An excellent example of the first of the long line of Can-Am racers upon which the reputation of McLaren was built. this is the sole remaining team car from the first year of the Can-Am series (1966). The other cars were destroyed as part of the new construction of the following year's M6A Can-Am car.
Chris Amon drove this car in 1966 for the McLaren factory in its three races in England and two in Canada, during the six 1966 Can-Am races It was driven by Mike Spence in the 1967 Can-Am races having been sold by McLaren to the Canadian team Ecurie-Soucy.
Bruce McLaren was a successful team owner, designer, engineer, and racing driver. His team, started in 1963 when he was in his mid-20s, became one of the most successful in motorsports history, with a total of 20 Formula 1 championships. Between 1967 and 1972, the team was a dominant force in Can-Am competition, with 56 victories in the series.
The McLaren M1A was designed and built and in 1964. It was built to compete in the FIA Group 7 class for two-seat sports racers. It was given a lightweight tubular space frame and initially powered by Oldsmobile engines, though Ford and Chevrolet engines were later made available.
The M1B followed for the 1965 season and featured revised bodywork designed by Michael Turner, and increased rigidity. Twenty-eight examples of the M1B were sold in the US, all of them built for McLaren by Trojan (Elva).
This particular example, chassis number 30-12, was powered by a Ford engine and originally delivered to William Kay. It was one of two cars that were to be run by himself and Peter Revson. Unfortunately, Kay passed away before the GP at Brands Hatch. George Drummond took over the cars for the remainder of the season. Chassis 30-12 was driven in five Can-Am events that year by Revson, plus two additional races at the Nassau Speed Weeks.
After the 1996 season, the McLaren was sold to Skip Barber, who updated it with a Chevrolet engine. It was raced by Barber in the 1967 USRRC and then the first three races of the Can-Am Series, with a best finish of 3rd at the GP of Watkins Glen.
Harry Mathews acquired the car in 2000. At the time it was in good, original condition. Mr. Mathews brought the car back to race-ready specification before selling it to the current owner in 2003. Since then, it has been regularly raced in vintage Can-Am competition, at one point winning 13 class victories in a row at Sonoma Raceway.
It is currently powered by a 358 cubic-inch Chevrolet overhead valve V8 engine fitted with four Weber 2-Barrel Downdraft carburetors. It produces an estimated 585 horsepower at 6500 RPM. There is a 4-speed Hewland manual transaxle and four-wheel ventilated disc brakes.
Ordered by Carl Hass in mid-1965, the first owner was Candido Damota of Floral Park, New York. First raced at the Round 3 Can-Am Race at Mosport, but did not finish. The next event was Nassau Speed Weeks 1966. Converted from Ford to Chevrolet power for the 1967 season it finished 7th in the USRRC Race at Bridgehampton in the spring of 1967. Unfortunately it was crashed at Watkins Glen in June 1967 during the USRRC Race. It was repaired by the Fejer Brothers in Toronto, Canada. Bruce McLaren test drove the car after it was repaired and described it as 'awful.' The car has been vintage raced in Europe and the United States for the last 2 decades.
Work, development and fine-tuning continued on the M1A, resulting in the M1B of 1965 and 1966. Michael Turner, Tyler Alexander, and Robin Herd were among the individuals responsible for many of the new changes. Improvements and changes included changes to the tail and to the nose section. Robin Herd worked on stiffening the chassis, resulting in a chassis that was more rigid yet still the same weight.
The inaugural Group 7 racing debut for the M1B was at the St. Jovite race. Sadly, the car retired prematurely due to problems with the Oldsmobile engine. When the car began competing in CanAm competition, it soon became apparent that the 5-liter Traco-Oldsmobile engine was unable to compete with the 6-liter Chevrolet powerplants. After a few races, Bruce McLaren switched the lightweight aluminum engine for the heavier, yet more powerful, 5.4-liter Chevrolet units. The result was an increase in weight by about 200 lbs but an increase in horsepower by 100.
Bruce would finish the season in second place behind Jim Surtees. By Daniel Vaughan | Jul 2009
McLaren produced the M1B, a Group 7 racing car that became a successful competitor in the nascent Can-Am series, for 1965 and 1966. The car was a development of McLaren's first Group 7 racer, the M1A.
Like its predecessor, the M1B initially used a 4.5-liter Traco-Oldsmobile V8 as its source of propulsion. Despite the aluminum Oldsmobile V8's light weight, though, its small displacement made it a particularly uncompetitive unit in the M1B. Bruce McLaren decided to switch over to a more powerful cast-iron V8 to create a more competitive vehicle. A 5.4-liter Chevrolet motor replaced the Oldsmobile power plant, with the Chevy engine weighing an additional 200 pounds but providing an extra 100 horsepower. The Chevrolet mill's displacement eventually rose to 6.2-liters, with power output of 550 horsepower.
McLaren engineer Robin Herd endowed the M1B with a frame that, despite weighing about the same as the M1A's, proved 20% stronger than its predecessor's chassis. The extra strength came from the use of larger diameter round and square tubing, with alloy sheet metal bonded and riveted to the tubular frame.
Under a partnership with Elva, 28 examples of the M1B were produced. These cars were marketed as McLaren-Elva Mark 2s.
Stronger and more powerful than the M1A, the McLaren M1B was a capable performer. The M1B represented the phenomenal success of Bruce McLaren, who not only built exceptional racing cars but also raced them with brilliance. Just a few years before his early death, Bruce McLaren drove the M1B to second place (behind only John Surtees) in the 1966 Can-Am season.
'McLaren Elva M1B.' Mathews Collection n. pag. Web. 11 Jun 2011. http://www.mathewscollection.com/former/Former_McLaren_M1B.htm.
'McLaren M1A' & 'McLaren M1B.' Bruce McLaren Trust n. pag. Web. 11 Jun 2011. http://www.bruce-mclaren.com/the-cars/sports-cars/m1b.html. By Evan Acuña
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