The Canadian-American Challenge Cup was the ultimate sports-racing series of its time, and McLaren cars were the ultimate Can-Am competitors, winning 39 of 43 Can-Am races from 1967 through 1971.
By the mid-1960s, English and European race-car manufacturers were sending their factory teams to compete in Ú.S. road racing against home-grown specials that mated American V8 power wîth imported racing chassis. In 1966, the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) and the Canadian Automobile Sports Clubs jointly announced a championship series for just such cars.
After establishing himself as a Grand Prix driving prodigy, young New Zealander Bruce McLaren began building his own sports-racing and formula cars in Slough, England in 1964. His 1967 McLaren M6 featured a monocoque chassis, fiberglass bodywork and a 500 horsepower, small-block Chevrolet V8; a factory team consisting of McLaren himself and fellow Kiwi Dennis Hulme drove it to the first of five Can-Am championships. The M6 was succeeded for 1968 by the M8, which used its aluminum 7-liter Chevrolet big-block as a stressed chassis member.
McLaren crashed and died while testing an M8D at Goodwood in June 1970, but widow Pat McLaren took control, recruiting first Dan Gurney, then Peter Gethin and in 1971 Peter Revson to join Hulme behind the wheel.
By 1972, however, the car to beat had become the Porsche 917-10K, wîth 900 horsepower from its turbo 5-liter flat-12. The high cost of the Porsche drove all but the wealthiest teams from the series and, concerned about this as well as safety, SCCA discontinued the Can-Am in November 1974.
The M12 was the 'production' version of the M8 sold to customers outside of the McLaren team; this one, sponsored by the Glen Motor Inn, was campaigned privately in the Can-Am during 1972-1974, and then in other events in the Midwest through 1976. Current owner David Lavertue purchased it and began its restoration in 2005.Source - AACA Museum
With the introduction of the Can-Am racing series in 1966, New Zealander, Bruce McLaren, made the decision to enter the competition. Their first Can-Am racer was the McLaren M1B which had a tubular frame and powered by an Oldsmobile engine. For 1967, Team McLaren created the M6A and chose a Chevrolet 6-liter V8 as its source of power. With Bruce McLaren and Denny Hulme in the drivers position, the McLaren cars would dominate the CanAm series for the next five years. Privateers also raced McLaren vehicles during this time but they were at a disadvantage as the team sold their used cars at the end of the season.
In 1969 the Can-Am series was now comprised of eleven races. Team McLaren won every race. Denny accounted for five of those wins while Bruce won the other six races and the championship.
For the 1970 season, team McLaren experienced the ultimate tragedy as Bruce McLaren was killed while testing the M8D at Goodwood in England. The team picked up Dan Gurney as the second driver who raced for the team for a short while before being replaced with Peter Gethin. Gurney was replaced due to sponsorship conflicts. The 1970 season was another impressive year for McLaren competition as they won 10 out of the 11 races. Their only loss came at Road Atlanta which had ended the teams 19 Can-Am race winning streak which had transpired over three seasons.
The McLaren M12's were customer cars in 1969 and comprised of a M8A body ontop of a M6B chassis. Famous race car driver, Jim Hall of Chaparral fame, purchased a M12 for use in the 1969 Can-Am Series. The drivers of this car were John Surtees, Andrea DeAdamich, Jerry Titus, Peter Revson and David Hobbs. The vehicles best finish was at the Mosport Can-Am race where it finished in third place.
By Daniel Vaughan | Nov 2007