Gordon Murray's T27 wins 2011 Future Car Challenge

6 November 2011

T27 and T25 on a London street

Saturday saw the running of the second-ever RAC Future Car Challenge, an annual Brighton-to-London rally for eco cars, challenged to make the 60-mile trip using the least energy.

Last year’s overall winner was Gordon Murray’s marvellous T25 city car. It competed again in 2011, emblazoned with stickers announcing its 96mpg winning achievement last time, but in the end was eclipsed by its electric-blue sibling, the T27, which was overall winner this time.

I’d like to say how well the T27 did to come out on top, but I’m still waiting for the RAC to properly release the results. Apparently they were announced on the night of the rally, but I wasn’t witness to that.

As well as testing cars on real roads among actual traffic, the Future Car Challenge also provides a wonderful opportunity to get close enough to the cars to give them a gentle prod and even to collar the odd participant. I stumbled across a relaxing Damon Hill at one point, for example, but left him in peace. But I couldn’t leave without bothering Gordon Murray for a few words.

Gordon Murray T25 and T27 near Trafalgar Square

Me: This event is a great showcase for your cars, letting people see them travelling on ordinary roads and with the organisers actually trying to measure which cars do the best.

GM: It’s amazing that with all the work that’s going on in the motor industry on efficiency and emissions that this is the only event of its kind. There’s nothing like it anywhere else.

Murray T25 and T27 with canopies open

Me: This year’s event seems a lot bigger – and of course you brought two cars this year. The T27 and T25 look very similar but there are subtle differences all over the cars. [The front wings and nose cones are quite different in shape, for example]. Are they broadly the same under the skin – built with the same materials?

GM: Yes, they’re both built using the same iStream process so the only real difference is in the propulsion. [The blue T27 is a battery-electric vehicle, the black T25 uses a 660cc petrol engine.]

One of Murray’s colleagues (whose name I’m afraid I don’t know) interjected to add that the T27 is “a thing of beauty” under the skin, whereas the first-born T25 remains a bit of a lash-up in comparison. The fit and finish of the glossy T27 is certainly much better than the earlier car.

Door handle for T27 roof

Me: The T27 looks production-ready – I spotted that it has gained a pair of door handles, hiding at the top of the central pillar near the roof on either side of the car, where the T25 had none [presumably opening only by remote control].

GM: The SVA insisted on those. [SVA is the government’s single-vehicle approval scheme, designed to ensure that hand-built cars are road legal.]

T27 from the front

Me: Have you made any progress on getting these cars or their iStream system into production?

GM: We’re still talking to potential partners, and still working on new projects. We’re up to T34 now, which is a 13-seater minibus. And we’re talking to a consortium – a group of three companies here in the UK – about putting one of these cars [he nods towards the T27] into production.

T27 controls showing rotary regen control

Me: It would be fantastic to see the T27 or the T25 built in Britain.

GM: Absolutely. If that happens, I’d die happy.

Not for a good while yet, Gordon. Let’s hope there are a good few T-numbers still to come.

Gordon Murray T25 cockpit with central driving position

Gordon Murray T27 cockpit

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