The Light Car Company Rocket was developed in the early 1990s by F1 car designer Gordon Murray, and racing driver Chris Craft. The Rocket was a production car that wasn’t quite like anything else, it was reminiscent of a 1960s-era F1 car for the road, except it could carry two people and it offered excellent reliability.
This was Murray’s first ever production road car design, it arrived not long before the famous McLaren F1 supercar, and decades before the supercars he’s now developing for his own marque – Gordon Murray Automotive.
Fast Facts – The Light Car Company Rocket
- The Light Car Company was founded by Gordon Murray and Chris Craft in 1991 and it did exactly what it said on the tin – it produced light cars. So light in fact that they weighed just 385 kgs (850 lbs). By way of a comparison, the modern Porsche 911 tips the scales at as much as 1,710 kgs (3,770 lbs) depending on version.
- Light Car Company Rocket was built around a tandem seat tubular steel spaceframe chassis, power is provided by a mid-mounted Yamaha FZR1000 EXUP inline-four cylinder engine producing 140+ bhp, and it’s sent to the rear wheels via a Weismann 5-speed sequential transaxle with a two-speed final drive, and a limited-slip differential.
- The company is said to have produced fewer than 50 examples of the unusual little car from the early 1990s into the early 2000s. Production has now been stopped for years although a new version may yet be on the way, the company’s official website simply says “watch this space!”
Who Is Gordon Murray Anyway?
Gordon Murray is a South African-British engineer and designer who made a name for himself early on working as the Chief Designer at the Brabham Formula One team. His designs were often entirely unique and frequently successful, winning a slew of Grand Prix and developing the cars that Nelson Piquet drove to win the Drivers’ Championships in 1981 and 1983.
Above Video: This lengthy interview with Murray was filmed recently, just a year ago. In it, he details his past, his various designs, and the future of his own namesake automaker Gordon Murray Automotive.
Murray later moved to the McLaren F1 team as the Technical Director, it would be here that he would cement his legacy, developing the revolutionary McLaren MP4/4 car for the 1988 season overseeing a team that included Steve Nichols and Bob Bell.
The MP4/4 won 15 of the season’s 16 Grands Prix, and gave the wildly popular Brazilian driver Ayrton Senna his first Formula One Drivers’ Championship. Murray then oversaw the design of the MP4/5 and MP4/5B, each of these cars won both the 1989 and 1990 Constructors’ and Drivers’ Championships.
In 1991 Murray began working on two road cars, though vastly different in their design they both offered an extraordinary experience for their drivers – the Light Car Company Rocket and the McLaren F1 road-going supercar.
The first of these cars to be released was the Rocket and although it’s now one of Murray’s least-known designs it remains, arguably, his most pure road car ever and a worthy peer of the Lotus Elan.
Murray launched his own namesake automaker in 2017 named Gordon Murray Automotive, the company has so far produced two limited edition supercars: the GMA T.50 and the GMA T.33.
Light Car Company Rocket
The Light Car Company Rocket emerged in the early 1990s, a brainchild of Formula 1 car designer Gordon Murray, and Chris Craft, a celebrated racing driver. Their vision was to produce a lightweight, minimalist sports car that would give the sensation of driving a 1960s-era F1 car but on regular roads.
When they formed the Light Car Company, their focus was clear: design and create a car embodying the “less is more” philosophy. In terms of design, the Rocket was stripped down to essentials. It had a tubular steel spaceframe and an open cockpit, without doors, requiring drivers and passengers to step over the side to enter, much like a classic monoposto race car.
Above Video: Jay Leno is almost certainly the most famous Light Car Company Rocket owner and he’s a major evangelist of the unusual design. In this episode of Jay Leno’s Garage he shows you over the car in detail, and tells a story about how much Tom Cruise loves the car.
The Rocket’s power came from a 1.0 liter Yamaha FZR1000 EXUP inline-four cylinder motorcycle engine, which was good for 143-165 bhp depending on the specific version. Considering the car’s feather-like weight of just 385 kgs (850 lbs), this provided it with an impressive power-to-weight ratio, making its 0-62 mph time better than most supercars of the era.
Power is sent back via a Weismann 5-speed sequential transaxle with a two-speed final drive, and a limited-slip differential. The car has unequal-length double wishbones on all four corners, disc brakes front and back, and a removable rear cowling that unveils a second seat in tandem configuration should the driver ever need to carry a passenger (or some groceries).
Although its design was groundbreaking, the Rocket was not mass-produced. Only approximately 50 units were made, catering to a niche market of enthusiasts and collectors willing to pay for such a unique driving experience.
The Light Car Company Rocket Shown Here
The car you see here is a 1996 Light Car Company Rocket, among the last of the few dozen examples made. This vehicle was partially constructed in 1996 before later becoming one of 10 Rockets completed at Craft’s premises in Chigwell, Essex, between 2006 and 2009.
A series of revisions were incorporated into these cars to accommodate changing safety and emissions standards. This car was first owned by author Clive Neville who featured it in his book The Light Car Company Rocket: The Singular Vision of Two Men.
The displacement of the Yamaha FZR1000 EXUP inline-four has been increased to 1,170cc and it’s been fitted with Carrillo competition connecting rods, a fiberglass air box, and coil-on plug electronic ignition.
The car is now being offered for sale out of North Salem, New York, with an owner’s-edition copy of Clive Neville’s book, service records, a clean Montana title, and just 2,100 miles on the odometer. If you’d like to read more about it to register to bid you can visit the listing here.
Images courtesy of Bring a Trailer
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