Let’s imagine for a moment a world in which Gordon Murray and McLaren continued to work with BMW long after McLaren’s legendary F1. A world in which BMW and Murray were partners even today. Sounds like a good world, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, this has never been the case and that ideal world does not exist. What’s most disappointing about it, though, is that it almost existed. In fact, it almost existed immediately after the creation of F1.
After the huge success of F1, McLaren Cars – the separate entity from the Formula 1 team – and Gordon Murray himself wanted to work with BMW again. Murray owned 20 percent of McLaren cars at the time and he wanted to work once again with his friend, legendary BMW engine designer Paul Rosche. Rosche designed Murray’s McLaren F1 engine, which will probably continue to be the greatest road-going engine ever produced until the debut of Murray’s new Cosworth-powered T.50.
In fact, McLaren, Murray and BMW had planned two more cars, with Murray-designed chassis and bodies and BMW engines. These two cars were set to be smaller, simpler, much less expensive sports cars with more sensible power figures and affordable prices than the McLaren F1. However, they were both canceled after the McLaren Formula 1 team teamed up with Mercedes-Benz for its engines. BMW and Mercedes have a fierce rivalry, and once BMW found out about the engine deal, it pulled the plug on both sports cars. Apparently, Murray was quite unhappy with McLaren about this.
Murray then looked at Mercedes engines for the two sports cars, but both were too big and heavy, and neither met his power and displacement requirements. So plans for both cars were scrapped, never to see the light of day. Murray then went on to make the Mercedes-McLaren SLR, a car he was technically impressed with but didn’t really love. It was too heavy, too soft, and the antithesis of what he wanted to build.
But what if things had been different? What if McLaren never partnered with Mercedes on F1 engines and Murray and BMW were able to build the sports cars they both wanted? For one thing, there would be two incredible sports cars for enthusiasts to enjoy. But, for another, BMW may be a very different company today.
Think about the types of cars BMW currently makes. Most of them are bloated, heavy, technology-focused SUVs. They are a far cry from the BMWs that are so revered and the opposite of the cars Murray usually builds. But if Division M had more influence from Gordon Murray over the years, its course may have changed. BMW M could have focused more on lighter weight materials and simpler handling. And that’s only if BMW and Murray stopped at those two cars. If both cars were successful, why stop there? Perhaps the two would still be partners today. What a world that would be.
Here’s another interesting thought exercise – what if the two brands work together again? Murray no longer needs BMW’s help as Cosworth is building its own engines and, frankly, it does a better job than BMW. However, BMW needs Murray’s help. Roles may vary. Instead of Murray needing a BMW engine for his excellent chassis, BMW needs an excellent chassis for its engine.
BMW’s eDrive electric motor units are great, but they lack efficiency. One of the biggest reasons for this is weight. BMW’s current range of electric cars are so heavy I wonder if they’re actually made of lead. Murray’s company can help there, as it has developed a new lightweight chassis development method called iStream, and it’s pretty revolutionary. It uses F1-grade technology to develop the chassis in an innovative way, making them lighter, stiffer and more cost-effective than anything else.
What if, for BMW’s future EV cars (or maybe even just a few custom EV M cars), BMW used Murray’s iStream technology to bring the group together and develop some killer sports cars? Just the idea makes me dizzy.
Of course, that will never happen, because BMW won’t try anything new unless focus groups prove it’s going to make a bajillion, gajillion dollars. However, it is still technically possible and would make the world a better place.