Top Gear’s Top 9: road cars with a central driving position
Car-building top tip: swerve pesky left / right-hand drive palaver and sit the driver in the centre!
McLaren F1/Gordon Murray T.50
We had to start here. Gordon Murray says he had the idea of a centrally-positioned driver as far back as the 1970s, but couldn’t realise his tri-seat supercar dream until the 1990s, with the iconic McLaren F1.
Naturally, the new T.50, which seeks to improve on every aspect of the F1, keeps the interior layout – but thanks to advances in chassis construction, it’s easier to climb in and out of.Advertisement - Page continues below
This could’ve been Japan’s McF1: a Formula-One inspired carbon lightweight with a 10,000rpm V12 in the back and a tandem central seating arrangement just ahead.
Only three were made before the project was kiboshed by the early-1990s recession. Now the F1’s been reimagined and improved by GMA, doesn’t this deserve revisiting?
Is it a car? Is it a bike? Whatever it is, it appears to be falling over. The Dutch entry in the urban transport solution battle is this charmingly bizarre leaning contraption, which has now swapped petrol power for electric propulsion.
Naturally, the driver sits right in the middle, with space for a brave passenger squeezed in directly behind.Advertisement - Page continues below
Spotting a theme? If you want to sit slap bang in the middle, most carmakers favour a narrow cockpit with the passenger line-astern, to reduce frontal area and improve aerodynamics.
That was Czinger’s philosophy for its hybrid 1,200bhp part 3D-printed hypercar. But, what if you fancy being more sociable with your passengers?
Ferrari 365 P Berlinetta Speciale
Then you need to go for something rarer. Ferrari too has dabbled with an arrowhead seating arrangement, with this 1966 concept car. Only two examples of the 375bhp ‘tre-posti’ (three-seater) design were produced, before Ferrari reverted to a more conventional two-seat set-up for the mid-engined lineage that resulted.
History may have been very different for the Prancing Horse if this daring design had caught on.
But that didn’t stop manufacturers dabbling with the central driver idea. Even Citroen had a go, in the twilight of its gloriously experimental period. At the 1980 Paris motor show, the company revealed a super-streamlined gullwing concept car that looked like the lovechild of a DeLorean and a garden greenhouse. No production-ready triple-seater coupe ever resulted, but the Karin remains one of the all-time great French concept cars.
Demanding a French middle-seater from the here and now? Then you’ll have a pretty short shopping list, featuring mostly Renault’s all-electric Twizy city car scooter thingummy.
Like the Carver, the driver sits centrally and their passenger contorts into the back like some sort of extreme daredevil yoga enthusiast. If anyone knows of a cheaper way to own a proper pair of scissor doors, we want to hear about it.Advertisement - Page continues below
Course, if you want to sit in the middle and couldn’t care less about carrying a tandem passenger, because you think friends = ballast, then the Briggs Automotive Company Mono is, well, the clue’s sort of in the name. One ‘seat’, zero compromise.
Returning to our first contender, when Gordon Murray heard McLaren was building a three-seat ‘successor’ to the McLaren F1, development of the T.50 was halted in case the result was too similar. No fear of that then.
McLaren’s reclusive special put a hyper-GT twist on the three-seater format. And with a verified top speed of 250mph, it’s also the fastest way to get move three people on land – this side of a high-speed train.Advertisement - Page continues below