McLaren designer: Dump 'Model T' assembly method
Murray: No welding
Gordon Murray, the celebrated Formula One race car designer, says he has a new way to build small cars profitably by eliminating several steps in the production process.
"We've been making motor cars the same way since the Model T, and that model is breaking down," the British-based engineer told Bloomberg Markets magazine.
Murray, a South African, gained fame for his innovative lightweight designs for the Brabham F-1 team in the 1970s and early 1980s. He also designed the McLaren F1 road car -- the world's most expensive auto in the 1990s, and the fastest at 240 mph.
He says he decided to turn his focus away from high-performance machines when he got stuck in a traffic jam in London in 1993 and was surrounded by large gas-guzzling sedans. So far his company, Gordon Murray Design, has built two low-emission city cars, one gasoline powered and the other electric.
At the heart of Murray's iStream production system is a lightweight plastic composite material similar to carbon fiber but 25 times cheaper. This composite is used to make the chassis, onto which components and plastic body panels are installed mechanically. He says three steps -- stamping the steel frame, welding the body together and rustproofing -- are eliminated.
Murray, 65, plans to license iStream to automakers. He says he has talked with 10 car companies and five other businesses to license iStream but has not closed a deal.