Dunsfold, Surrey - This is the latest version of Gordon Murray’s radical iStream automotive manufacturing system, which uses a high-strength aluminium frame with carbon-fibre outer panels to create a body-shell half the weight of one welded together from dozens of sheet-steel pressings.

And of course, less weight means it uses less fuel, produces fewer emissions and handles better than conventional cars - and it doesn’t rust.

The iStream process actually combines elements of many construction methods, to offer outstanding levels of platform flexibility. As a former Formula one designer, Murray knew when he began working on the concept that the lightest, strongest way to build a body-shell is using a one-piece carbon-fibre moulding (which is why McLaren does it that way) but big carbon-fibre mouldings are very, very expensive to produce and the slightest change in design necessitates a completely new mould.

Modular platform

So he combined a simple thin-wall tubular aluminium frame very similar in concept to those used in modern motorcycles, with honeycomb recycled carbon-composite panels, to create a basic modular platform that can be stretched from a two-seat city car to a full-sized SUV or even a panel van - without the need for expensive press tools or big carbon-fibre moulds (and the huge curing ovens that go with them).

And, to prove that it works, he built the Superlight T.43 chassis you see in the pictures; it’s intended for a mid-rear mounted 165kW engine with a six-speed manual transaxle and independent suspension all round, attached to a subframe under the box-section front structure of the shell and on the engine itself, F1 style, at the rear.

The whole car, he says, would be about 3640mm long on a 2500mm wheelbase, 1750mm wide and 1240mm high, and should weigh less than 850kg wet, giving it a power-to-weight ratio of just under 200kW/ton, which would put it firmly in supercar territory.

Sitting pretty

Then he extended the principle a little further to create the iStream lightweight seat, which uses glass or recycled carbon-fibre composite panels as stressed members on a tubular frame, in a design that’s about 30 percent lighter than a typical vehicle seat, with four-way adjustment and fold-flat mode, that can be tweaked to suit any type of passenger vehicle from a sports car to a minibus, from an aircraft to a train.

On show

Gordon Murray Design will display the iStream Superlight body and lightweight seat at the Low Carbon Vehicle 2018 show on 12 and 13 September 2018 at Millbrook, Bedfordshire.

IOL Motoring