being both strong and lightweight.
Compared with traditional stamped-steel car-building methods, iStream has a number of advantages. Because of the aluminum and carbon fiber component composition, the level of resistance to corrosion is exceptionally high compared to steel. Also, the modular nature means that the chassis can be suited to internal combustion or electric drivetrains with minimal changes.
Reducing a vehicle’s weight improves every aspect of performance. The lighter a car, the less power it needs to move that weight around with gusto. The less power a car needs, the smaller the engine can be, therefore improving fuel economy. Lightweight cars’ brakes don’t have to work as hard, and their suspensions can better cope with cornering forces, leading to better handling.
Murray is said to be developing a new Superlight-based T.43 sports car that will weigh less than 2,000 pounds. (The very light, for reference, tips the scales at 2,332 pounds.) The T.43 uses a 1.5-liter turbocharged three-cylinder engine that produces 220 horsepower, mated to a six-speed manual transmission. (The heavier Miata, meanwhile, makes 181 horsepower from its 2.0-liter engine.) In other words, it ought to be a blast to drive.
Murray plans to offer iStream licensing to any manufacturer that’s interested. So far, the first company to take him up on iStream is newly reborn TVR, whoseis expected to enter production in 2019.